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Empowering childcare professionals to serve

By Dominique Heffes-Doon

Integrated Communications Lead, Camsel

It takes a village to care for a child. The Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) with key stakeholders are mobilising our local community to do just that.

Anna Maria Garcia-Brooks, the Episcopal Delegate for the Archdiocese Commissions, opened the Appreciation Day of the CCSJ/AMMR Alternative Care Programme (ACP) on Saturday, May 14 by asking all to reflect on the characteristics of Jesus Christ as a man.

Garcia-Brooks reflected on the humility, resilience, courage, and gentleness of Christ as she congratulated the graduating social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who undertook the training provided by the AMMR in conjunction with UNICEF and the Children’s Authority (CA).

The purpose of the training is to further enable key childcare professionals to better serve not only unaccompanied migrant and refugee children who arrive on the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, but also our local children who are in dire need of care and homes.

Chair of the CCSJ, Leela Ramdeen, in her remarks, lamented the fact that Trinidad and Tobago does not have a culture of foster care or an adequate legislative framework to address the needs of migrant children.

As such, the ACP programme was created with UNICEF to mitigate against “gaps” in the current foster care system.

According to the CCSJ’s website, “The Archdiocese has partnered with UNICEF and works closely with the Children’s Authority to ensure that separated and unaccompanied minors were housed while alternatives were sourced. The goal of the program is to find caring families for unaccompanied migrant children presently in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Ramdeen noted the backlog of 8,000 cases currently faced by the CA and assured graduates that, “Everything you do will always have a ripple effect… continue to serve as that comes with a lot of blessings.”

UNICEF is the key partner of the ACP programme. Candice Wallace, Child Protection Officer for UNICEF took the opportunity to explain the partnership between the CCSJ/AMMR and UNICEF and the timeliness of the training given the grave situation within society with regard to child protection.

AMMR Programme Coordinator Darrion Narine addressed the gathering on the purpose of the ACP.

Nicole Assam, representative from the CA, said, “As your speakers indicated, migration presents both challenges and opportunities. The Children’s Authority is happy to partner with AMMR and UNICEF to meet the placement needs of the migrant children population. We also acknowledge and appreciate the commitment of the psychologists and the social workers who volunteered to be trained in this important work. We wish you and your team at AMMR and UNICEF success and look forward to continuing our collaboration.”

Psychiatric Social Worker and beneficiary of the training, Rhondamay Chin Slick, spoke with The Catholic News about the experience of the ACP training and how it would successfully facilitate foster care needs within Trinidad and Tobago.

The Catholic News extends congratulations to ACP Coordinator Shelly-Ann Simon for her continuous service to the children of our society, and all the social workers and psychologists who graduated from the ACP training.



“A believer may be untrue to everything that his faith demands of him, and yet think he is close to God and better than others. The guarantee of an authentic openness to God, on the other hand, is a way of practising the faith that helps open our hearts to our brothers and sisters. … those who claim to be unbelievers can sometimes put God’s will into practice better than believers.” (74)

– Pope Francis, Fratelli Tuitti

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee