Addressing street children…
Human Services Ministry gets ‘Mission Child Protection' on the road

Kaieteur News
March 13, 2007

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With the aim of enforcing its mandate to protect vulnerable children, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has embarked on a project to provide accommodation, hot meals and love for street children.

At a press briefing yesterday Minister Manickchand informed media operatives of the project called “Mission Child Protection” which commenced last week and has seen the detention of 37 children in a protected facility.

But according to the Minister the facility which caters for children aged four to 15 is not intended to be a prison but rather a rehabilitation centre.

“We do not wish to keep these children we want to make that very clear in the sense that it is not our intention to take these children away from their parents but to work with them to see how best we can help,” the Minister asserted.

As such the she noted that her Ministry is trying to help parents to keep their families together in terms of financial and psychosocial help.

“We are concerned that first children should not wander off into the streets but we believe if they stay in their homes they should be afforded the best care that they can get.”

Of the 37 children detained 21 were reclaimed by their parents while 11 still are in the Ministry's custody.

And according to the Minister efforts have been made to contact all parents in order to help them understand why their children were on the streets in the first place.

Minister Manickchand informed that some of the parents have even assured that they will submit themselves for monitoring by Ministry officials.

“We believe some of these children can really turn into success stories and can go back to school and do things that a child coming out of a regular non-dysfunctional household can,” Manickchand opined.

As for the 11 children who are still accommodated at the facility Minister Manickchand said that efforts will be made to secure the court's permission to hold them until they are able to find their parents and help them get their lives back on track.

And in addition to being afforded an education the children will also be afforded health check-ups, the Minister related.

She explained that the initiative has been high on her agenda since she took office and has nothing to do with Guyana's hosting of Cricket World Cup; but noted that its implementation was hindered since there was no available facility to house such children.

“I understand that the Ministry had engaged in similar exercises before but the reason we had not started this project is because it is most undesirable for us to pick the children up and lock them up in the police station, which is exactly what we would have had to do since we had no facility to hold them.”

But with the assistance of some other Ministries and a few Non-Governmental organisations the Ministry has been able to acquire a facility which according to Minister

Manickchand “is convenient to keep the children separate and apart from adults who find themselves in conflict with the law.”

And while the function of this new facility is similar to that of the Drop in Centre the Minister revealed that the entry process is not quite as voluntary.

“The stay at this facility is more mandatory until we say you can go but it is a lot nicer since we can separate boys from girls and the environment is conducive for playing.”

And while the Minister admits that “it will take a while before we can fix whatever is wrong between children and parents” she reaffirms her commitment to ensuring that the children are provided with a normal standard of living.

“We will get some criticisms…No parent wants to believe that they are bad and we are not singling out any parent when we pick up a child.”

It is anticipated that the venture will be expanded to other regions but at the moment the Minister noted that the focus will remain on Georgetown and its immediate environs.