NO HOME FOR CHRISTMAS - COVID curtails ‘take a child home’ programme
Usually at Christmas, orphaned or abandoned children living in homes across Jamaica would get a Christmas wrapped in love, as persons would 'take a child home for Christmas.'
This life-changing programme was introduced by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which has led to many children finding permanent adoptive families. But this year, the programme has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But we are looking at other things. For example, last year, some persons usually take a group of children from one home. So they take five or six children from the same home and take them out for the day, and they go back. So they don't mix with anybody else. We might consider this," Eunice Scott-Shaw, director of Alternative Care Services at CPFSA, told THE STAR.
Another alternative is having the children make their Christmas wish lists, and interested persons try to fulfil those wishes since the children can't go out. "That's where we are. COVID has changed our lives and the children's lives too," she shared. "We are good so far with COVID not getting into the facilities and we're just hoping and praying that it stays that way. We have to take all of the precautions."
Originally, the programme was created to facilitate families with children in State care, who were unable to accommodate them full-time. But over time, it was extended to other individuals.
This year's cancellation is heartbreaking for the children, who have been anticipating the programme's return.
"So when they go for that one day, week or the weekend, it's a lot of crying because they want to stay. It's hard to live with 30, 40, 50 people at any one time. Sometimes it's hard living in a home with three or four people, much more 40 or 50," Scott-Shaw related. "A number of children who went into homes are now being fostered by some of the homes that they went into. It was an excellent programme last year. We have a number of children now being fostered, which is what we want." Scott-Shaw said she hoped that more persons would become foster parents.
"They (children of the State) need somebody to love and care for them. You are best suited in a home, with a family. And we want to give each child a family. We will ask persons to really foster a child on a more permanent basis, than just take them for a day," she said. "We have children who have never left the facility and have lived all their lives in a childcare facility and long to be in a home. And there are some people who have love to give, so we ask them to open their homes and their hearts."