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In the rural parishes of Jamaica

In Jamaica, where more than 20 per cent of all births are to girls aged 15-19, the Roving Caregivers Programme supports teen mothers by caring for their babies in a demonstration day-care centre while they attend counselling sessions and academic classes, train for jobs and work on building their self-esteem. In the same settings, there are special sessions for fathers of the babies and mothers of the teenage girls.

Within their own communities, young parents take part in group meetings that provide referrals to health clinics and training and support for income-generating activities. Together with their peers, they learn about reproductive health and the benefits of breastfeeding, good nutrition and environmental hygiene and safety.

And in the central rural parishes of the island where the programme is largely based, ‘Roving Caregivers’ walk from home to home working with children 0 - 3 years old and their parents, introducing them to developmentally appropriate childcare practices. ‘Rovers’ are young secondary school graduates from within the community who are engaged in regular, on-going training in child development. Each is assigned about 30 families. They help parents be better observers of their child’s development and create developmentally appropriate home-learning environments. The Roving Caregivers attend bimonthly meetings to report on the families’ progress, plan activities and prepare training materials. The parents, caregivers and children themselves produce all of the toys and teaching materials used in the programme.

Part of a multidimensional, non-formal, integrated programme of child development and parenting education, the Roving Caregivers Programme has been a collaborative effort of local communities, the Government of Jamaica, UNICEF, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the Rural Family Support Organization since 1992.

Designed to support ‘high risk’ families in meeting the developmental needs of children from birth up to three years, the programme has benefited over 3,500 children in 700 homes in 25 rural districts and 1,300 children in 11 economically depressed inner-city communities.


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