BY: Judith A Hunter (JIS)
In 2016, Trudy Dixon Frith and her family opened their home to a 14-year-old female ward of the State in response to a call by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) for Jamaicans to ‘Take a Child Home for Christmas’. She tells JIS News that the experience was life-changing and one she will never forget.
“As a family we always wanted to give back, to show kindness, so this experience has definitely changed our lives for the better. What should have been a one week experience was extended to three weeks,” she tells JIS News.
“She changed our views on a lot of things. I know we affected her but I think she affected us more,” she adds.
The mother of two, who is pregnant with her third child, says “this is something I will definitely do again.” Roxanne McKnight, who took a child into her home last year, tells JIS News that she heard about the programme on the radio and thought that it would be good place to start the process to adopt.
“I plan is to do it this year again and hope I get the same child, who was a three-year- old boy. I highly recommend this programme to everybody, for them to open their homes to a child and use it as a first step to fostering or adopting a child,” she tells JIS News.
The CPFSA’s ‘Take a Child Home for Christmas’ programme was originally created to encourage families with children in State care, but were unable to accommodate them full time, to take them home for the holiday period.
However, over time it was extended to persons with good moral standing, for example persons, who have volunteered in childcare facilities and would be in the Agency’s volunteer database.
Director of the CPFSA South East Region, Robert Williams, tells JIS News that the objective is to enable a child, who is normally in a residential facility to have the opportunity to spend the Christmas with a family.
“A lot of Jamaicans have been opening their heart and homes to these children,” he says.
Persons, who are interested in participating in the programme are required to fill out an application form; provide two references from a notary public such as a police officer, justice of the peace or a school principal; provide two passport-size photographs and a valid identification; and must be 25 years old or older.
“They must be a Jamaican, have no history of child abuse, be able to accommodate the child safely in their home and be willing to have the CPFSA officers come into your home and do an assessment of your surroundings,” Mr. Williams explains.
“This is a short-term residential programme. We must ensure that the person we are placing the children with is somebody, who will not bring any harm to the child, and have the best interest of the child at heart and so we have to do background checks to ensure that the applicants are of upstanding,” he adds.
Mr. Williams says the CPFSA has had repeat applicants and so far this year they have been receiving submissions from as early as October.
“The support for the programme for the past three years has been very overwhelming; we are satisfied with the response. The persons, who have expressed interest, are those who are in a position to ensure that these children have a very enjoyable time during this period,” he says.
For further information, interested persons may visit any of the CPFSA regional offices (formerly the Child Development Agency) across the island. They can also call the CPFSA head office at 876-948-2841-2 or email email@example.com. The deadline for the submission of applications is Friday, December 7 at 3:00 p.m.