The head of the Family and Social Services Division in the Ministry of Social Transformation said the decision to assess the staff to determine which positions they are best suited to fill, has allowed the agency to grow.
Director of Family and Social Services, Alethea Byers described the division that she inherited as “fragile” but the capacity training she has received over the years prompted her to carry out in-depth staff evaluations.
“I did an audit assessment of the agency, see what staff has, what their competencies are and their skill set in terms of working,” Byers said. “Some of them don’t really like it but one has to move forward because we are dealing with people and their lives.”
The director admitted that the task she had undertaken was “very challenging … because the resources are not a lot, so I have to rely on outside agencies like OECS, USAID and the Caribbean Supreme Court”.
Last year, the government expanded the agency’s dimensions with new legislation that Byers said were long overdue as they will now be able to handle adoptions and child protection cases.
“I think it was necessary and should have been in place a long time, so I think that bringing the division under one as a family [unit] is for individuals out in the society to see us as not just a welfare division but a division to help families in all aspects,” Byers said.
She added that the streamlining was challenging but necessary if the Family and Social Services Division is to help vulnerable populations.
“We have looked at individuals within the family to include children and the elderly; the vulnerable population to make sure their needs are met,” Byers said.
She further explained that her team has used the limited resources available to them as their mandate to correct shortcomings in societal behaviours.
“We provide counselling resources to families because we work with the Family Court and tons of cases are being [heard] in the Family Court right now and those cases come to us,” Byers said.
In addressing most cases, the director said counsellors available to the division will conduct home studies for the families, especially those involved in civil cases.
“We have to do home studies for families, we have to do social investigation for reports or other psychosocial intervention to help with these families,” Byers said.
The Children (Care and Adoption Bill) of 2015 was enacted to provide for the care, protection and operation of adoption services.