(CNS): Pressure from property owners in the relatively affluent area of Coral Gables in West Bay has managed to derail the government’s plans to expand the Bonaventure Boys’ Home to house more kids at risk or in trouble as well as a secure remand unit for young people. Last weekend, the minister responsible and other officials met with all four local district MLAs and residents in the area, who have raised objections because the unit will be close to their properties. The owners objected to the expansion as well as the secure unit for children who have been sentenced or remanded by the courts.
Despite his recent comments about the critical need for the unit and the justification for expanding the existing Bonaventure site, Minister for Community Affairs, Youth and Sports Osbourne Bodden has given into pressure by the residents. He has put the project on hold and promised to take their concerns to the wider PPM caucus for consideration of other options, which includes a new policy decision or even a new location.
“I am cognisant of the urgent need for such a secure facility for children on Youth Rehabilitation Orders, and will do all I can to ensure this is built sooner than later,” Bodden said in a release Tuesday, less than four months before the General Election. “The plans already exist for the building and can easily be adapted to another site. The CAYS Foundation is of a like mind and we will ensure this badly needed facility is built by 2018.”
The expansion plans for the current Bonaventure Boys Home which have already been submitted to the Central Planning Authority, will, he confirmed, be put on hold to give the government time to revisit potential options.
When the announcement about the Bonaventure expansion was made just a few weeks ago, Bodden described the project as “critical” and the start of the project as “a great milestone for the Cayman Islands Government in its continued efforts to strengthen the continuum of care for children”.
Officials from the Children and Youth Services (CAYS) Foundation, which will run the unit, said it would have allowed them to extend their approach of positive youth reinforcement and offer high-risk youth hope and the incentive to improve and change their behaviour.
Government is currently breaching its own constitution, as children on remand for a serious charge or convicted of a crime are being held at Eagle House, which, although recently renovated to house young offenders, is within the campus of the main prison at Northward. This means that juveniles are being jailed alongside adult offenders and the facilities are not designed to accommodate teenagers and children of school age.
Local experts on troubled children have repeatedly pointed out that unless the government properly addresses the problems of at-risk youth and juveniles already in the criminal justice system in an appropriate manner, the consequences in the future will be even more adult offenders.
Michael Myles, who works with the CAYS Foundation and other youth projects has repeatedly warned that government continues to use band-aid solutions for deep-rooted societal problems that are fueling the causes of criminality among young people.