Children sent overseas as far back as 1984

  • A residential building at Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania (File photograph)

    A residential building at Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania (File photograph)

Bermudian children have been sent to overseas treatment centres for decades — but it has only come to wider public attention in recent years.

As far back as at least 1984 — and until 2017 — boys from Bermuda were sent to the embattled Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania.

The Ministry of Legal affairs said in 2018 that the psychoeducational programme “preceded 1999” and it appeared in Budget Books at least as far back as 1994-95.

A spokeswoman said the programme was developed to help children “who could not be effectively serviced locally or those who had exhausted all local available therapeutic services”.

A statement for the Department of Child and Family Services, published online, said that the psychoeducational scheme “provides a collective response” to meeting the needs of those children.

The late Nelson Bascome, then the health and social services minister, in 2001 talked about plans for a $9 million care centre for “delinquent youth” to be called the Youth Pathways Village.

He said: “A number of children with high-risk behaviour problems we have had to send abroad because we do not have the facilities in Bermuda to facilitate them.

“The Youth Pathways Village ... will offer greater security than we have now to cater for them.”

Glenn Blakeney, when he was youth, families and sports minister in 2011, said that, alongside the psychoeducational programme, it was important to “explore and exploit every available opportunity here in Bermuda”.

He added that overseas services would be provided to those who needed them.

Concerns about the use of overseas treatment facilities were raised when the Human Rights Commission and six charities launched a civil lawsuit against the Government in 2017.

The plaintiffs sought declarations on the obligations of the Family Court and others regarding the appointment of a litigation guardian and counsel to represent children during legal proceedings.

In an affidavit, Sara Clifford, of the HRC — which later withdrew as a party in the case — brought the court’s attention to what she said was a “disturbing practice” where children were sent to secure facilities in the United States.

She claimed that some were forced to take medication and were denied contact with family and friends.

The Court of Appeal ruled last June that ministers had “for some time” breached obligations set out in the Children Act 1998 because they failed to introduce a scheme to fund litigation guardians.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, announced this month that a panel of people had been set up to act as court-appointed litigation guardians.

Other programmes offered by the DCFS include family preservation, foster care, residential treatment and counselling services.

The ministry said on Monday that 151 families, including 238 children, were supported by the DCFS family preservation team last year.

It added that 82 parents and 105 children received counselling services.

The House of Assembly heard last March that in 2018-19, 17 boys and three girls were treated in “therapeutic placements” overseas.

A psychoeducational committee, made up of representatives from the Child and Adolescent Services section of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the Ministry of Education and the DCFS, vets all applications to send children overseas.

A ministry spokeswoman explained last year: “An application then has to be made to the courts to have children removed from the jurisdiction.

“The application must indicate why the child is being removed, where they will be going, for what purpose and the length of time must be specified.

“While the child is overseas, both the psychoeducational committee and the courts receive updates on the child’s progress.”

She added that the committee used an overseas provider — later identified as the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute — that specialised in “clinical and comprehensive assessments”.

Results from the assessments, which include behavioural, educational, medical and psychological aspects, were used to shape individual treatment plans.

The spokeswoman explained: “On return to Bermuda, the DCFS implements an aftercare programme.

“Aftercare consists of reintegration to the education system, ongoing individual and family support and referrals.

“If the child has reached the age of 18 years old, they may choose not to participate, however, services are still offered to them.”

A BHB spokeswoman said: “Our role on the committee is as a local provider of child and adolescent mental health services.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that two officials in the department’s student services section served on the committee.

She added: “The DCFS brings forward the cases to the committee for review and discussion.”

Key dates and key legislation

About 1984: Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania is in use for boys from Bermuda, which continued until 2017.

1998: The Children Act 1998 is tabled in Parliament to protect children from harm, promote the integrity of the family, provide protection for the rights of children among persons who have regular contact with children and ensure the welfare of children.

2001: The late Nelson Bascome, then the health and social services minister, said a $9 million juvenile treatment centre would deal with behavioural problems in an effort to correct behaviour and return children to the community and mainstream education. It would offer a high security area for serious offenders, as well as a residential part.

2003: Official notices show the proposed Youth Pathways Village in Devonshire would have five wings catering for both boys and girls as well as a central area that included classrooms and staff facilities. Permission was given under a special development order to demolish Observatory Cottage and replace it but the capital project never got under way.

2007: The Mirrors programme is launched to help troublesome teenagers. Dale Butler, then the minister of social rehabilitation, said the scheme would address the needs of a growing population of at-risk, disconnected young people in Bermuda. It would include a six-day intensive residential course on Paget Island. The Mirrors website said more than 3,000 young people and a similar number of adults have been served in the programme to date.

2017: The Human Rights Commission and charities take legal action asking for a declaration that the Act required the courts and the Government to provide representation for children. It was alleged that for nearly two decades the defendants acted “unlawfully” and failed to ensure that children in legal proceedings were provided with an independent litigation guardian and a lawyer.

2019: The Court of Appeal ruled that ministers had “for some time” breached obligations set out in the Children Act 1998 because they failed to introduce a scheme to fund litigation guardians. This month, it was announced that a panel of litigation guardians had been established.

To view the spending by the Department of Child and Family Services, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published Dec 11, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 11, 2019 at 6:53 am)

Children sent overseas as far back as 1984

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