Child Diversion Consultant in the Ministry of Justice, Ruth Carey, is encouraging parents to ensure that their children stick to the treatment plan that has been designed for them under the Child Diversion Programme.
Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Ms. Carey said that parents and guardians are expected to remain accountable and accessible and to make sure that the children participate in the treatment process.
Failure to do so, she warned, could see the case being returned to the formal justice system.
“If a child is not successful nor complies with the obligations set out under the treatment plan, the matter will be returned to the court or to the police for it to be dealt with in the formal justice process.
“So I’m just reaching out to parents and guardians to ask you to continue to support your children and seek help from the government agencies for support. The Child Protection and Family Service Agency (CPFSA) is also there to offer any support and guidance that you may need,” she advised.
The Child Diversion Programme focuses on diverting children who have come in conflict with the law away from the criminal justice system.
It aims to, among other things, reduce the number of children who are charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system as a result, and to increase the use of diversionary programmes that rehabilitate children as a response to crime and wrongdoing.
Children are referred to the programme by the courts or the police.
Ms. Carey told JIS News that parents are an integral part of the programme and they are invited to attend the intake session to provide their signature, agreeing to have their child participate in the treatment process.
“Parents have been involved in this process, for example, by attending parenting sessions as part of that child’s treatment. What we’ve found is that parents have been extremely supportive, in most cases, of children referred on the programme,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Ms. Carey is reminding parents that the programme is referral-based and, therefore, they cannot just walk into the programme offices with their children.
She said that there are several government agencies that can offer support if they are facing challenges, including the CPFSA.
“Also, keep in mind that even within our schools we have deans of discipline, guidance counsellors that can offer a great deal of support. If you are really having challenges, I think persons can reach out to the Child Diversion Programme and we can guide them to the appropriate channels for assistance.
“What I can say to parents and guardians is don’t give up on your child, and those of you who have the opportunity to have your child participate in this programme, I would say to continue to support your child during this serious process,” Ms. Carey said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Carey said over the next few months the programme is looking forward to having the first cohort of children successfully graduate and reintegrated into their communities.
She said that the children are now working to complete their individual risk assessments and treatment plans. “That treatment can be any length of time, and our children are still currently being treated,” she noted.
Ms. Carey told JIS News that having children referred to the programme is a success, as it means that “our justice sector colleagues and professionals are willing and interested in having these children not institutionalised and to be treated using other alternative justice measures. So to us, that is a critical factor of success at this time”.