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Making a home for youth with special needs

Making a home for youth with special needs

Maple House has served for decades as the Cayman Islands’ only residential facility for children and young adults with special needs. Now, the addition of a second location at a recently refurbished home in Bodden Town will enable the Ministry of Community Affairs to expand services for disabled children in need of care and protection, and accommodate the separation of younger children from young adults.

Dart donated materials and services to transform the property’s outdoor areas with wheelchair-accessible pathways and landscaping, and a team of Dart volunteers dedicated an afternoon to putting the finishing touches on the outdoor spaces for the home’s current residents to enjoy.

Initially, the house will accommodate four children and 10 to 12 staff members, with the potential to increase the residency to up to eight children and their caretakers in the future.

Ministry of Community Affairs Chief Officer Teresa Echenique says that while the government aims to keep children in their homes wherever possible, residential facilities like this one play a vital role when this is not possible.

“Unfortunately, due to the special needs of some children and limitations/restrictions in the family setting, it is necessary for us to provide short- and long-term residential care," she says. "We therefore endeavour to ensure that our residential facilities are of a loving and caring environment with adapted facilities and specialised services to meet the needs of our children and support their growth and development."

Dart Manager Community Development Dominic Ross says creating places that enrich lives now and for future generations is central to the organisation’s purpose in the Cayman Islands.

“Inclusivity and accessibility are hallmarks of Dart’s design philosophy and an essential element of sustainable communities,” he says. “We are proud to be able to support initiatives like this one that provide spaces and services that meet the needs of our community’s most vulnerable members.”

As Dart’s first group volunteering project in months, Ross says the organisation’s staff members were keen to get involved.

“While many Dart employees continued to volunteer individually throughout lockdown wherever possible, the pandemic put a damper on our group events,” he says. “Our team of volunteers was very excited to be in a position to help turn this property into a home, including planting trees and shrubs donated from Dart’s nursery.”

Paulinda Mendoza Williams, the director of the Department of Children & Family Services, says the new home will enable vulnerable children with special needs to receive the care they need.

“The Cayman Islands, though a small community compared to other countries, still has a population of citizens with special needs, like anywhere in the world,” she says. “Facilities like these provide their basic life necessities like having proper meals to maintain a healthy mind and body; receiving consistent health care, psychosocial and physical interventions to prevent worsening of their conditions; being provided simply a home where they can have a sense of comfort and security."

The Ministry of Community Affairs and the Department of Children & Family Services welcome partnership from organisations like Dart that want to make a meaningful difference in the community. Anyone interested in supporting their work can contact the Chief Officer at the Ministry of Community Affairs at 244-2426 or the Children & Family Services Director at 949-0290 to discuss opportunities for joint partnerships that will improve the health, care and well-being of children in need.


This article appears in print in the November 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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