By Michael Jordan
The brutal and senseless killing of female guard Margaret Dawson, allegedly by a teen and his friend, is yet another signal that Guyana urgently needs a youth facility where troubled juveniles can be evaluated and rehabilitated before they become psychopathic adults.
This is the view of a senior Childcare expert, who believes that incarcerating juveniles is not the solution to the issue of violent behaviour among youths.
Rather, the advocate suggests that juvenile offenders, aged 12 to 18, be taken to a facility where they would remain for at least six months.
“The care facility will cater for individuals who are “presenting serious delinquent behaviours; offending and are a threat to their own wellbeing and to others but do not meet the requirement to be charged.”
But the official stressed that the residents would not ‘be thrown in a dungeon’ in this centre.
“These youths need to be processed, not running around and committing all sorts of crimes. A lot of them are hurting.
Some of these children have serious mental health issues, trauma issues. Some are in terrible pain. A lot of them are on drugs, and they would turn out to be serious criminals.
They need a care facility that would promote good ethical and responsible behaviour and positive youth development.
There is need for a specialised care centre to meet the needs of this problematic group of children and children who are offenders but cannot be held responsible based on the New Juvenile Act.
They need a care and rehabilitative facility that would provide support and opportunities for them to modify their behaviour and develop a true sense of self-worth and dignity; that will be conducive to positive youth development with policies and practices; a type of ‘boot camp’ with mental health checks being systematic when they enter the care facility.”
According to the Childcare expert, the centre “will be more high tech than the New Opportunity Corps.
At this ‘boot camp’, staff “would look at their mental health, look at if there are into substance abuse,” the official said.
The centre being proposed will be geared specifically for rehabilitation and behaviour change.
The Childcare envisions that such a ‘boot camp’ would lead to “fewer offenders in the criminal justice system and more productive young adults/adults in society.”
According to the expert, provision for such a care service is in the Childcare & Protection Agency Act and the New Juvenile Justice Act.
The Childcare advocate suggests that for the first three weeks, the residents would be exposed to ‘a capable case worker’ to make assessment and prepare a care plan working with the child and the family.
During these three weeks, the child would be exposed to a full medical check, including dentistry and mental health screening as well as screening for drug use and addiction. They will also be assessed regarding their educational needs.
They would be reviewed after six months, and will leave the centre if positive changes are evident.
If there is need for more intervention, the care plan can be altered and extended for a further six months.
The programme would be of strict discipline, social and life skills training with opportunity for schooling at the child’s educational level in the regular school curriculum but the classrooms must be on site.
“There should also be opportunity for occupational skills training and occupational therapy such as farming and caring for domestic animals.
“There should also be opportunity for working on individual and group projects identified by the children for the change(s) they want in their home community or in the wider society.
Children identified with substance abuse problems would be exposed to a rehabilitation process also on site.
TRAINING CENTRE, EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES
According to the expert, there will be separate accommodation for girls and boys and movement in and out of the facility would be restricted.
The site would house a training centre and classrooms, a separate building for substance abuse rehabilitation and medical area for the processing of new entrants.
The ‘boot camp’ should have enough land for planting of cash crops, rearing of poultry and for care of domestic animals.
The advocate suggested an area on the Soesdyke highway would be ideal for the centre.
The expert suggested that the centre would employ “qualified, skilled staff,” but assistance could be sought from external key agencies.
“Staff must be able to provide support and give the children opportunities to build a relationship with caring adults to develop their sense of personal worth and dignity.
“Inclusion of retired military and semi-military personnel would be an asset in instilling the strict discipline needed, such as early raising, making beds and taking care of the environment.
The selected staff would be exposed to six weeks of training in ethics, children’s/human rights, problem solving approaches and promoting positive behaviour in children. This must be done before they are allowed to interact with the children.”
The advocate also suggested that family members be involved in the preparation of the care plan for the residents, be kept abreast with their child’s progress, and be allowed to visit and have contact for bonding processes to facilitate reunification.
Psychosocial Assistance would be given to the family to support the expected behaviour change.
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