Gangs linked to 'family chaos'
At least 10 per cent of the community in crisis, says family charity
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 4:16 AM
The breakdown of core family values lies at the root of the gang violence that blights Bermuda.
* File photo. Peter Carey, director of development and community education at the Family Centre, says Bermuda's children are in trouble.
And it will only get worse unless Bermudians are given the support and guidance they need in the home at a young age.
That is the stark warning from the director of a family support charity who yesterday shared his 2010 action plan.
Peter Carey of the Family Centre says 10 per cent of the community could be "in crisis".
He has found that young people are "desperate to belong," be valued and have purpose - and often fall into gang culture if their home life is inadequate.
Last year we reported the number of families seeking help had soared. The centre's newly released annual figures show it provided intensive services to 218 families in 2009 - an increase of more than 50 per cent over the previous year.
Mr. Carey, director of development and community education at the Family Centre, shared with us his organization's 2010 Strategy, completed last month.
"The demand for the Family Centre is through the roof," he said. "We need to act now or we will raise a generation of children who will be unable to sustain a healthy society when they become adults.
"Families in chronic chaos live below the normal rules for social order."
Mr. Carey said there was a crisis in youth development: "It did not happen overnight it happened very slowly. We need to begin with a sense of urgency because it is a long road back.
He added: "The association with gangs shows me that young people are desperate to belong and be valued and have purpose. If families and society can offer them those opportunities then we are going in the right direction.
"There is no dignity in going to prison or in being desperate and alienated. Despite that many people involved in crime or gangs see prison as a graduate school - somewhere to hone their skills."
There are approximately 100 Bermudian children in residential care programmes at any time, at an average cost of $100,000 per child per year.
And last year around 600 allegations of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Department of Child & Family Services.
Mr. Carey said: "The data shows that children are falling apart in an unprecedented way - not in every way.
"We need to be able to offer them dignity, safety and compassion or it will just get worse. The most worrying aspect of this is the lack of a normal healthy development for children.
"For society to develop the children need a sense of identity and a sense of worth and that comes from those around them."
The government-commissioned Study on Black Males in Bermuda reported that more than 50 per cent of young black males enrolled in the public education system leave before obtaining their secondary school certificate.
Mr. Carey said: "The scope of our problem in Bermuda is expanding - large numbers of children are simply not competent by the age of 13.
"It's a completely unsustainable scenario. There appears to be 10 per cent of our community in crisis - but that may be a conservative figure."
Mr. Carey said the problems of youth development that exist today are the result of not acting in the past.
He said: "Family cultures do not get established in a couple of years - they build up over generations. There is unaddressed anger and trauma and it has decayed and got worse. It is a multi-generational problem.
"Now we are reaping the results of not putting adequate time into family relationships and caring for the people who closest to us.
"If we are seeing children falling apart now it will only get worse if nothing is done about it."