‘We want our children to know we love them’
CPFSA extends deadline for Take a Child Home Christmas initiative
Christina Milford has made it a tradition to spread love and cheer to youngsters in state care, especially during the Yuletide season.
Even though she is set to depart the island soon, she still intends to treat the youngsters and let them know that they are loved and have not been forgotten.
Milford, the founding director for Pregnancy Resource Centre of Jamaica (PRCOJ), which operates Hebron House in Montego Bay, St James, last year fêted more than 25 female state wards, unwed mothers, and expectant mothers.
“We want our children to know that we love them, we appreciate them, and that they are valued,” she told The Gleaner.
Milford, who is also a foster parent and has participated in the Child Protection and Family Services Agency’s (CPFSA) ‘Take a Child Home for the Holiday’ and ‘Grant A Wish’ programmes, has a special connection with the work she has set out to do at the PRCOJ.
She is particularly aware of the need to assist these young mothers, having been a teenage mother herself.
Since 2005, she has been operating the Hebron House, a mother-and-child-focused facility that mainly serves girls age 16 and older. Occasionally, it accepts those as young as 11 who are at risk of pregnancy or human trafficking, unprepared for pregnancy, or who have been rescued from early exposure to sex or child sex trafficking.
“Children need nurturing. You can’t just feed them and clothe them ... . There is something that they need to connect heart to heart,” she said.
She is urging more Jamaicans to consider becoming foster parents to change the lives of the most vulnerable.
Milford and the board of Hebron House are seeking donations to acquire a structure next door, which has approximately 10,000 square feet of living space and is valued at US$450,000 (approximately (J$70 million). This would help to resolve space challenges at the current 12-bedroom, 16-bathroom Hebron House.
The CPFSA has extended the application deadline for its holiday initiatives to Friday, December 16, to give Jamaicans more time to get on board and spread the Christmas cheer this season. Persons wishing to take a child home to spend the holidays with them have until 3 p.m. on Friday to submit their applications.
Conceptualised more than 10 years ago, the Take a Child Home for the Holiday programme allows persons to host teenage children in residential childcare facilities in their homes during the Yuletide season.
It particularly targets those who do not have families to take them home for the holidays and would otherwise be in a facility.
Applicants must be at least 25 years old and have a house that is suitable for raising a child. Completed application forms should be submitted with two letters of recommendation from a judge, senior police officer, or a minister of religion, as well as two passport-size photographs.
A home assessment also forms part of the process.
The Grant A Wish programme, which is primarily focusing on children in foster care this year, is open to persons living in and outside of Jamaica who are able to grant the wishes of children in state care through cash or kind.
The usual tangible gifts requested by the children include toys, books, care packages, clothing and gadgets (tablets and/or cellular phones).
Monetary donations can also be made to the National Commercial Bank’s Duke Street (Kingston) branch – account name: Child Development Agency; SWIFT code: JNCBJMKXE; account number: 061018964.
For those interested in donating to Hebron House, Milford can be contacted via email at email@example.com, or at (876) 971-2004, (876) 446-6524 or (876) 322-1157.
How to become a foster parent
The requirements and process of selection, vetting and approval of becoming a foster parent involves:
• Must be a responsible adult in good legal standing between the ages of 25 and 65 years and exhibits good parental qualities. Consideration is given to persons over 65 years if the individual is a relative of the child.
• A single individual or a married couple can be a foster parent. Placement with a single man is only done if the applicant is related to the child, or in exceptional circumstances.
• Must have suitable accommodation for a child, taking into consideration the community on a whole.
• Must be gainfully employed or have a steady income.
• Must be willing to undergo a medical examination.
• Must provide two references from a notary public along with two passport-size photographs; and submit a police record.
• Must agree to a home visit and follow-up assessments conducted by a children’s officer to assess the environment in which the child will be residing.