We make our children and their minds. Brains are biological. Minds are made in the cradle of the habitus. Only after the bough breaks we grasp that we placed them on a tree top. Rocking in the winds of styles, mannerisms, TikTok, and viral ideologies. Friends carry them and never bring them back. As a problem-solving court, the Children Court provides interventions for “children in need of supervision” (CHINS) or “children in conflict with the law”. Interventions include non-custodial sentencing options that aim at rehabilitation and re-integration that include: individual, family and parental counselling, court-annexed peer resolution, the Children Drug Treatment Court, The Life Lessons Programme, a healing circle for uncommon events in a boy’s life and a circle for girls to help them function and cope with changes in their life.
The Children Court is an institution that holds children accountable for offences committed as well as for disruptive behaviour. Many children may appear somewhere along a continuum from “children in need of supervision” to “children in conflict with the law”. Apart from exploring the liberty of children as it relates to bail and custody we need to ensure that in all difficulties related to children that we comply with the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Article 3 makes cardinal “the best interest of the child” in all decisions and actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies. States Parties must undertake to ensure that the child is afforded protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, and must ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
In 2018, before Court of Appeal Justices Bereaux, Narine and Smith, Sasha and Brian Seepersad brought a case against The Commissioner of Prisons, The Attorney General and Her Worship Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar. The children were accused of committing murder and were jointly charged with two adults. The charges were laid on January 29, 2014 and they were brought before Her Worship the Chief Magistrate, Marcia Ayers-Caesar on the same date. They were denied bail pursuant to the Bail Act Chap. 4:60 and remanded pending the hearing of their preliminary enquiry. Brian, then aged 12, was remanded to St. Michael’s at the YTC. Sasha, then aged 16, was remanded to the Women’s Prison, Golden Grove, Arouca.
Subsequently, bits of legislation were proclaimed on May 18, 2015. They were, the Children Act No. 12 of 2012, The Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act 2000 and The Children’s Authority Act Chapter 46:01. Collectively, they are referred to as the children legislation. During the case, it was then evidenced by Christalle Gemon, Director of Care, Legal and Regulatory Services of the Children’s Authority, that at the time of the proclamation or partial proclamation of the children legislation there were 49 community residences, including 2 industrial schools (St. Michael’s School for Boys and St Jude’s School for Girls) which were to become rehabilitation centres.
She noted that the licensing requirements made indispensable increased security and supervision of the children to avoid instances of sexual abuse and assault, to prevent access to the premises by unauthorised persons, and to constantly monitor children for signs of hostility, depression and other behaviours. In August, 2015, the Authority carried out an assessment of conditions at one home. The resulting report revealed that the home was in compliance with only 6 of the 52 requirements. Areas of non-conformity included inadequate infrastructure, lack of suitable facilities for recreation and study, high staff absenteeism and poor supervision of residents, lack of surveillance monitoring systems, ill treatment and verbal and physical abuse of residents, poor security and a high rate of absconding.
Firm in our belief in justice as fairness, the CPO must be asked to reread all job descriptions for workers assigned to homes like St. Dominic and St. Mary and schools like St. Jude and St. Michael. Further, these institutions may be brought directly under the supervision of the Children’s Authority. Additionally, if Reserves are to work with children at the Chatham and Persto Praesto camps then the Defence Act 1962 must be amended in “the best interest of the child”. If Reserves of a combat ready Defence Force are to work with children, then we must consider establishing a new unit in the Defence Force with persons holding novel credentials.
In “the best interest of the child” all workers at such camps, homes and schools may be required to have an MSc. in Mental Health and Wellbeing in Education, or an MA in Character Education, or an MSc. Clinical Mental Health Sciences, or an MSc. in Counselling, or Mental Health and Behaviour training for Administrators of Schools with a focus on children who may have been wrongly labelled along with certification of Professionals in Child Protection and Pastoral Care. This is a new social contract and a new connexion to the Concordat saga.