A former chairman of the Child Care Board is calling on the authorities to make “a more serious effort” in finding out what is causing so many young girls to go missing.
So far this month, four teenaged girls were reported missing from their homes. At least two have since been found.
“It is always a great concern because of the fact that you’re dealing with young girls, and in many cases sometimes young boys as well, who are disappearing,” said social commentator David ‘Joey’ Harper.
“Well, not disappearing completely, because they are suddenly reappearing, and then you hear nothing about it after they reappear other than ‘Betty James has returned after being missing for three days’,” Harper told Barbados TODAY.
Police Public Relations Officer, Acting Superintendent David Welch, said authorities were concerned about the frequent reports of missing girls.
“People go missing generally obviously for different reasons, and we would hope that if the person was missing especially as a result of a dispute within the family home, or some other problem, they can have someone that instead of being able to go to a place where nobody knows, they can actually seek out that person that they can trust, to resolve the issue,” Welch told Barbados TODAY.
When asked what explanations were given when the teens were found, Welch stated that the reasons varied, “and some are quite personal. I would not venture to discuss them at this stage”.
However Harper believes authorities need to get to the root of the problem if the teenagers are to be helped. “We can stop here and speculate for a long time but we will never get what the real reasons are.
“It can be just sex, it can be drugs, it can be a number of reasons, but we have to know what the source of the problem is if we are seriously going to look for the solution to the problem,” he said.
Harper also pointed to what he called the declining standard of parenting as a contributing factor to the issue of youth running away from home.
“I have been fighting on radio for the last couple of years now to say that unless we take away the PAR and put PAIR into (the word) parents, we will be having problems continuously, because we have to understand the importance of having two people being involved in the parenting concept – that is mummy and daddy.
“If we have the single parent homes, which is an American slang that they have single parenting and it caught on in the Caribbean, then we have a problem, because it is not important anymore to have a father and mother playing an active role in the development and bringing up of their children.
“The children themselves do not have a father concept which they can cling to. And believe me, children do need two parents to be able to deal with the problem that they are facing,” he stated.
Another area that needs to be addressed, Harper believes, is the custom of neighbours looking out for each other’s families.
“You had community efforts so that if a little girl walked away from home, you can rest assured that the next door neighbour will be able to say, ‘Ms Jones, Ms Williams I saw your daughter walking going down Government Hill’.
“But nowadays because of the non-interaction of the community family, you have a problem. So we have to come back together and we have to seriously sit down, we have to once again incorporate the values that once existed and we have to be able to sit down and seriously try to find out the problems that we are now hearing about because of the fact that we are too occupied in all of the other things that are not as important as they should be,” he stressed, adding that the Church also has a role to play in children’s development.
Harper, who served as Child Care Board chairman until the 2008 general election, would also like society to help build up the youth and “stop trying to batter the youth on every occasion”.
“Because if you say it often enough, the youth themselves will begin to believe ‘hey we must be really ain’t nuh good fuh true’. And this is the worst thing to happen to a society, where you inject into a society a feeling of unimportance. And I believe that some of our children are beginning to face that challenge,” he said.