Principal Erwin Leacock said today as the organisation unveiled a plaque to mark its 130th anniversary that the issues facing young juveniles on a whole were indicative of the issues in society, some of which are not being placed on the front-burner.
“One area of concern is the number of females coming into custody and I think that is an issue that we as a society have to really start looking very, very seriously at,” Leacock.
“We have to appreciate that the road to delinquency for a female is different and female delinquency is usually characterised by abusive experiences and it is something that we have to be very sensitive to and start discussing as a society.”
While not painting a picture of gloom as far as the youth are concerned, the principal nevertheless indicated that the situations that led to youth ending up in the institution were not cut and dry.
“I think what sometimes the public fails to understand and a lot of people just focus on the presenting problem, the behaviour of the child, not realising that very often that behaviour is the result of on-going issues in the child’s life and that is what we have to deal with too. So very often there is substance abuse involved, there are family issues.
“Inevitably it is a family crisis that is not being handled well, but we work especially our therapeutic programmes work to address these issues,” said the juvenile institution head.
And it was working, he noted, adding that each case had to be measured individually as the work done at GIS did not lend itself to discussions of percentages of success.
Children would move incrementally to address their own problems individually, he said, and the institution would assist by providing them with the kind of skills they could use for adult life and in some cases, independent living as some had nowhere to go after leaving the facility.
“When you leave here there are some children who unfortunately have nowhere to go and at a very, very early age they have to break for themselves, they have to be independent. So the work that we do here is very serious. A lot of these children don’t have the luxury of supportive families and very often when they leave here they have to be able to fend for themselves.
“As part of our mandate, … we are obliged legally or if the child so desires, to continue our support, not necessarily financially, but our institutional support to that individual to help that individual assimilate back into society… There are one or two organisations that play a very significant part, [and] for the sake of sensitivity and confidentiality you would not divulge who they are.
“There are one or two individuals or institutions that provide housing, who provide the necessary support, but in a lot of instances it is not a very pleasant situation and unfortunately, Barbados does not really know about a lot of these cases.
“There are issues in our society that these children reflect that we have not yet acknowledged as a priority. That is one of the areas of emphasis of our celebrations is that we are trying to engage the public more in helping the wider Barbadian society to be more appreciative of the risk factors associated with troubled youth,” said Leacock.
There were children, he noted, who were dealing with abandonment issues which could be traumatic and daunting.
“Often you would hear about situations like this overseas, not realising that there are real issues here within our country. It isn’t often that we are prepared to acknowledge that this exists but it does.” (LB)