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Centre for vulnerable children under discussion

The possibility of an on-island centre to treat troubled children is under discussion, the legal affairs minister and Attorney-General has said.

Kathy-Lynn Simmons said: “The ministry is consistently reviewing legislation and services to ensure Bermuda meets or exceeds international standards and best practices in the area of the protection of children.

“As part of the ongoing improvement of services provided to vulnerable children, an on-island facility has been an integral part of the discussion.

“The public can be reassured programmes for children are always under review and decisions regarding additional services or facilities will be determined based on data and evidence.”

Ms Simmons was speaking after senior magistrate Juan Wolffe underlined the need for a “multi-purpose residential treatment centre for children” two weeks ago.

The island's top magistrate told an assembly of judges and lawyers, to mark the start of the judicial year, that a new centre would cut the number of troubled youngsters who had to be sent overseas.

Martha Dismont, the executive director at the Family Centre, who was at the ceremony, said yesterday that Mr Wolffe's concern was “gratifying to hear”.

She added that there was treatment for children with difficulties on the island, but many were not equipped to care for youngsters with more serious problems.

Ms Dismont said: “There currently exists two residential treatment facilities for children.

“Unfortunately, these are not strict secure facilities and, what I know of them, they are not prepared to meet the more intensive and sensitive needs of Bermuda's highest risk young adults or teens.”

Ms Dismont said that a specialised unit should be focused on “suicidality and unaddressed trauma” in children, which she said was often not tackled properly.

Sandy De Silva, the director of services for Family Centre and executive director designate, highlighted the importance of proper assessment of a child's needs so that they may get proper treatment.

She explained: “Bermuda requires an assessment of need regarding our children and adolescents with challenges so that the high-level specialised care required can be accurately determined.”

Dr De Silva added: “This intensive care should include equally as intense support for the family systems that surround the children and adolescents in need.

Kelly Hunt, the executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, backed a specialist treatment centre for Bermuda.

She said: “An assessment and evaluation process should ensure that sending a child to an overseas facility is a last resort, only reserved for children with severe mental health illnesses that cannot be dealt with in Bermuda.”

Ms Hunt added that a transitional programme for young people who grew out of the childcare system was critical.

Desmond Crockwell, a community activist, said that Bermuda would offer better options for family therapy than an overseas institution.

He explained that a combination of supervised visits and counselling services for a child and family members could help solve a lot of problems.

Mr Crockwell added: “Nobody wants to grow up without their parents or their siblings, so I think that this can do a lot for their development.”

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs

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Published March 04, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 04, 2020 at 6:41 am)

Centre for vulnerable children under discussion

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