The construction of Guyana’s first Children and Family Centre is expected to be completed on March 30.
The Centre, which is located in Block ‘C’ Sophia Greater Georgetown, will serve as a safe temporary housing facility for vulnerable children and families.
Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally says that $220M has been invested into the project which commenced in January 2018.
The centre will be the first stop for children and families in difficult situations.
Andrew Metzger, a Consulting Architect for the centre, said about 100 children can be accommodated at once and will only provide short term living arrangements until the Government can find alternative solutions.
Minister Ally visited the centre Thursday to assess the ongoing construction.
“It is expected that the building will be completed by the end of March…so I am here this morning to have a look as to where we are and have a discussion with the contractors,” Minister Ally said.
The centre has four children dormitories which will be divided into sections for boys and girls according to their age. A playground will also be developed.
To prevent the unnecessary separation of parents and children, the centre will also include eight two-bedroom family apartments, according to Ann Green, Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency (CH&PH).
“To avoid the separation of children from families, if it’s a case where we can hold the family together whilst we fix whatever vulnerability there are eight family apartments,” she said.
One of the employment opportunities the centre will provide is a transition coach; this will ensure that families get independent and self-sufficient living conditions when they leave the centre.
“It’s really going to make a difference to children and families when it’s completed to vulnerable children and families. It is borne out of the Drop-In centre but it is really a Children and Family Centre, this really would make a big impact,” Greene said.
Further, “there is also a family training centre, there will be a big admin building and a store centre and we also have a mess [Dining] hall and a common room,” she said.
The Ministry of Social Protection in 2017 developed an Evacuation Plan and Emergency Checklists for child care institutions, ten months after a fire at the Children’s Drop-in Centre on Hadfield Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown claimed the lives of two brothers – 6-year-old Antonio and 2-year-old Joshua George.
The children were taken into State care two days before the fire, along with three other siblings.
A Commission of Inquiry, which was subsequently launched into the incident, found that the Drop-In-Centre was not in compliance with fire regulations; failed to have fire escapes, extinguishers, and fire blankets among other emergency requirements.
It was recommended that the Government focus on improving the child care system and provide responsible and effective childcare at all levels, taking into consideration the sensitive nature of cases that expose children to neglect and other forms of mistreatment.