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Photo:  Floyd Green (centre), looks on as Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Denise Herbol (left); and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, Dr Luz Longsworth, shake hands after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Transitional Living Programme for Children in State Care Project (TLP-CSC)

Ninety-two wards of the State are to benefit from transitional living  arrangements after exiting the formal system. The 46 males and 46 females will be provided with two years of independent housing once they reach the age of 18. Three facilities are to be built in St Andrew and St Elizabeth under the Transitional Living Programme for Children in State Care Project (TLP-CSC), which is being funded through a US$5,281,736 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It is being implemented through collaboration between the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, and the Child Development Agency (CDA). The entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the sustainability of the project, during a ceremony at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.

State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, who participated in the signing ceremony, said the project is a practical intervention for children leaving State care. He noted that many of them have no family ties and they are not yet in a position to earn a significant income to provide for their needs. “At the end of the day, we need a place for them,” he said. Green   expressed pleasure that under the arrangement, wards will benefit from life and vocational skills training. “At the end of the day, we will equip them with the skills so they can make a life of their own,” he said. “We are making sure that any child that interacts with the State is able to lead a (successful) and strong life...and regardless of their past, that they can be productive members of our society,” he added.

Mission Director of the USAID, Denise Herbol, said the project, which is “near and dear to my heart,” will ensure that Jamaica’s children in State care have access to more resources and increased opportunities for seamless transition into the adult world. Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, UWI Open Campus, Dr Luz Longsworth; and Chief Executive Officer of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, said the MoU will strengthen child care services in Jamaica.  The TLP-CSC project is the first of its kind in Jamaica and involves a multi-dimensional approach to preparing wards of the State leaving care, to transition into independence.

The project was launched in 2014 to provide housing for 40 girls at 24 Lady Musgrave Drive in New Kingston for which ground was broken in November 2015. The initiative has since been expanded and a facility for young men is to be built in Manning, St Elizabeth. In addition, self-contained apartments are to be constructed in Mona, St Andrew to accommodate girls. Participants will also benefit from an “exit-readiness” programme, which focuses on job and life skills training and mentorship. This aspect will also cover areas such as lifestyle choices, health, family, employability, the environment, and secure public-private partnership for employment opportunities.