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Youth Service best option

Young people of a certain age, who have no job and are not in educational institutions, should by law be made to join the Barbados Youth Service.

This declaration was made by UNICEF Champion for Children, Faith Marshall-Harris as she addressed her consultation on a children and family law reform at the Alexandra School last Friday night.

The former magistrate made a strong case for the reformation of several statutes which she believes would better serve children and overall the family unit, stretching from issues of adoption, to a reform school, court appointed attorneys and other such matters.

“I made the point under education that we should probably be looking also at keeping our children in school up to the age of 18, but I recognised early that that is a very expensive proposition. In Canada they recently did that in light of the fact that there is high unemployment. So rather than have children unemployed, can’t get a job, hanging around, it is better to keep them in school.

“While it may be impossible for Barbados because of the high cost that would be, I am suggesting that where a young person who is between 16 & 18 and not gainfully employed, not in full-time instruction, should be registered with the Barbados Youth Service, and be credited with that,” she underscored.

Part of the challenge, she forecasted, was the image people have of the youth service, which she said was unwarranted, as she hailed the organisation with one of the stronger systems of turning youth around.

As a magistrate dealing with youth offenders and the primary juvenile authority, she said she had sent several young people to the institution who had turned out better for the interaction.

“Let me just add some praise for the Barbados Youth Service here. It is a most incredible organisation. It is one of the best things that happens to young people in Barbados.

“When I was in juvenile court I sent a lot of people to the Barbados Youth Service and became one of their biggest admirers because they turned those children who came in slouching, with low self-esteem, who could hardly speak or articulate their concerns – within three months those children came back to the court and you were proud of them. Just three months.

“This is because the Youth Service is like superior parenting because each child that goes there has an individual mentor who looks after them, who listens to them, who works out what they can do best, all their strengths, all their weaknesses and points them in the right direction and it works out well for them. It works well for young people and I would like to see more of this,” said the children’s advocate.

The forum, held by the Ministry of Social Care, was one in a number of town hall meetings on the draft Green Paper on children and family law reform in Barbados.

The next meeting will be Wednesday at Christ Church Foundation School at 7 p.m. (LB)

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