Hedge Funds Care helps keep kids safe

The theme for the annual Hedge Funds Care Cayman gala says it all: “Open Your Heart to the Children Benefit.” The black-tie event on Nov. 21 provides significant financial assistance to those in the community who are most vulnerable and most in need. 

The local branch supports the sole mission of the international charity: to prevent and treat child abuse. Since 2005, when the chapter began, it has raised more than US$2.5 million for local organizations and government programs that fight child abuse. 

For 2015/2016, Hedge Funds Care has awarded grants totaling CI$280,267 to The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, Cayman Islands Red Cross, the Children and Youth Services Foundation, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Counselling Services, the Health Services Authority, the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Special Needs Foundation of Cayman. 

“If Hedge Funds Care didn’t exist, there are so many programs that would not be here,” said Nancy Davey, children and youth program case manager for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. “If that money did not come, our program would not exist. We struggle every year just to keep the doors open.” 

Some of the grants go toward education and awareness programs such as the “Protection Starts Here” campaign of the Red Cross, which teaches youth workers, volunteers and other adults in the community how to identify and prevent abuse. Other grants help provide the salaries for the experts who work with abused or neglected children or who are working to develop child abuse preventions programs in Cayman. 

Many of the grants support organizations that help children who have not only experienced abuse, but who have suffered the trauma of having to leave their homes. 

Three such grant recipients are the Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. Each offers a safe home for children who have experienced abuse, but each organization is also unique in the services it provides. 

 

CAYS Foundation  

The foundation manages the Frances Bodden Girls Home and the Bonaventure Boys Home, which provide therapeutic residential homes and 24-hour care for children who have been placed there by various court orders. Some children stay for a few months at a time, some stay for years. 

The law prohibits boys and girls over age 12 who are on court orders from residing in the same care home. The foundation currently has no place for boys older than that to live because Bonaventure is specifically for boys in remand.  

Therefore, when boys residing at Frances Bodden reach the age of 12, alternative care must be found. Some boys are placed with foster parents, but such placements can be difficult to find. Other times, boys have to return to their homes, which may not be the best place for them, according to CAYS foundation managers. 

“A lot of the boys have been sexually abused, physically abused and emotionally abused, and the problem is that up until now, we haven’t had a place where we can specifically send them to provide the therapeutic interventions that they need,” said Sidney Williams, Bonaventure Boys Home manager. 

CAYS Foundation Board Chairman Garth Arch had the vision to build a facility to provide for those boys who age-out of the current housing situation, according to Mr. Williams. 

Mr. Arch solicited private funds from several organizations, including Hedge Funds Care, which provided a grant of $50,000 toward the construction of the new boys’ building. 

On July 17, construction began on the open-concept building, capable of housing up to 10 boys at a time, and it should be ready for move-in by January 2016. 

“Boys need care and protection just as much as girls do,” said Maureen Jervis-Brooks, manger of the Frances Bodden home. 

The boys home will operate, as the children’s home currently does, around a group concept, with boys eating meals together and participating in group therapy sessions. 

“The homes that they’re coming from do not have a family atmosphere,” Mr. Williams said, adding that in the care home, adults providing counseling become like parents, and the other children become like brothers and sisters. 

“It helps children who think they are the only one in the world going through this,” Mr. Jervis-Brooks said. “In the group they share and support each other.” 

According to Mr. Williams, such care and intervention can reduce the number of boys who ultimately end up in the criminal justice system. 

“If [boys] need care and their house or home is dysfunctional, eventually they’ll start committing crimes, and if they commit crimes, then they go through the court system and come to Bonaventure,” Mr. Williams said. 

He added that it is exciting that Hedge Funds Care understands and supports the CAYS foundation’s vision. 

“We can’t have our children be victims of a budget that can’t provide for them,” Mr. Williams said. “Private funds mean we don’t always have to go to the government with our hat in our hands.” 

 

National Council of Voluntary Organisations  

Since 2006, the NCVO has received more than $300,000 in grants from Hedge Funds Care. All of the money has gone to the Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home. 

“Over the years, the funding from Hedge Funds Care has made a significant difference … as well as the collaboration and advice,” NCVO chief executive Janice Wilson said. 

Children are placed in the home by the courts and the Department of Children and Family Services when it is determined that they are in need of care or protection because of abuse or neglect. 

“The aim of the home is to provide a secure, caring environment with some sort of stability and structure and routine because most of the children haven’t had that,” Ms. Wilson said. 

The home has cared for more than 45 children over the last decade. Some of the children stay for a few months while a suitable family member or foster parent is found. Some stay for years, until they turn 18 and age-out of the home. 

Parenting seldom ends when a child turns 18, however. Parents provide emotional, practical and financial support to their children as they pursue higher education, search for jobs and accommodation. 

In order that the children who age out of the have a similar type of support system when they leave, Hedge Funds Care provides a grant to support an after-care program. This program helps them find accommodation and jobs, develop life skills like budgeting, and provides some financial assistance for rent or continuing education. 

Hedge Funds Care also helped NCVO develop the after-care program, which began in 2006. 

“They were very keen on us expanding [it] and with their funds, we were able to,” Ms. Wilson said. 

There are currently five former residents receiving after-care. 

This year, the NCVO received $10,000 to support the case manager for the program. 

Government funding to the foster home amounts to about $225,000 a year, but the cost of running the whole program is closer to $400,000, requiring outside donations, Ms. Wilson said. 

“The main challenge for any nonprofit organization is always funding,” she said. “The [grant] has made a significant difference. It has allowed us to expand our program and to focus on finding funding for other things.” 

 

Cayman Islands Crisis Centre  

The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has a 24-hour crisis hotline and provides temporary housing to abused women and their children. 

This year, the Crisis Centre received a $25,000 grant from Hedge Funds Care to support the Children and Youth Program case manager, Nancy Davey. 

Some of the children who come through the center have been abused, but even for those who have only witnessed it, the effect is similar. 

“Witnessing abuse affects children just as severely as if they were being abused themselves,” Ms. Davey said. “These kids, when they’re growing up in these kinds of homes, their very being is overridden by trauma and fear. As long as kids are living like that, their development becomes stunted. They are not free enough to take any joy out of social experiences, they tend to be angry or sad or afraid all the time. They’re not learning, they have great difficulty at school.” 

Since children at the crisis centre usually are not there very long, and because the women sometimes return to the household in which the abuse is occurring, Ms. Davey’s first priority is helping the children develop a safety strategy. 

“It’s not their responsibility to keep themselves safe, it’s the adults’, but the reality is these kids are in unsafe situations, therefore they need to be able to do something rather than just feel absolute terror,” Ms. Davey said. “If you help them think about the steps they can take, then it helps them not get locked into the total terror and not be able to do anything.” 

The plan involves figuring out a hiding spot in the home, how to make a safe exit, whose door to knock on, how to call 911, and other ways of reacting when violence occurs. 

“If they’re really small, they might need to pretend to be asleep, so that dad doesn’t see them and strike out at them,” Ms. Davey said. “I’ve had different dads where they’ll grab the kids and put them the children in between during the struggle, using the kids to threaten the women.” 

After developing a safety plan, Ms. Davey’s next task with the children is to try to work through some of the trauma they have experienced, usually through guided play and art activities. 

“I work with art and clay to try to get them to express themselves, what the fear was like, those kinds of things,” Ms. Davey said, adding that many of the children make monster figures out of the clay. Ms. Davey also does cognitive and behavioural work with the children to try to reduce their anxiety. 

She is currently working with two young brothers, whom she says are preoccupied with their mother’s safety, to the point that they are missing out at school and not making friends. 

She recently did an art activity with the boys, where they drew out their arms and hands, and sewed them together, making, in essence, a paper hug. 

“It’s like a symbolic hug,” Ms. Davey said. “I said, when you’re feeling sad or scared, you can see this and it can remind you of a time you were safe.” 

She said that when they leave, they can recall the feelings of safety to help with their anxiety and will also be reminded of their safety plan. 

“If you didn’t have the [Children and Youth] program, you would have kids in the shelter that were very violent and aggressive, you would have children that were very afraid and hiding in corners and under their beds,” Ms. Davey said. “They would be leaving our program going to school like this, and not having anyone do anything for them or understanding really what it is they lived through.” 

Ms. Davey said that while the government gives the center $300,000 a year, another $300,000 is required to cover the total operating costs. These funds come from private donors, such as Hedge Funds Care. 

“Hedge Funds Care funds so many programs across the island and all of their funding has to do with socially responsible programming, things that give back to families and children in the community,” Ms. Davey said. “If they got up and walked home … what would happen?” 

 

Hedge Funds Care Cayman’s 11th annual “Open Your Heart to the Children Benefit” featuring dinner, drinks, entertainment, and silent auction and live auctions will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.  

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Bonaventure Boys Home manager Sidney William at the site of a new therapuetic residential home for boys, funded in part by a grant from Hedge Funds Care. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

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Bonaventure Boys Home manager Sidney William at the site of a new therapuetic residential home for boys, funded in part by a grant from Hedge Funds Care. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam

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