Child Welfare League Cares for Mothers and Children (September 27, 2015)

Child Welfare articleOne of T&T’s oldest NGO’s, the Child Welfare League, was founded in 1918 to reduce the high infant mortality rate at the time. Originally named the Baby Welfare League, it gave milk and other necessities to mothers to care for their children.
Executive Director Bernadette McKie said the League also made significant contributions to health care in T&T as it established the District Health Visitor system, Mothers and Infants clinics and day nurseries, all of which still continue to this day.
Eventually, the Mothers and Infants Clinics was taken over by the Government, who converted it into the present-day Child Welfare clinics. McKie said the clinic buildings themselves are also being used by the Government, free of charge. The District Health Visitors system was subsumed into the general healthcare system, leaving the League to run the day nurseries, which were also expanded to include preschools. In 1994, the League began running an adolescent mothers program, geared towards ensuring that teenagers with one child does not have another during their teenage years, “It’s a very rare occasion you may find another pregnancy in the teenage years. Most of our girls are trained to go back to school and it’s a very few who are in financial constraints and go out to work instead. Now we run the nurseries and the preschools and the adolescent mothers program. We have three day nurseries and preschools in Trinidad and one in Tobago as well as two preschools, one in Belmont and one in St. James. We have four adolescent mothers program, one in Sangre Grande, one in LA Horquetta, one in Woodbrook and one in Tobago.”
Funding for these programs come from a combination of government subventions, private donations and fundraisers. “We charge a fee to use the preschools, which pays the teachers along with donations from corporate citizens and fundraisers. The Government sponsors one of the adolescent mothers programs totally and gives a subvention for the others. Funds also come in from the rental of some of our buildings. All these sources of funds are pooled to pay staff salaries.”
McKie said this makes it difficult to hire staff, especially of the quality needed to run these programs. “We’d like more staff, but can’t offer a competitive salary. At headquarters, there’s myself and my assistant, as well as two office assistants, a part-time accountant and an accounting assistant. In the nursery, there are two teacher and five nursery caregivers. The number of staff varies from place to place. At the Centres, there are managers for the Choices (adolescent mothers) program and one or two permanent staff depending on the size of the Centre. Our cooks come in part-time for four hours at a time. There are tutors who teach the girls in two to three hour sessions, depending on the type of lesson. Food preparation is three hours, academics vary between two to three hours depending on how close exams are, as we do the post-Primary school leaving certificate here. Other classes include hygiene, computer studies, beauty culture, dressmaking, swimming and physical education, although not all classes are offered at all Centres.”
“You have to love to give to be able to really work with an NGO because it’s lots of work and you have to serve in more than one capacity. Even though I’m in charge overall, I still go to the nursery and help if we are short, I will still go out and do shopping, cut the grass, etc., depending on what is needed. You have to be an all-round person to work here so we try to choose office staff who also have knowledge of child care as well as their respective areas, so they can help out if we’re short in the nursery. We also advise parents to go to see a doctor or a specialist when we see something strange is going on with a child to have them evaluated.”
The current Patron is Dr. Jean Ramjohn Richards, following the tradition that the President’s wife is the Patron of the League. McKie said the League is awaiting a response to their request that Mrs. Carmona take over the patronage of the organization.
For further information, call 623-6301 or email childwelfareleague@gmail.com.

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