A local psychologist who works with at-risk youth and troubled children has suggested that wandering should have been removed from the law books a long time ago.
Responding to Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams’ announcement on the weekend that wandering will be removed from the statute books, Chief Executive Officer of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development Shawn Clarke said he agreed that the outdated law must go as it does not truly reflect the needs of children.
Clarke said something of a serious nature has to be happening in a household to cause a child to run away from home and investigations should be conducted into the reasons, instead of sending the child to the Government Industrial School (GIS) where they may come into contact with other children who were sent there for more serious issues.
“I know of a situation once where a young man was sentenced to the Government Industrial School for wandering when he was just trying to get away from the negativity that was happening within his household. There was constant fighting and cursing and he was trying to get away from that. I think that young man was punished twice. I am extremely happy to hear that wandering would be a thing of the past,” Clarke said.
Meanwhile, in light of Minister Abrahams also announcing that the board of the GIS has been changed with immediate effect following reports of alleged injustices against the wards, Clarke told Barbados TODAY that he was on board with whatever could be done to improve the situation at the institution.
He believes new blood is needed at the GIS to put systems in place to effect change.
However, the psychologist said he hoped the move is not just “cosmetic” surgery to make a bad situation look good.
“Any kind of intervention is needed and I am not one of those Barbadians who is concerned with how we got here. The reality is that we are here and that systems need now to be put in place to make it much more comfortable for our young people to get the kind of assistance that is needed in a humane fashion. It may be for running into difficulties with the law or having some kind of mental or psychological issues.
“But, it must not just be about having a new board and not dealing with the root problem, not dealing with the main concerns, and really putting systems in place for young people. Otherwise, it would just be a case of spinning top in mud. We really need to look at the systemic issues that we have within the organisation,” he said.
Clarke indicated that he always considered it unfortunate that some young people sent to the institution were there because they committed minor offences, including wandering.
“You go in there for something as minor as wandering and in some cases, you are communicating with persons who are there for doing much more serious crimes,” Clarke said.
The psychologist added: “In addition to the Government Industrial School, I think there must be some kind of institution created, some kind of residential facility, that is not for young people who run afoul of the law, but for young people who have psychological challenges, who have mental health issues and need a break from home.
“They can be taken to this location whether it be for three, six months or a year to get the kind of intervention that is needed, to get the kind of therapeutic care that is needed. There must be separation between the two. If you have an adult who has mental issues they are not sent to prison unless they do something that warrants them being there,” he said. (AH)