Since the implementation of “Family Matters”, an initiative under the United Agency for International Development (USAID), in 2017, high-risk behaviours in families from several communities have significantly reduced.

This was revealed by Deputy Permanent Secretary, Administration, Ministry of Social Protection, Mr Shelton Daniels, at a workshop dubbed “Family matters: Sustainability Planning”. The workshop was held yesterday morning at the Regency Suites Hotel and had participation from various department heads of the ministry, USAID/CFYR officials and other stakeholders.

The Family Matters programme is funded under USAID’s Community, Family and Youth Resilience (CFYR) pilot programme and applies a public health approach to youth violence prevention by implementing comprehensive, evidence-informed prevention strategies in defined high-risk communities and by focusing on youth at the highest risk of engaging in violence. Target beneficiaries are youths between the ages of 10-17 in Guyana. The
Ministry of Social Protection received US$267,791 in 2017 for the pilot project and CFYR worked with the ministry to recruit family counsellors who were trained while 10 representatives from the ministry were trained to support the process of managing the family counselling intervention.

Mr Daniels stated that the project is progressing and the ministry is well prepared to continue the programme on its own when it concludes in 2020. He noted that systems are already in place and several persons will be employed.
Mr Daniels also related that youths must become productive citizens and empowered to make positive contributions to society. He added that youths account for a large percentage of the population and the proportion of youth involvement in crime is growing.

There is also an increase in teenage pregnancy which results in absentee fathers and single-female headed homes and the rise of social media which is replacing quality family time.

“We at the Ministry of Social Protection are cognizant of the fact that these issues confront the society and approaches to correct them cannot be our responsibility only. There is need for a holistic approach both in design and implementation. I, therefore, encourage my colleagues from the Ministries of Education, Public Health, Indigenous People’s Affairs, and the Department of Social Cohesion to collaborate with us to address these issues,” Mr Daniels urged.

USAID’s Representative Ms Ryssa Braithwaite commended the ministry for its efforts in reducing high-risk behaviours. Ms Braithwaite explained that since the project officially ends in 2020, the plan is to now work on an exit strategy.

“We want to work with you to do a planned process of transition without the programme which ends in 2020. Next year we will see the technical responsibility shifted to the ministry, while we support you. So you will be testing how to supervise family counsellors etc. on your own. Transferring responsibility to the government is a process other countries also benefitting from this project, including St. Lucia, have gone through before,” Braithwaite noted.

In addition to training family counsellors, the project developed a database – the Model Fidelity Database (MFD) – to track all facets of the family counselling intervention. The MFD monitors progress, trends, and the extent to which the programme is delivered according to the model.

Following the mass assessment last year, eligible youths were randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group by USAID’s contracted external evaluator. To date, a total of 87 families are actively participating in family matters.

Topics on how the family fits in the government’s priorities, stakeholder assessment, and sustainability assessment were also discussed at the workshop.


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