JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Andrea Brown (not her real name) is crediting the FCAC for transforming her son’s life and strengthening their relationship.
  • She describes the overall experience as valuable.
  • Since its inception in 1978, the FCAC has been transforming lives.

Andrea Brown (not her real name) is crediting the Family Court Attendance Centre (FCAC) for transforming her son’s life and strengthening their relationship.

The mother tells JIS News that her son is a brilliant child, who did very well in his Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) some years ago and was placed at the prestigious St. George’s College.

She soon realised that he was heading down a destructive path and “following bad company,” and so she made the difficult decision to withdraw him from the school before he could be expelled.

She tells JIS News that her queries led her to the centre, located at 79 Duke Street, Kingston, where her son spent six months, successfully completing an intensive rehabilitation programme in 2010. He is currently enrolled at Excelsior High School, preparing for Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) exams.

“It (the centre) has helped him. They reached out to him as a child when he was down and gave him hope,” the grateful mother expresses. Ms. Brown says her son felt “a sense of belonging and recognised that people genuinely had his interest at heart and wanted to see him become something in life.”

She describes the overall experience as valuable, noting that “the counselling sessions brought us closer and he is more open to me as I am probably the first person he will say anything to now,” she says.

“He continues to do well and is keeping out of trouble and I am doing my best to guide him,” she tells JIS News, adding that he aspires to become a soldier or pursue studies at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI).

Since its inception in 1978, the FCAC has been transforming lives and making the future brighter for youngsters with social and behavioural problems.

The entity operates as a non-residential rehabilitation centre for young people 12 to 18 years, who have dropped out of the formal educational system and need to be assisted in the rehabilitation process and be moulded into healthy productive citizens.

Administrator at the centre, Vashti McCurbyn-Graham, explains that “the concept of a non-residential training centre grew out of the need to provide emotional-behavioural treatment and educational opportunities for young people, who had been through the Family Court and are deemed unfit for the normal school system.

The only one of its kind in Jamaica, the centre currently has 50 children on roll, who were referred through the Family Court; the Probation Office and the Child Development Agency (CDA). Registration continues throughout the year and usually culminates with an intake of approximately 100 students.

The Administrator points out that the primary objectives of the centre are to: strengthen the core family unit through family therapy; and develop the coping mechanisms of the child through therapeutic interventions.

Highlighting the assessment and placement processes, Mrs. McCurbyn-Graham says that students referred to the centre are given a diagnostic-psychosocial assessment, which is used to identify their mental status and current level of functioning.

She notes that after the assessment, students are streamlined and put into one of three educational groups – special education developmental, primary, or secondary.

“The special education developmental programme caters to those students, who are reading below or at the grade one level; the primary programme would be for students from the grade three to six level; while those in the secondary programme would be at the normal reading or grade level,” the Administrator highlights.

The students from the primary and secondary programmes are prepared for the Grade Nine Achievement Test (G-NAT) and HEART Trust/NTA examinations.

Recently, a Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) component was introduced to the centre’s curriculum and select students are being prepared to sit Social Studies and English Language.

Those at the grade nine level sit the HEART/NTA level 1 examination in Mathematics and English Language.

Students, who demonstrate modified behaviour patterns, are reintroduced into the high school system. Others are assisted in gaining entry into larger, more structured vocational training programmes offered by the HEART/Trust NTA and the National Youth Service (NYS).

Boys learn the rudiments of carpentry and make stools, windows and other small furniture items, which are used in the courts, while the needlework classes expose the girls to the production of bed sheets, curtains, cushions, crib and table covers, which are used by the Day Care Centre at the Family Court.

“This programme was put in place as a means of equipping students with practical skills for the job market,” Mrs. McCurbyn-Graham informs, adding that “it also allows for those children, who are unable to meet the educational qualification for the HEART/NTA programme, to obtain a skill to function in their everyday life.”

Children are also introduced to the HEART/NTA Housekeeping programme where they learn the basic skills needed for working in the hotel industry such as preparing rooms for guests, customer service and telephone reception duties.

Jeffery Allen (not his real name) has developed a love for carpentry from his time spent at the centre and wants to make a lucrative business out of it. He graduated from the centre in 2012 and is currently enrolled at the Portmore Heart Academy, pursuing a course in carpentry.

He notes that the centre transformed his life significantly after being expelled from Donald Quarrie High School for bad behaviour.

“The centre taught me how to handle certain things…to control my temper, aim for things in life and a lot of other good values,” Jeffrey says.

“I loved to fight and give trouble but now I stop all those things….I am a better person because of the time I spent there,” he expresses.

An integral part of the six to nine-month rehabilitation initiative is the counselling programme, which is offered through individual or group sessions and home intervention.

“The children referred to the centre are exposed to violence or had come in contact with some problem with the law and because of the anxiety and traumatic events that they would have been exposed to, would affect the classroom and every-day functioning of the children, hence the need to address the student-family emotional need,” the Administrator points out.

She says that the counselling programme is critical in correcting aggressive and deviant behaviours, which could not be accommodated in the regular school system, communities and the wider society.

“This process usually involves both family and therapist, who have identified the environmental factors and challenges faced, and have agreed to the type of intervention that would be used to bring about the relevant changes,” the Administrator notes.

She informs that the centre has partnered with other mental health facilities such as Camp Bustamante and the University Hospital Child Guidance Clinic, to conduct therapeutic interventions with the children in a student-centered environment.

One of the approaches used to strengthen the family structure is the Character Building-Parental Programme, which is school-based.

Mrs. McCurbyn-Graham notes that under this initiative, “parents are invited to come in and be a part of the rehabilitation process and are given time to vent, explore their feelings, emotions and deal with unresolved issues, which have been affecting their relationship” with their children.

The Administrator adds that the centre has been conducting parenting workshops as a means of helping parents and children to build communication skills and strengthen relationship. She notes that the workshops help parents to better understand the impact that mental disorders have on the everyday functioning and learning of their children.

“The Family Court Attendance Centre is unique in its operation as it caters to the needs of children, adolescents and families. Our programme of activities have provided a sense of empowerment that has nurtured the coping skills of students and families, built confidence, success and development in the social realm,” the Administrator outlines.

For further information on the FCAC, persons may visit its offices at 79 Duke Street, Downtown Kingston or call 922-4441.