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The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has submitted a report to the Houses of Parliament outlining a list of recommendations on how to care for children, who are deemed “uncontrollable”.

The report entitled: ‘Focusing on the Uncontrollable Child: Recommendations to the Houses of Parliament’, was tabled in the Senate on Friday, March 15.

In its foreword, Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, said it is hoped that “these recommendations will be transformed into the recognition that there is a need for action” and that the matter has to be treated as priority.

The recommendations, she said, are evidence-based and “attempt to present a practical snapshot of the situation in its current form. It is the view that this approach should assist members of the Houses of Parliament to appreciate the extent of the dilemma and the urgency of the situation.”

Among the proposals is for the setting up of a facility for children, who exhibit maladaptive behaviour patterns, and who need special services geared toward addressing the underlying causes.

The report stated that the therapeutic facility should be appropriately staffed with forensic psychiatrist, forensic nurses, counselling and clinical psychologists.

It said that in very extreme cases, where the court determines that the child is best suited for placement in a correctional facility, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) should undertake a complete psychiatric and psychological assessment of the child.

In relation to girls in adult detention facilities, the OCA recommends that these girls be professionally assessed by mental health experts to determine whether there are underlying traumatic experiences that have caused the behaviour.

Another recommendation is that suitable safe houses be identified and equipped with the suitable security features, so that they may accommodate the present cohort of girls who have been placed in adult facilities for uncontrollable behaviour.

The report also noted that any child, who is alleged to be uncontrollable by his or her parent, or one who has care, custody and control of such a child, should necessarily be subjected to an assessment by a forensic psychiatric professional.

According to the report, a situation analysis was conducted in respect of female wards resident at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre. Additionally, data was collected from the DCS, with the aim of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the composition of the entire juvenile population within the correctional services.

There were also extensive consultations with a psychiatrist and psychologist, who have amassed a great deal of experience from working with this population of juveniles and other juveniles outside the correctional services, who have also demonstrated maladaptive behaviour.

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter