AN organisational review of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) has revealed the need for an additional 150 social workers, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Robert Morgan has reported.

This is expected to form part of the restructuring of the CPFSA said Morgan at a Jamaica Observer Press Club recently.

“Why is this necessary? When we did an assessment of the responsibilities of the CPFSA and the necessities that exist within the society we recognised that if we are going to be able to impact troubled families, fundamentally, then you’re going to have to have contact on a more consistent basis.

“In order to have more contact on a consistent basis, you need more social workers. You need to have more psychologists. You need to have more facilities like the therapeutic centre we’re going to build at Maxfield [Park Children’s Home],” Morgan said.

He said ground is expected to be broken for the new facility in the coming weeks, which will cost the Government $120 million.

Morgan said the goal is to not only have children confined to a childcare facility, but also to have out patient set-ups.

“If we’re going to be deinstitutionalising children where we’re trying to get the children out of the homes and we’re trying to give the families the help… then you have to create facilities where if a child feels that they need to talk to someone they can take up the phone or they can visit a facility,” he said.

The minister said more social workers onboard means greater access to help for children in need.

He said that the Government is aiming to create a cultural and institutional shift in how it intervenes in the lives of children.

“So, it (assistance for children) will no longer be intermittent and no longer singular, but consistent and long term and focused,” Morgan said.

Added to that, Morgan said more social workers means that it will be easier for struggling parents to access assistance especially in the era of COVID-19.

“In many cases, the school has been at the forefront of taking care of people’s children and with the school being out of it now that is not happening – which is why more social workers are so important. Over the next four to five years, whatever negative impacts have emanated from COVID you’re going to see it manifesting in society.

“So, by increasing the amount of social workers in the system, by working with the Ministry of Health, the Suicide Prevention Hotline, by working with the guidance counsellors, by working with the principals, by continually assessing how children are functioning in the education system and spending the money and making interventions by giving the system more expertise and more resources and more personnel to intervene in the communities that is what we are doing to help,” said Morgan.

Chief executive officer at CPFSA Rosalee Gage-Grey, too, said that CPFSA is “always” in need of additional human resource.

She said while the agency has offices in all parishes with 40 investigators, including social workers onboard, and can respond immediately to on the ground issues, there is an urgent need to “treat with the matters that come to the fore” in terms of counselling.

“Once the investigators go in and it (case) is referred for additional services – counselling support all of that – that’s where we really need the long-term support in terms of actually having our technical people, our specialists on the ground and in the offices.

“So we do require additional [social workers]. We have made the recommendation and that is being processed and you would have heard the minister say it. We are hoping that in short order we’ll be able to get additional boots on the ground,” Gage-Grey told the Observer.

Jamaica Observer