Children’s Advocate Wants Swift Counselling For Tivoli Youngsters

Swift and effective psychosocial intervention programmes will be critical in helping the children of the West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens to heal, Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke has advised. Mrs. Clarke, who was on a tour of the area today (June 2), told JIS News that the joint police/military operation in the inner city community, and the activities of he last few days, will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on many of the youngsters. She said counselling, as well as ongoing and effective social intervention will be necessary for the children to recover from what they have seen, heard and experienced. “I really believe those who are responsible for sending in the counsellors ought to send in those counsellors as soon as possible so that the children can talk, they need to be able to express their experiences and their emotions now,” Mrs. Clarke added. The Children’s Advocate said expression is an important part of the healing process for humans, especially children. She said it was also important that the children quickly return to their normal routines, such as school.

Mrs. Clarke further advised that counselling for the children must be done in the context of the family, as parents also need guidance and effective therapy. “So we have to do a house by house intervention to try to restore and rehabilitate those who are traumatised and those who are deeply wounded,” she stated. She also recommended that as children return to school, teachers and guidance counsellors must take special notice of their behaviours and mannerisms as some youngsters may manifest trauma in different ways.

Restlessness, sleepiness, anger, regression, thumb-sucking, loss of concentration, or a child wetting him or herself are just a few of the signs adults should look for in children who have suffered a traumatic experience,” the Children’s Advocate advised. She said educators and caregivers must be given the necessary guidance to be able to identify the child who, with minimal counselling, can get past the trauma, as opposed to the child who will need long, intense and extensive counselling for rehabilitation. Mrs. Clarke however pointed to the strength and resilience of Jamaican children as an admirable trait that will help them over this hurdle. This observation was evidenced by a group of boys playing a game of football, to whom Mrs. Clarke turned her attention, and a gathering of girls busying themselves with dolls. Later, the cheerful voices of the children punctuated the air as they were led in a chorus of ‘I am a Promise’ by the Children’s Advocate.

“Already they are showing little signs of recovery, but their anxieties, their eagerness to share their experiences indicate the need for counsellors – these children need to talk and they need to talk right now, not tomorrow or next week,” she told JIS News. Mrs. Clarke said the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) is among a multi-sectoral group set up by the Department of Social Work at the University of the West Indies to conduct direct and indirect social intervention programmes in the community. The OCA is also supporting the plans and initiatives of the Ministry of Education to work through the schools to help with normalising the children’s lives.