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by Julia Rawlins-Bentham


Chief Probation Officer, Dorita Lovell

If you are a parent or guardian and children are rude to you, wander away from home, or become involved in drugs and other forms of deviant behaviour, there is a way out!

You should get help! For some this may be easier said than done. But the reality is that solutions are available to curtail such situations. However, too many parents wait until it is too late to seek the necessary help for their children.

These concerns were raised by the Chief Probation Officer, Dorita Lovell, and Deputy Chief Probation Officer Angela Odle, recently.

“Parents feel they are defeated, but the truth is they just need help. If they can acknowledge that, then parents can get help to deal with the entire situation,” Lovell said.

She stressed the need for early intervention when problems first arise in order for them to be dealt with before the situation worsened.

“If the child’s behaviour is escalating, a parent who is responsible for the care and safety of that child needs to recognise when they are helpless,” she pointed out, noting a number of agencies were available to give the necessary assistance.

The Chief Probation Officer noted that deviant behaviour usually started from the primary school level, and escalated at the age of 11, a critical age in the development of children.

“When you see that then you realise the need for expert help,” she said.

She cautioned that while an offence such as wandering could escalate into something “big”, it may be caused by a lack of rules and regulations in the home and the child not having boundaries, a problem related to the parenting of that child.

However, she noted that part of the problem was that some parents did not understand their adolescent children.

“We have to work with them and help them to understand that they are a part of the society and it is expected that they comply with the rules, since they are accountable to their families, the state and society,” she added.

Noting that parents usually felt “all alone” when going through challenges with their children, Lovell pointed out that the Probation Department had developed a programme for parents of clients so they could provide support for each other.

“This allows them to share their methods and examine and see what works,” she said.

Through that programme, officials at the Probation Department seek to give parents a sense of direction and an opportunity to see how they could work with their children using other methods of discipline. These sessions also involved the children at various intervals.

However, while it is important to focus on the right parenting styles, the Deputy Chief Probation Officer stressed the need for a multifaceted approach in tackling the problem. As a result, she said, the department had also developed programmes to address the varying needs of the challenges children are likely to face as they go through adolescence.

One such initiative is Tomorrow’s Leaders, a programme geared towards self-development and teaching the school-aged participants certain life skills, goal setting, presentation skills, being respectful to others and about their choice of friends.

It joins a number of programmes offered by the Probation Department to assist in giving guidance to youth.

“Before the introduction of these programmes we recognised a number of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 flow into the criminal justice system for drugs and bad behaviour,” Odle pointed out, adding that a number of children coming before the Juvenille Court were there for offences such as assault, wounding and drugs.

For the girls, there are programmes such as Girl’s Circle, which targets those between the ages of 13 and 16 years and also those in their early 20s.

Its aim is to help them recognise the challenges and threats to their success. In addition to an educational programme, the females are also enrolled in seminars which look at their social development and relationship building.

Similarly, the Probation Department also conducts “As Man — Acquiring Skills Men Actually Need”, a programme that targets pre-teen males, teenagers and those in their early 20s, to examine the challenges and responsibilities of life, while focusing on health, hygiene, relationship building and personal development.

Both programmes also encompass aspects of anger management, drug use, sporting activities and a spiritual component as a way to give participants a sense of direction and reverence.

The reach of the Probation Department has also been extended to the community as it seeks to assist the youth by introducing a preventative approach to deviant behaviour in schools and communities.

During the interview, Odle noted that the department had conducted a 12-week pilot project with a secondary school in the north, where they looked at such issues as social graces, relationships, values and the society and you.

“Some of our officers were the facilitators in the programme. We are trying to evaluate and redirect our methods to involve the older people in communities as we try to stop the prevalence of deviant behaviour in society,” the Deputy Chief Probation Officer pointed out.

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