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Children's Services

Foster children take an after-school bike ride.

Touring the National Council of Voluntary Organisations' (NCVO) nursery, day-care and foster home facility - watching toddlers at play, and seeing high schoolers doing homework - was much more than a government photo-op for a team of officials.

The observations made and information gathered by senior representatives of the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing during the recent visit will be used to develop better social policies. This will, in turn, help protect society's most precious - and often, most vulnerable - members.

The Minister responsible for the welfare of children and families, the Hon. Mike Adam, MBE, JP, visited these NCVO facilities. Accompanying him were the Ministry's Chief Officer, Dorine Whittaker; and Deputy Chief Officer Perry Powell.

Speaking of the importance of coordination between agencies which work in the interests of young people who are in supervised care and caring homes, Mr. Adam said, "One of my ministerial priorities is to address the needs of all our children in a holistic manner. I am keenly aware that if we do not take care of our children socially, economically, spiritually, physically and mentally we cannot expect them to grow into productive, responsible and well-rounded citizens."

The NCVO tour will help accomplish this, as it was one in a series of hands-on ministerial tours. Following, the respective agencies will be brought together for special planning and information-sharing sessions.

The visiting officials were hosted by NCVO Chairman Garry Wilkins, Deputy Chairman Mike Donnelly, Executive Board Member Olive Miller, and Chief Executive Officer Janice Wilson.

They gained firsthand knowledge of the educational and care-giving operations at Richard Arch Children's Centre, which houses Miss Nadine's Preschool and Jack and Jill Nursery. They also toured the adjacent Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home, the NCVO's offices, and visited the NCVO's bargain shop, where miscellaneous items are donated and sold to support its undertakings.

These facilities have a staff complement of 25 persons, in addition to the NCVO's CEO, and the Youth and Programmes Community Worker/Personal Assistant Alta Solomon.

The NCVO is a not-for-profit institution. Mr. Wilkins said that board members - all of whom are volunteers - agree with the concept of multidisciplinary care plans for each child assisted by the NCVO.

In fact, during their meetings, board members review detailed progress reports of every child in foster care, and generally from the nursery and preschool. "We have kept the purpose of the preschool and foster home close to our hands and hearts," he added.

NCVO staff is also securing closer working relationships with other advocates, such as social workers and educators. As a result, there is increasingly family support and home-transition assistance, with follow-up visits to the respective homes; and more support for children in areas such as job placement and higher education.

Mr. Wilkins said that public financial support for the NCVO is essential for its operations.

Funds come from the annual NCVO telethon, which is the organisation's only public fundraising initiative; an annual government grant; current benefactors, including Hedge Fund Cares Cayman, the Pink Ladies, and the Garden Club; and retailers. Private donations are a cornerstone, he acknowledged.

In addition to funds, supporters have given the NCVO gifts - which recently have included a solar water heater; a minivan; hurricane shutters; airline tickets; bicycles; and computers for the children.

Said John Alban, the foster home's care manager, "The consistent generosity of residents and business sectors is much appreciated, and is a measure of the strength of the Cayman community."

Also encouraging volunteer support, he added, "While the foster home has four consistent volunteers, we welcome the support of anyone who can make a long-term commitment to even a half-hour each week -- especially male role models."

To volunteer time, goods or services to the home, contact Mr. Alban on 945-8698, ncvocaremanager@hotmail.com. For more information on any of the NCVO's services, contact 949-2124 or ncvo@candw.ky,or visit www.ncvo.org.ky.

(GIS)

For further information contact: Lennon Christian