DCFS addresses Brangman Home concerns

  • Model posed as child in care (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Model posed as child in care (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A care home for girls is “not a prison”, the Government said yesterday.

The Ministry of Legal Affairs spoke out on the Department of Child&and Family Services’ Brangman Home, in Smith’s, after “recent public discussion” on the institution.

The ministry said that the DCFS recognised that many people were unfamiliar with how the department operated and with the law on “how the needs of vulnerable children are addressed”.

It added: “As such, some may be forming conclusions based on misleading or non-factual statements.

“In this regard, DCFS seeks to clear up the most widely held misconception surrounding one of the facilities that has been publicly identified — namely the Brangman Home.”

The ministry statement came after a series of appeals from police to help find a 14-year-old girl who went missing from the home at least seven times in less than three months.

The statement said: “The Brangman Home is a home — not a prison.

“As such, the young people there attend school, work after school, and participate in extracurricular activities.

“Much like in thousands of homes island-wide, the children have curfews that must be adhered to and chores to be done.

The statement continued: “Privileges are earned. The young people there must ask for permission to leave.

“Another misconception is the children can be locked in their rooms in order to prevent them from leaving without permission. This is untrue.

“The staff at Brangman Home operate within international best practices and within the confines of the law.

“Children who leave without permission cannot be prevented from doing so.”

The ministry explained: “If a child is attempting to leave without permission, for example by climbing out of a window, the supervising adult can speak to them in an effort to convince them to remain in the home.

“However, they cannot restrain or physically prevent the young person from leaving.

The ministry continued: “In fact, DCFS has been informed by persons acting as ‘advocates for children’ that any attempt to prevent the free movement of a child will result in legal proceedings, with the staff answering to charges of deprivation of liberty and human rights violations.”

The statement said that young people at the home often arrived with “varying degrees of trauma”.

It explained: “Abuse takes its toll in many forms. Some children withdraw, some verbally or physically lash out, others run.

“In the case of the latter, the vast majority are either one-off instances or infrequent occurrences.”

The ministry said that “extreme challenges” meant the department’s director and staff had a responsibility to take extra steps in the interests of the child.

It explained that if a child in the director’s care left the property without permission or failed to return at a designated time, an application could be made to the courts under the Children Act 1998.

The court can make a recovery order where it was feared that a child has been taken or was being kept away unlawfully, or if the child had run or stayed away, or was missing.

The ministry added: “A recovery order authorises the Bermuda Police Service to recover the child and return them to the director/designated residential home.

“Once the recovery order has been granted by the court it is given to the police. It is the responsibility of the BPS to action the recovery order.”

The Royal Gazette’s Who Cares? series last month included a statement from a former resident of the Brangman Home, who claimed staff insulted residents and that sometimes the home did not have enough beds or mattresses.

The home was broken into in the early hours of November 24, 2018.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs, said at the time “immediate precautions” had been taken to ensure the safety of staff and residents “by increasing security measures at the facility”.

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Published Jan 28, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 8:33 am)

DCFS addresses Brangman Home concerns

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