Child Protection



Roving Caregivers - Providing Early Childhood Care and Stimulation Right at Home!

© UNICEF Jamaica, 2005; Hoad
Rover Marva Ricketts prepares two children for their nap time at the RuFamSo nursery.

Marva Ricketts is a biological mother of three, but she is a familiar face to some 30 young children across five communities in the parish of Clarendon.

At least twice per month, Marva visits the home of every child. She plays with them, shares toys, pictures and games with them and chats with their parents about their growth and development.

Marva is a Rover in the Roving Caregivers Programme run by the Rural Family Support Organisation (RuFamSo), a Clarendon-based NGO and UNICEF partner. The Roving Caregivers Programme is a non-formal, integrated programme of child development and parenting education provided through a home-visiting service.

The Rovers reach rural children, many of whom are in families which cannot afford day care or do not understand the importance of providing proper care and stimulation for early childhood development. Rovers go from home to home to work with these young children and parents, introducing them to developmentally appropriate child-care practices. Each Rover is assigned to about 30 families and receives training in child development. They provide colourful and interesting toys and learning material for the children, many of which are made by participants in RuFamSo projects.

Manipulative cushions with zips and buttons to develop eye-hand coordination, bottle stoppers and shells in egg boxes for classification games, balls and hoops for motor development, “feely bags,” and picture cards for sensory and language skills are just some of the things a Rover brings to excite and educate the young children in her care. 

Marva first became involved in the programme as a parent. She has two children who have benefited from the roving caregivers.

“After seeing the stimulation provided and how it worked and having had a child who was a part of it, I and some other parents joined and formed a parent group. I was the first president of the group,” she recalls.

She also remembers that the programme provided a number of resource persons who addressed parents on various topics including health, child-care nutrition and pastry-making. She recalls that the group provided a support system for her at times when she felt discouraged. The members motivated her and helped lift her spirits.

In 2004 Marva became a Rover with RuFamSo, filling a vacancy that had been left by a Rover who had worked with her child. She had some previous training in the early childhood field but she also received training under the programme. She enjoys her work as she says “Children are our heritage and we have to protect that heritage at all costs.”

A large part of her satisfaction comes from seeing children who were once shy and unresponsive, blossom into active and eager participants after exposure to her interventions.

“There was this particular little boy who was always withdrawn. He would not respond to me. Then one day I was at a funeral and I was singing. He was also there with his mother. Suddenly he just walked right up to me and said “Teacher, you singing?” and since then our relationship has been good. Before he was not easy to work with. You had to sit with his Mummy and him. Now he doesn’t need even need Mummy when I visit!”

Marva says she is now determined to continue a career and studies in early childhood development. She has completed level one training in Early Childhood Education and Development under the National Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) programme and wants to begin training in level two. She hopes in the future to attain a Bachelor’s degree in the field. She credits the accomplishments of the young children she works and her own achievements to the Roving Caregivers programme.

“My hope is that this programme can be brought to the national level because a lot of children and a lot of persons do not now have this privilege.”

  • Footnote: RuFamSo’s Roving Caregivers Programme has received national and international recognition for its work in early childhood development and has  been the recipient of UNICEF’s prestigious Maurice Pate Award. The programme has also been replicated in the neighbouring islands of St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Earlier this year, representatives of RuFamSo were invited to, and attended, an international conference in Ghana where they made a presentation on the programme.    



© UNICEF Jamaica, 2005; Noorani
A Rover engages a toddler in fun activities while her mother and sister look on with interest.



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