Joan Martin loves being a foster parent

3 years ago

Share Story

Joan Martin did not set out to become a foster parent.

She says she was unexpectedly thrust into the role when she agreed to provide a temporary home to a little boy whose mother was unable to care for him.

 “The mother was having problems and she wanted somebody who could provide a safe environment for her son,” she recounts. That was in December 2016.

Four year later, the child has become an important member of her family and Martin is a registered foster parent with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).

Tony* who was just three years old when he was brought into Martin’s home, will be celebrating his eighth birthday in April, the same month that his mother died last year. 

Martin said that before her death, Tony’s mother asked her to be a foster parent to her child. It is a duty, she says, that she embraced with enthusiasm, as she had grown to love the child, and wanted to provide a safe and stable family environment for him.

The retired preschool teacher and grandmother of 15, says fostering is a rewarding experience and she is grateful for the opportunity to be able to make a difference in a child’s life.

She is encouraging Jamaicans who are in a position to foster a child, to register with the CPFSA’s Foster Care Programme.

 “There are so many children in State care and children really need a family, so foster a child. Even though it has challenges, you will see the reward in the end and the difference it makes in their lives,” 

she says.

Martin’s daughter, Judine Webb, who is a foster care officer at the CPFSA’s Morant Bay branch, is also imploring more Jamaicans to become foster parents. 

“If you have that space, you have a job and you can care for this child, we are imploring you to open your hearts and your homes to foster a child,” 

she shared.

She says that the entity provides training, counselling and other support services to foster parents and the children in their care.

 “You don’t have to worry about having sole responsibility. The agency stands by you; it is a partnership,”

 she notes.

Webb says that there are more than 4,000 children in State care institutions islandwide who need a loving home. 

“Our aim is always to place children with families so that they can experience what it is to be part of healthy family life. You would be allowing a child to become a productive citizen by sharing your resources with them and welcoming them into your family,”

 she notes.

Foster care is one of the main elements of the CPFSA’s Living in Family Environment (LIFE) Programme. 

It allows non-biological parents to care for children in State care, providing them with a nurturing home environment, while positively contributing to their overall development.

Children placed in foster care are usually those who have been abused, orphaned, abandoned, neglected or are unable to be cared for by their parents or relatives.

There are three types of fostering – short-term, which allows children to be placed temporarily with families, while alternative arrangements for accommodation are made; permanent fostering, which provides children with an opportunity to be placed with families on a long-term basis until they are ready for independent living; and kinship fostering, which allows children to be placed with relatives on a long-term or short-term basis. 

To become a foster parent, participants must be responsible adults in good legal standing between the ages of 25 and 65. 

Individuals or couples are eligible to participate in the programme; however, placement with a single man is only done if the applicant is related to the child or if there are exceptional circumstances.

Persons should be gainfully employed or have a steady income and should be able to provide suitable accommodation and environment for a child.

Applicants must provide two references from a notary public, two passport-size photographs, a police record, and submit to a medical examination. 

As part of the application process, an interview with the applicants, home visits and follow-up assessments are conducted by a CPFSA Children’s Officer to evaluate the environment in which the child will be residing.