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Youth, Families and Sports Ministry budget increased to $18.5m

The Senate has heard that substance abuse and neglect is taking it’s toll on the Island’s youngest and most vulnerable and to combat the problem, Government has increased the Youth, Families and Sport ministry by $1.26 million.

Junior Minister of Youth, Families and Sports, Senator Diallo Rabain said a total of $18.6 million has been allocated for the next fiscal year, a seven percent increase over the previous year.

“Most of this increase in cost is associated with the Psycho-Educational Programme. The Ministry determined that it is necessary to add approximately $1 million to the budget estimate for the Department of Child and Family Services, bringing the cost of that programme to $3.2 million for fiscal year 2012/13.”

The department is charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the best interests and social well being of children, teens, adults and families.

As for services provided to individuals and families, Senator Rabain said: “The budget estimate is $6.6 million. This represents a one percent increase over the 2011/12 budget allocation.

The Family Services Intake Team received 674 new referrals on children, and of that number, 646 were for suspected abuse or neglect.

Senator Rabain said that in 2008, 556 child cases of neglect were reported. That figure increased to 597 in 2009, 637 in 2010 and 646 in 2011.

Of the 646 referrals for suspected abuse or neglect in 2011, Senator Rabain said there were “132 referrals for sexual abuse, 80 referrals for behavioural problems and 281 referrals for neglect.”

Also embedded within the 646 referrals were “52 children referred for domestic violence, 47 for lack of supervision and 43 children who had inadequate or unsuitable living environments”.

And said: “These trends relate to an increased level of violence and economic hardship associated with low income families.”

Senator Rabain noted: “The department’s intervention team provided services to 176 children and their families. Thirty five children were referred to the Intake Team, the majority of who were transferred because of significant parental neglect.

“As a result, 91 of the 176 children (or 52 percent) were considered to be less at risk as a result of the intervention and were able to remain with their families.”

Foster Care in Bermuda will also cost taxpayers $139,000 in the upcoming fiscal year. “This will help fund local respite care and overseas medical care for special needs children.”

A total of 141 children were placed in foster care during the last fiscal year, 81 females and 60 males; nine of these children had special medical needs and are in therapeutic foster placements.

But the largest group of foster children was in the 15 to 18 year age group, a total of 42. According to Senator Rabain: “Many of these children have grown up in foster care. Their parents have either abandoned them or have been unsuccessful in addressing their issues such as mental health and substance abuse.”

And now the department is working with other agencies such as Teen Services and Financial Assistance to start preparing these young people to leave the foster care system.

“At the end of 2011, 89 children remained in foster care. A total of 51 children left foster care during the year. 31 children returned to a parent and four to a relative. Three children were adopted by their foster parents.”

The department recruited 16 new foster parents last year. The department continues to have challenges finding homes for teenaged boys with emotional and behavioural challenges and for sibling groups.

On that note Senator Rabain acknowledged the foster parents of Bermuda as “our unsung heroes, who provide loving, stable homes to children who have experienced significant trauma as a result of abuse and neglect”.

“Everyday they make a foster child’s life a little better by their numerous acts of care and kindness.”

His brief was so extensive that he left only 18 minutes for the opposition to respond.

Shadow Minister of Youth, Families and Sports, Senator Toni Daniels took on the task of responding in the short time frame allocated for the response. She referred back to the Premier’s statement in the Throne Speech and said she agrees that “strong families build strong nations”.

Senator Daniels said she believes “the backbone of a nation is determined by the strength of the family. Strong families build strong nations.”

“I want to commend the Junior Minister for commending the work of the social workers of Bermuda. They have a difficult undertaking more often than not and not only are they passionately committed, but they have a heavy workload.

“We’re all aware that Bermuda is facing very difficult social issues at the moment. When we look at some of the outputs on child abuse for many this ministry is the last stop for the safety net in our society.”

“This Ministry is not a revenue generating ministry like tourism.”

But on cutbacks for the Mirrors programme she said: “I have to say that a large part of that is because of the mismanagement of the economy by the Government.

“There has been gross project overruns, there has been spending and misguided spending. But as an aside I hope that we don’t focus on interdiction but that we also look more into prevention.

“An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure, I would like to see more of that; otherwise we are going to suffer the consequences of that short sightedness.”

PLP Senator Diallo Rabain

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Published March 31, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 31, 2012 at 8:36 am)

Youth, Families and Sports Ministry budget increased to $18.5m

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