Construction is slated to begin soon on the Caribbean’s first independent living complex for wards of the State, following Friday’s official groundbreaking ceremony at 24 Lady Musgrave Drive, New Kingston.
Upon completion, the facility will be equipped to house at lease 40 young women who have reached the age of 18, when, by law, they are required to leave their places of safety, irrespective of whether they have a job or place to live.
Under the Transitional Living Program for Children in State Care, these young women will spend up to two additional years in the care of the state.
Dr Luz Longsworth, principal of the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), used the groundbreaking ceremony to announce the gift of 30 one-year scholarships to the pioneer residents of the complex. Another 15 such scholarships will be provided to young men, also wards of the state, at the tertiary level as well.
Luis Moreno, United States ambassador to Jamaica, gave a commitment that his country would fund a similar facility for young men, to be built in Manning, St Elizabeth. The United States Agency for International Development is funding the Kingston facility at a cost of US$1.45 million under the Development Grants Program, in what Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna described as a game-changing partnership.
With the Jamaican Government donating prime land space in New Kingston’s ‘Golden Triangle’, the project will be implemented through the collaborative efforts of the Caribbean Child Development Centre, Child Development Agency, the Social Welfare Centre, and the UWI Project Management Office.
Meanwhile, Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief executive officer of the Child Development Agency, spoke to the importance of this intervention.
“It is very significant because we have about 700 children that leave care each year. Some of them are in foster care, and the foster parents will continue to keep them; some can be reintegrated with their own families. We have some who come into Kingston for tertiary education and need a place, and so it will provide a space where they can move from university to work for the period of the two years, and so its very significant,” she told The Gleaner.
“And it’s semi-independent, meaning that they will take care of themselves, with some support. So they will be comfortable with individualized spaces, and we will continue to provide the support, the life skills for them to transition successfully.”
A clearly excited Hanna gave this response when asked to gauge the significance of the new facility.
On a scale of 1-10?
“Eleven!” she answered, noting that it will address an area of need that has been neglected for too long.
“It’s a long time in the making, and its something that I’m very pleased with; conceptualized it, UWI came on board, USAID came on board, and now they’ve said to us, we are going to be working on the contract for the one for the boys in St Elizabeth. We gave the land, UWI is giving the social work and the training, USAID is putting up the money, so there is a lot of equity going into this,” she added.
However, the youth minister would not commit to the completion timeline for the Kingston facility or the start-up for the one slated for St Elizabeth.
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