THEY call them CHINS – Children In Need of Supervision. These are children who have been ordered by the courts to children’s homes and community residences while awaiting trial or after they have been found guilty of a criminal offence.
Now, caregivers at these homes are saying they are afraid of the CHINS who have been attacking them and other children.
According to sources, the most recent incident happened on Monday when a caregiver at a children’s home in Tacarigua was left with a bloody mouth. Newsday was told that a fight broke out between two children and the caregivers separated them. One of the caregivers took one of the children involved in the fight to a sink to wash his hands and face, and while carrying him there, the child turned and cuffed the caregiver in her face, splitting her lip.
Another incident, related to Newsday, happened two weeks prior where one child attacked another with a length of wood which had a nail at one end. The fight escalated to the point where police had to be called.
Newsday was told some of the children were once wards of the St Michael’s home in Diego Martin which has since been closed.
“St Michaels was for more deviant boys who broke the law but were underage, and caregivers in these homes are not trained to deal with these boys,” said Ian Murray, second vice president of the Public Services Association.
“Their files also basically belong to the court so there is very little information as to the background of these children. Some of the children come in and they have mental health issues as well. There are no facilities in the country to treat with mentally ill children, so children who become wards of the State and have mental illnesses are still placed in these homes, so we have a whole mixture of all types of behaviours.
“We have been trying to get the homes or government to understand that if you don’t have a place to put these children, at least hire the proper staff with training to treat with those who have mental health issues.”
Murray added the homes are also understaffed. He said the Statutory Authorities Commission, which is in charge of hiring staff, continues to fail in its attempts to properly staff the home, so the government has taken to hiring staff on a contractual basis.
Chairman of the Children’s Authority Hanif Benjamin told Newsday, if these children commit offences while at the homes, they can be reported to the police. He however made a call for people to remember that despite the circumstances, CHINS are still children who are in dire need of support, guidance and love.