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Change needed on ‘punitive reactions’ to ‘problem children’

Sunday, March 30 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Co-ordinator of the Citizens Security Programme of the Ministry of National Security,  Gregory Sloane-Seale....
Co-ordinator of the Citizens Security Programme of the Ministry of National Security, Gregory Sloane-Seale....

Co-ordinator of the Citizen Security Programme (CSP) of the Ministry of National Security, Gregory Sloane-Seale is calling for greater synergies amongst the various initiatives designed to address issues relating to at-risk young males in the country.

“What is required is much more collaboration amongst the various programmes,” he told Sunday Newsday on Friday.

“Attempts must be made to hire sufficient numbers of competent professionals such as social workers, psychologists, community outreach workers, mediators and grief counsellors to really address the multitude of issues.”

Saying that governments have employed various strategies to support young, at-risk males through the Ministry of Education’s Student Support Services Unit and other ministerial bodies, Sloane-Seale noted that the nation’s response to “problem children,” has been largely punitive reactions as opposed to “more progressive, diagnostic and intervention strategies.”

Sloane-Seale was commenting in the context of the instance where a 15-year-old boy was charged for the unlawful killing of 14-year-old Murchannah Lavia. And In a separate matter, last week, a 17-year-old schoolboy was also remanded into custody by a San Fernando Magistrate for guns and ammunition possession.

Observing that the country has had critical issues with anti-social behaviour amongst male youth since the 1970s and 1980s, Sloane-Seale said Trinidad and Tobago has never fully addressed the underlying issues of family violence, child abuse and neglect and gender-based violence.

“The issues have compounded themselves in that products of these dysfunctional homes have had children themselves and have passed on the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours accordingly,” he said, adding:

“To compound this existing situation is the fact that communities have been evolving into less cohesive entities where the supervision of adolescents has deteriorated leaving young persons to their own devices.”

Sloane-Seale also observed that cable television and the Internet had exposed children and adolescents to shows, games and images with high violent and sexual content.

“There is no proper processing and our children are left to understand this information amongst themselves,” he contended.

Citing the traditional concept of patriarchy as another factor compounding the problems with at-risk males, Sloane-Seale argued that such beliefs have not adapted to the realities of families in contemporary society.

“The issue of our society perpetuating patriarchy, which has these preset notions and roles for males have not been adapted to the changing times. Notions of males as “head of the household,”“main income earner,” sexual conqueror and non-emotional are all outdated and need to be reviewed in light of the rightful gains made by our girls and women,” he said. Sloane-Seale said young males need to be given permission to be human and to develop as individuals.

“They must not be confined to narrow cultural stereotypes that when not achieved, leaves our self-perception wanting, leading many to substance abuse, gender-based violence to exert our power and control or just not fully engaging to avoid failing and being less than,” he said.

Sloane-Seale argued that many grown men are currently going through these conflicts, “so its no wonder our male children are experiencing internal conflict too which is manifesting itself in anti-social behaviour.”

Sloane-Seale said it was important to focus on the positives by creating opportunities whereby at-risk youths can express themselves, especially their negative feelings, without judgement.

“There must then be a discussion with them about possible solutions to their challenges,” he said.

“We need to be open as adults and recognise our own shortcomings in working alongside our youth and be honest in our approach.

“Wrong and strong no longer applies and rightly so as it perpetuates the double standards we see throughout society and can be confusing for the young person,” Sloane-Seale said.

He added: “Our children and youth do not manage the homes they live in, nor manage and teach in the schools they attend nor develop nor enforce the laws of the land. So, adults need to be very honest and introspective about where we have arrived as a country and recognise that our children and youth reflect our collective attitudes and behaviours.”

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