Jeremy Thomas is a Family Counsellor with the Ministry of Social Development’s Family Matters Programme’s Counselling Unit.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The Family Matters Programme, being carried out by the Counselling Unit within the Ministry of Social Development, is helping families to function holistically, says Family Counsellor, Jeremy Thomas.

Thomas said there is a referral process that families must go through first. He noted that the youth are being contacted as an entry point into the families.

“When you think about it, a lot of the referrals that we get are usually from schools,” said Thomas. “The school counsellors say this is the issue that we have with this particular child. Their parent keeps on coming back and they are saying this is the issue. So we say listen, we have a programme now, which is part of the Family Matters Services.

“Parents have to sign off and agree for the services to commence,” he said. “Without that signature, or without them saying yes, we can’t do anything. Even if the school counsellors say that this child is problematic without their consent, we can’t do anything further than that.”

Thomas said that after the information is received from the counsellor or the school, information about the child is entered into a data system.

“We meet with a guardian and ask them a few questions,” said Thomas. “What’s happening, what is taking place in the home, and then the information is entered into our system. It calculates some of the risk factors that exist within the family. After going through those risk factors, we determine what we are going to do next.

“The department uses the risk factors as an entry point into the family,” said Thomas. “Based on what the system tells us about the risk factors we enter into the family.”

The Family Matters Programme began with recognition that the family has many functions. Its main focus is the social function of the family.

The goal of the programme is to work specifically with families to reduce risk factors so that families are better able to protect their children.

“Ultimately, we have young people who will grow into healthy citizens,” said Family Counsellor, Alicia Collins.

The programme was initiated by the USAID in three territories in 2017. They include St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Guyana. The Counselling Unit facilitated the programme because of its work. USAID financed the programme for the first year, and the government has given its assistance over the years.