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Jen Dixon Retires

After 33 years of service to the Cayman Islands Government, Director of Children and Family Services Alicia E. (Jen) Dixon, MBE, will be retiring with effect from 1 September 2015.

With a lifetime dedicated to service, Ms Dixon has unwaveringly brought her talents, commitment and diligence to all aspects of her work, whether dealing with clients and the community, guiding her department, or putting her rich experience to use on a number of committees.

Her career began when she joined the civil service in April 1978 as a clerical officer, in the then Ministry of Health, Education and Social Services.

A short time later, she was transferred to work as senior clerical officer in the Probation and Welfare Unit for three years, after which she moved overseas to pursue her studies in social work. Ms Dixon remained in touch with the unit and worked each summer and Christmas throughout her school breaks when she returned home.

In 1985, she received her bachelor of science degree in social work from the Westchester Social Work Education Consortium of the College of New Rochelle, in the state of New York.

She next began working in the then Department of Social Services, and was appointed the first Caymanian deputy director in October 1987. She served in that capacity for almost 25 years, until she became director of the Department of Children and Family Services in 2012.

In 1994 the Department was required to cope with an influx of almost 1,200 illegal Cuban migrants to our islands, in collaboration with the Immigration Department, Public Works Department, Health Services, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and many other government agencies.

What became known as ’Tent City‘ was initially managed by the Department of Social Services until it was taken over by the Immigration Department. Whilst being involved in the management of Tent City, Ms Dixon pursued a master’s degree in business administration and graduated from the University of Miami in 1996.

As a result of her diligent commitment to her work with the migrants, she received an MBE that same year.

Throughout her time with the Department, she has been an outspoken advocate on the rights of children, domestic violence, parenting and many other social issues.

Ms Dixon and four team members were trained as facilitators for the Domestic Violence Intervention Training Programme in 2000 at the University of the West Indies Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. Over the next four years, that training was shared with hundreds of others.

During her tenure at the department, Ms Dixon has seen many changes, including the establishment of the Cayman Islands Marine Institute, the development of the Child and Youth Services Foundation (CAYS), the development and passing of the Youth Justice Law which separated care and criminal matters, as well as work on the Children Law through the years, which culminated in the passing and implementation of the Children Law (2012 Revision).

Other notable changes included the opening of the East End Sunrise Cottage and the establishment of Maple House, and the development and opening of the Golden Age Home.

In 1996 Ms Dixon was involved in the Study of the Family in Caymanian Society, the Participatory Poverty Study of the National Assessment of Living Conditions conducted in 2007, and also served on a host of other Committees, projects and programmes.

Since 1998 she has been involved with Disaster Management, especially sheltering and distribution of assistance, and has remained actively involved in all aspects of sheltering, post-disaster recovery and in the recruitment and training of shelter volunteers.

In September 2004 the Department was faced with handling shelter management during and post-disaster recovery of Hurricane Ivan and Ms Dixon was deeply involved in collaboration with the Essential Relief Services Sub-Committee. Ms Dixon also remains involved with the Shelter Operations Sub-Committee of the Hazard Management Cayman Islands and will continue to do so.

During her tenure, her advocacy for the provision of appropriate facilities for children and also resources for people, including children with mental health issues, has never faltered. Also of importance to Ms Dixon are the needs of those in our society with disabilities, as well as the care and well-being of the elderly.

She acknowledges the important roles of the various senior officers in shaping her professionally over the years and instilling pride in her work and in doing everything to the best possible standards.

Ms Dixon thanks ministers and chief officers with whom she has served and acknowledges their contributions to the fabric of our society.

She also acknowledges the major contributions of all the social work, supervisory, management, administrative and clerical support staff, community development officers, community care workers, home care workers and home care assistants, with whom she was privileged to work over many years.

In particular she recognises the contributions of her current staff in addressing the various social issues impacting society and encourages them to continue on. She further extends her grateful appreciation to those who invariably go above and beyond the call of duty, unbeknownst to many.

“I wish my staff, and the Department, only the very best and much success as they rise to the challenge to take the Department through this next period of its evolution,” she commented.

To the many hundreds of shelter volunteers and district representatives she has trained and worked with over the years, Ms Dixon extends her enduring gratitude for the many sacrifices they made to serve the community. To the many other wonderful civil service colleagues she was fortunate to work with throughout her career, she expresses her warm regards.

With equal gratitude, Ms Dixon lauds her family and in particular her late mother, Mrs. Sheila Yvonne Jackson Espeut, for providing her with the strong foundation and guiding principles, which have governed her personal and professional life, as well as giving her limitless support in all her efforts.

On behalf of the Cayman Islands Government, the Ministry thanks Ms Dixon for her unsurpassed commitment during her 33 years of service to the Civil Service and people of the Cayman Islands.

The many long hours and challenges she has faced as the Director of the Department of Children and Family Services are gratefully acknowledged. The Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports wishes Ms Dixon a healthy and happy retirement and much success in all future endeavours.