Tobago mother pleads for help for mentally-challenged son

The head office of the Children’s Authority, on Wrightson Road in Port of Spain. -
The head office of the Children’s Authority, on Wrightson Road in Port of Spain. -

The mother of an 18-year-old man is calling on the Children’s Authority and other agencies to help her mentally-challenged son now that he has aged out of the system.

Latoya Blackburn-Gunness, who lives in Scarborough, Tobago with her husband and seven children, took to social media on Wednesday, accusing the Scarborough police of failing to help her find her son after he experienced an episode of mental ill-health and ran out of the house.

Blackburn-Gunness, in a phone interview with Newsday, said the court had ordered the Children’s Authority to find a place for her son – whom she wished to remain anonymous – to live after he turned 18, it had have not done so.

She said her son, diagnosed last year with intellectual disability, would become violent during his mental episodes and she is concerned for the well-being of her other children, aged five-13.

“Me and my husband have to sleep like security,” she said. “We take turns. His other half (twin brother) would sleep inside so if he tries to do anything they shout out to me.”

She said the family rents a two-bedroom apartment.

“My main concern is for my other children. He is my son and I love him, (but) he would get violent, and I have to take everyone else to safety.”

On Wednesday, Blackburn-Gunness said her son ran out of the house after having an episode. She called hi’s psychologist, who advised her to call the police.

“I called Scarborough police and I told them. They took his description and they said they would send a jeep to find him.”

She said she also called an ambulance but was told it could not take him without the police present.

She said Scarborough police told her they are not trained to deal with mental-health cases.

In the video, posted on Tobago Media, Advertising Services and Solutions Facebook page, she said, “I am stuck with a child that has problems and nobody is helping me. I am asking for answers, and nobody can help. What am I supposed to do? I am going through this since he is ten years old and he turned 18 on January 1, 2022. The system is a waste of time.

“You know, if I was some minister daughter and we had money, (we would get help). When you don’t have money or help to fight the system, everything is swept under the rug. For all parents who go through trials with Children’s Authority, it needs to stop, and I need to get answers. What happens to my son? The system is supposed to be seeing about him.”

In a release, the authority said, “The Children’s Authority of TT describes as inaccurate, allegations that it failed to provide adequately for a child who was in its care, before the child turned 18.”

It said it collaborated with the family regarding the care of the child and made several interventions.

“The authority worked tirelessly with several stakeholders in the best interest of the child, to provide psychiatric support, social interventions and therapy, in the context of the placement that was provided.

“Several transition options were also explored. However, since each child is unique, the transition options that may be suitable for one child may not be suitable for another.”

It said the authority convened multi-agency meetings for continuous reviews of this case, regularly providing the family with information and education on the child’s condition. It said referrals were also made to additional agencies that would continue to provide support.


"Tobago mother pleads for help for mentally-challenged son"

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