ALPHA Boys’ Home administrators yester-day made it clear that their decision to close the institution’s residential programme was influenced by “many factors related to finance and personnel”.
The revelation was made in a statement issued by the Sisters of Mercy — a Catholic order of nuns responsible for the operations of the home — in response to what they described as “unfortunate statements… and resulting media commentaries, including a shocking cartoon, which have been disrespectful and have caused great stress to our students”.
“We wish to express our sadness at these turn of events on behalf of Alpha students and children in State care everywhere in Jamaica,” the Sisters of Mercy said.
The nuns did not name Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna in their statement. However, it was clear that their disapproval was also directed at her announcement last week that the residential programme was being closed due to antisocial and psychotic behaviour by boys living at Alpha.
Hanna had called a press conference and said that “the Sisters of Mercy cited the grave antisocial behaviour of children in the care system, the sexual predatory nature of the boys on one another, children who are witnesses of serious crimes or are victims of heinous acts, and who are non-responsive to traditional interventions for which their institutions have been equipped to provide”.
But yesterday, the nuns suggested that those “untruths and half-truths… voiced and published in the press about the closure of the residential programme” have caused serious damage to the boys living at Alpha.
“They feel rejected, their pain is great,” Sister Marie Chin, area administrator for the Sisters of Mercy, said in reference to the boys in a discussion with the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
She said that since the “irresponsible” announcement last week, the boys are being labelled as homosexuals, a branded Alpha Boys’ Home bus was stoned, people have been yelling at the driver, and teachers at the school have been confronted by individuals on the streets.
Sister Marie reiterated that cost was a major factor in the nuns’ decision and confirmed information relayed to the Observer that Alpha was being granted a quarter of the funds allocated to Government-run orphanages monthly, despite repeated pleas by the nuns to be brought on par.
“The $6,000 per child is used to cover their education, food, clothing — all their needs,” Sister Marie said.
“We are deeply committed to taking care of boys at risk, but we need help,” she said.
In their statement yesterday, the Sisters of Mercy pointed out that the issues of financing and adequate personnel were not new and were raised with successive governments over several years.
The nuns reiterated that St John Bosco Children’s Home in Mandeville, which they also operate, will continue to provide residential care to over 100 boys.
However, the decision in relation to Alpha, they said, is timely, given the Child Development Agency’s new thrust toward foster care and family reintegration.
“The restructuring of Alpha will facilitate the Sisters of Mercy along with the Ministry of Education and HEART to offer remedial education for more than 200 boys, along with technical and vocational education,” the nuns said.
“Our renowned music education will also be expanded to include radio, sound production and commercial components,”