T&T is failing its children.
That’s according to former chairman of the Children’s Authority, Hanif Benjamin.
Speaking on CNC3’s Morning Brew on Wednesday, Benjamin said that delinquent children are not getting the assistance they need to rectify root causes of trauma but are instead being pushed further into an abyss.
Benjamins’s comments come on the heels of the March 20 escape of five boys from a Children’s Authority facility in Valsayn. Two of those boys ended up dead. One of the survivors later said they escaped because they faced physical abuse at the institution.
He said “What we have been doing as a society is to treat child trauma from a punitive perspective and that makes children even more angry. We are treating trauma as if it is bad and their fault. So when a child runs away, when a child attempts to run away or when a child breaks the rules or commits an infraction, we need to consider those criminogenic factors from a psychological perspective. We are treating the symptoms and we are never getting at the root cause and that is why the cycle of violence continues.”
“If we are not cognizant of that fact, we will spiral children into an abyss of further trauma, further pain and hurt.”
Benjamin added “We do not as a country have a structured programme to treat with issues faced by a child in Standard 3, 4 or Form 1. They misbehave not because they bad, but because they are dealing with their trauma. We don’t have a system where we treat this. All we have is for them to go for counselling as if counselling is the beginning and end-all.”
According to Benjamin “We need to have a system where we have structured behavioural programmes in place where children can attend fun after-school programmes, engage in positive activities, bring out their art so they can deal with their trauma. All of these things are necessary, but we don’t take our children seriously in this country.”
He noted that even though safe spaces existed for children, the managers and staff at those facilities needed more training to help children.
“Not everybody could be a social worker. We need to operationalise our safe spaces…. train our managers, train our staff. We have social workers with great skill, we need to utilize them. We don’t need further lockdown (of children),” he added.
On Tuesday, Natalie Braithwaite, the mother of Simeon Daniel, an escaped child who was killed, said her son had been traumatized after losing his father at age seven. However, she said it was only when he started attending Siparia West Secondary School, that his behavioural problems developed and she went to the court for help.
She blamed the Authority for negligence, saying they should have done better to keep her son safe.