Children From Fire Affected Home Resettled Together

All children who were housed at the Jamaica National Children’s Home (JNCH), part of which was destroyed by fire Friday, have been relocated to another child care institution.

In a statement Saturday, August 11, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) said all 41 children (23 girls and 18 boys) and seven caregivers were accounted for, and no injuries were reported following the fire. “All children are settled, and in high spirits,” the CPSFA said.

The CPSFA also said thanks to the staff at the institution in Papine, St Andrew for their execution of the fire safety evacuation plan during yesterday’s fire which destroyed the dormitory area of the home.

Alando Terrelonge, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information expressed relief that all children and staff were safe. He said while the incident was most unfortunate, special thanks had to be extended to the caregivers, the JNCH Board and the team at the CPFSA for moving swiftly in ensuring that the needs of the children were being met.

The home, established in 1972, and which houses wards between seven and 18 years and caregivers, is a private institution managed by a Board and the Methodist Church in Jamaica.

The children have been relocated to another child care institution following discussions between Prime Minister Andrew Holiness who visited the home hours after the fire Friday; Dr. Grace McLean, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the Agency’s management team and members of the JNCH Board. They all agreed on logistics in keeping the children together.

Commenting on the incident, Newton Douglas, Director, Policy, Planning and Evaluation at the CPFSA added that in keeping with the Children’s Home Guidelines and Regulation, each home has in place a Disaster Management and Evacuation Plan which details response in the event of a disaster such as fire and earthquake. “The Disaster Plan at the Jamaica National Children’s Home would include fire safety equipment (smoke detectors, alarms and extinguishers) which were in place at the home. Additionally, the children and caregivers undergo continuous fire drills and fire prevention training, as recent as last week, which aided in their quick response to the fire,” Mr. Douglas said.

The Jamaica Fire Brigade is to conduct an assessment and a report is to be received in short order, the CPFSA said.

A team of counsellors has been assigned to provide continuous psychosocial support for children and caregivers over the weekend and the coming weeks.

Acting Minister of Education Karl Samuda visited the children Saturday and gave reassurance of the Government’s commitment to rebuild the home in the quickest possible time. “We want you to know that we are working to ensure that you stay together with your siblings, friends, and house mothers who you are already familiar with and love and also understand that we are all working to ensure that you have everything that you need,” he said.

A full assessment and inventory of needs is being prepared in an effort to restore normality for children and staff alike. Immediate needs are clothing, shoes, personal care items, and toiletries. Donations can be made at 9 Christopher Road, Stony Hill, St. Andrew daily between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Franklin McKnight

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