first_imgNewsRegional Poor parenting blamed for youth gangs: CARICOM social development plan an effective response by: – December 1, 2011 35 Views   no discussions Share Share Sharing is caring!center_img Tweet Share Image via: journalreview.comPORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The breakdown of the family and poor parenting are identified as two of the chief contributors to the formation of youth gangs and gang related activities in Trinidad and Tobago. This was the consensus of more than sixty stakeholders from Trinidad and Tobago who came together on Friday, 25 November, to discuss a targeted social intervention pilot project to be developed in response to the escalating gang related violence in several communities of that country, which is now under a state of emergency. This is the last of four stakeholder consultations facilitated by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in four member states. It is the second stage of a four phase social intervention project designed to reduce youth gang violence in targeted member states of Belize, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago. In endorsing the stakeholders’ opinions, CARICOM Secretariat programme manager, sustainable development, Beverley Reynolds, who has responsibility for guiding the implementation of the project, added that the fact finding stage of the consultations done at the sub-regional level had underscored the need for more comprehensive targeted programs including parenting and community education to address the problem of gangs and gang violence among young people. She also stressed the importance of treating with other underlying risk factors; chief of which she listed as high unemployment rates, high rates of school drop-outs, social marginalisation, identity crisis and poor self- esteem. She explained that invariably, young people needed to feel a sense of belonging; they want to be engaged in meaningful activities designed to boost their self-esteem and help in their self-actualization process. In the absence of these pull factors she said, the push factors propel them into the crippling circle of gangs. “We need to topple the myth that gangs are families…” she asserted. “Gangs are not families and cannot substitute for the supportive environment provided by a good family.” Reynolds acknowledged, however, that in the absence of such a supportive environment “young people will seek to identify with gangs which they perceive gives them a sense of identity, belonging and control over their lives.” In this regard, she underlined the need to strengthen the protective factors that would help to build the resilience of young people to make them less vulnerable to peer pressure and other risk factors. There is documented evidence to support Reynolds’ claims: In their book, Juvenile Delinquency – Trends and Perspectives, Rutter and Giller (1983) noted that “the family characteristics most strongly associated with delinquency are parental criminality, ineffective supervision and discipline, familial discord and disharmony, weak parent-child relationships, large family size, and psycho-social disadvantage.” Specific programme initiatives that have been recommended to address these problems are evident in the activities directed towards supporting families, developing positive parenting skills, providing respite care and preventing family violence. Family support services include parent-effectiveness training and family stress management techniques aimed at providing assistance in dealing with family relations, while community development initiatives include education, skills and entrepreneurship training, public education, counseling services and health care. These are some of the initiatives and principles which underline the four-pillared CARICOM social development and crime prevention action plan that was developed in tandem with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to prevent and reduce violence, foster social inclusion, promote integration; empower victims and protect the environment and economic resources in CARICOM member states. Convinced that social education, health and cultural development is a potent antidote to crime and violence, CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) at its 12th Meeting in 2008 mandated the Secretariat to collaborate with international organisations and third states in developing a regional crime prevention initiative to complement the national law-enforcement efforts already in train. The mandate was endorsed by the CARICOM heads of government at their twentieth inter-sessional meeting in March 2009. At its 20th meeting held in Guyana in 2010, the COHSOD endorsed the action plan and gave full support to the national consultations, especially with key players in the education sector. The plan is rooted in sound theory and research, which indicates that in Canada, US, Europe and other countries social interventions have spawned positive results; they are cost-effective, and provide additional social benefits. Researchers now conclude that social interventions can yield positive, measurable benefits within three years, with reductions in crime of 25% to 50% within 10 years. But to take it closer home, Trinidad and Tobago joins Belize as two of the four pilot countries that have so far demonstrated that crime prevention through social development does work. Trinidad’s Former CARICOM Youth Ambassador Ryssa Brathwaite-Tobias and her team of youth workers shared with the stakeholders a social intervention project — the Citizens Security Programme — being implemented by the Ministry of National Security in 22 violence plagued communities in Trinidad. The programme involves several activities including skills-based training and other training interventions, community signage and beautification, public education campaigns, spelling and football competitions, health care and funding for smaller community based projects – a similar initiative is being implemented in Belize. Brathwaite-Tobias and her team presented statistics on Friday which pointed to significant reduction in crime and violence in communities where the CSP was implemented: Between 2008 – 2010, murders trended down from 71 to 48, while woundings and shootings moved from 86 to 68 in the same period. It is on this fertile soil that the CARICOM Secretariat is hoping that its pilot project on youth gangs and gang violence will take root and ultimately spread to other violence plagued communities in Trinidad and Tobago. The stakeholders selected the densely populated suburban community of Enterprise with an estimated population of 13, 000 of which 60% are between the ages of 10 and 30. The CARICOM project will build on existing initiatives in health, education, training and edutainment to promote the well-being and empowerment of young people in this community. The project is based on the philosophy that “when youth flourish crime and violence will diminish.” It has adopted a community-based and participatory approach that accentuates the importance of community development and empowerment in crime prevention. However, if a community development program is to have any chance of success, the controls that lead to reduced crime cannot be imposed externally; they must emerge from changes within the community itself and mobilized by the community itself. The CARICOM Secretariat can initiate and facilitate, but the community and its leaders are pivotal to the sustainability and success of such an intervention. Nevertheless, if the good practices demonstrated in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago are anything to go by so far, then CARICOM social development and crime prevention action plan arguably has the potential to make significant dent in youth violence across member states. Caribbean News Nowlast_img