CAYS sounds alarm over troubled teens care

| 07/08/2018 | 65 Comments
CNS Local Life

Bonaventure Boys’ Home

(CNS): The manager of the CAYS Foundation, which runs the Frances Bodden Children’s and Bonaventure Boys’ homes for troubled teenagers under care or court orders, has sounded the alarm over the continued lack of political commitment to the multitude of challenges some kids in Cayman are facing. From the horrific trauma of sexual abuse to the problems of significant neglect from parents who are misusing drugs and alcohol, Sydney Williams told CNS that the overall system for dealing with troubled kids is not working as it should.

Williams said that the problems in the juvenile care system are not just about money and resources, though the CAYS Foundation is under-staffed, under-funded and under pressure. Explaining issues in the system regarding the continuum of care that the kids and teenagers need, he said that tackling the lack of commitment by the wider society and the shortage of political will are more fundamental to fixing what he sees as a systemic problem. But as Williams notes, he doesn’t have time to think about the long-term solutions and problems because he and his staff have the immediate needs of hurt, scared and traumatised children on their hands.

CAYS is working with some of the most troubled young people on the islands. From those who are in care because of the neglect or abuse they have suffered at home to those who are already in the criminal justice system, Williams said, “We are the only facilities in Cayman that can offer any kind of protection or structured environment.”

One of the biggest challenges he and his team of dedicated staff face is the lack of mental health provision for young people. Getting those in need evaluated, even when it is clear they are struggling with an array of problems that have never been addressed, misdiagnosed or badly managed, sometimes seems like an impossible task. Williams said that we should not underestimate the level of trauma some of the children in the care system have faced and there is no easy solution for them.

“There is no quick fix for traumatised young people,” Williams said, pointing to the criticisms that are railed against the foundation. People think it is failing because it is not “curing” children who have suffered significant problems growing up, but Williams pointed out that the vast majority of the young people in the care of CAYS have come from dysfunctional and broken environments, so we should not be surprised when the children are broken.

The Bonaventure Boys’ home and its secure facility, Phoenix House, are the only places where teenage boys have left to go once in the criminal justice system, other than Eagle House, which is the juvenile detention facility at HMP Northward. Williams said that the West Bay home generally deals with teenagers from the juvenile courts who have committed non-violent offences, though given that it is the only secure facility other than the prison, this is not a hard and fast rule.

The boys are required to be at the home for at least 12 months and go through a full curriculum and a comprehensive rehabilitation programme. Williams said that all of the boys now do their lessons in the home, which has special needs teaching staff, because managing contraband and their behaviour was much harder when they were continuing to attend school.

While the programme has achieved successes, Williams pointed out that it is not the cure-all silver bullet society might want. Some of the major challenges that the home has is that the kids all return to the homes or environments where the trouble and the trauma started.

Family interactions can also be a problem, as many parents are not just abusing their children but their parenting can be extremely inappropriate, such as fathers sharing pornographic material on their phones with their teenage sons when visiting the home and the sexual activity that parents and their other partners display in front of their children when they go for home visits.

Williams said the sexualisation of the children is alarming and it is the predominant problem for the girls at Frances Bodden, which now provides a safe secure environment for both girls and boys on care orders.

“It is hard to imagine the trauma that a 12-year-old girl can suffer when she is handed by a parent to a 40-year-old man,” he said. Most of the girls at the home are victims of sexual abuse, which has led to severe mental health problems, with suicidal thoughts and self-harm prevalent among the teenage girls there.

Williams said that the business community has been good to the foundation and helps with the physical environment and some of the resources they need. He is hoping that at some point donors will help them install an above-ground pool, which on a hot summer’s day would be a great resource for young teenage boys to let of steam.

But what Williams wants much more than resources is a commitment from the community to help deal with the cycle of abuse that is being ignored, including earlier intervention with children at risk, support for families that need help parenting, joined-up management of the social services, a continuum of care with halfway houses and much more mental health provisions.

Williams noted that most of the beds in the long-term residential mental health facility that is being developed in East End are already spoken for and will be filled by those who are in long-term facilities overseas who are coming home. There will no room for the next generation of young people currently being looked after by CAYS, he said.

With no quick fixes and a lack of support and commitment, Williams said that despite the challenges faced by his team, they all continue to do the best they can, going over and above expectations. But there are no easy answers, and no matter what those not impacted by these problems think, there will be no quick solutions without full-scale community commitment for Cayman’s broken kids.

For more on the work of the CAYS Foundation visit the website

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Category: Health, Local News, Mental Health

Comments (65)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Children are exposed to extremely disgusting and deviant behavior by adults on this island. Look at the deplorable behavior that is on public display at batabano in front of children. Pass by any of the fences in cayman and see sexually charged fete posters. This island is hypocritical. God and government aren’t the answer. Having some damned self respect and sense of responsibility is the start. Everything revolves around “pum-pum” and “buddy”. And the poor children are the victims who grow up to continue the cycle of pain.

    The families of these poor kids are atrocious examples of parents. Horrific!

    When society stops accepting and excusing slackness then maybe we can move towards a better environment for children.

    I feel it for the CAYS foundation. To deal with an ignorant population and then have to care for the offspring of said population. What a difficult job.

  2. Anonymous says:

    When politicians don’t help the poor and needy, they get screamed at for letting down the population; when they do help the poor and needy, they get screamed at for encouraging laziness and wasting our money.
    No wonder most of them ignore us all, and just use their position to make themselves richer.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a difference between well planned projects that benefit the population in need, and handouts.

      You can give a man fish, or teach him how to fish.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Without the appropriate care, these poor kids will be the next generation of criminals or at least breed them. And despite neglecting them, you will be looking for someone to blame when the crime rate rises.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again. Foreign experts needed to solve this problem. The solution always lies outside the capability of the local population. From all that I have read about behaviour in schools, parenting, children in care, children at risk, child protection et al. I have read a huge majority of comments on these issues and I have come to the conclusion that we have the answers here. Colonial minded people are convinced that they are incapable of solving their issues. Wake up Cayman! Stand up, Grow up!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The article is about living and breathing children who would have been completely neglected if not for CAYS. They need help NOW.

    Save your “brilliant” thoughts for a more appropriate occasion.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yes, education is needed but so is available contraception. These kids need to use condoms. I don’t care if they wanna bang but they need to be taught that babies are a very hard job. You can get the morning after pill at pharmacies on island but that is the 2 to last line of defense. Last being abortion.

  7. Anonymous says:

    @Mr. Williams. If you don’t want the issues addressed why bring them up? Only the politicians can get the professionals that are needed to help you. Yes, you and your people are working hard but in your own words, it’s not enough. The children need more help and it’s very hard breaking to read some of the things going on with them.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Ever read the book Inferno?

  9. Facts R Facts says:

    That isn’t all Mac and Tony have ignored while drawing a salary + pension.
    West Bay has the same 2 by 4 police station it has had for 30 years but China Harbour dont build police stations I guess. West Bay nor Bodden Town dont have a hurricane shelter but John McLean built two in East End and Edna Moyle built one in North Side.
    At the end of the day, people get what they vote for.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If you’re doing your best, and the “leaders and agencies” are being “unfairly singled out as the cause of the problem or not doing enough”
    Then who is responsible, or will this problem just persist because no one is meant to be held accountable?
    From your comment it would seem that no one is meant to ever have the burden of responsibility for those in these unfortunate situations in our society

  11. Anonymous says:

    The solution:
    The establishment of a second house (nothing huge, 10 people max) for accountability and transparency which would also have the dual effect of introducing midterms (assuming we give them a 2 year term) So when the CIG doesn’t take issues seriously for the first 3 years of their term in the LA, you can turn around in 2 years and vote out their reps in the second house

  12. Anonymous says:

    You cant fix broken kids with love and care only. They are damaged for life. There are no experts in child trauma in this country. An expert must have a proven track record of success. Medicating a kid with a psychological trauma is not an option.

    In my distant family two girls were sexually assaulted when they were teenagers. Both have loving and caring parents. They are now educated with good jobs and own families, but remain psychologically damaged. It never goes away. Child trauma experts didn’t exist 20 years ago.

  13. Anonymous says:

    McKeeva, who lives in West Bay, 10mins from Bonaventure Home, has been in the LA about 30years but nothing has changed at Bonaventure, and the plight of children has gotten worse.

    Tony Eden, who even lives near to Francis Bodden Home, can walk to it in 2mins, has been in the LA about 30years as well, but nothing has changed at FB Home, and the plight of children has gotten worse.

    Just sayin

  14. Anonymous says:

    Please advise how general public with no education and experience in child development, psychiatry, psychology, counseling can help? These kids, for starters, need to be properly evaluated. There are no real experts in this country. That is where CIG must step in and bring experts of Your choice.

    If there anything general public can do please be specific. If a pool or anything else needs to be built please let people know. The entire community stepped in to help to rebuild a burned house in GT few years ago.
    Do you need accountants and lawyers to help with
    Comprehensive plan to address the growing concerns?

    Noone would refuse to help. They just don’t know how they can help.

    What you and CAYS staff are doing for the broken kids is impossible to even comprehend. Hats off to all of you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry but we have many experts in Cayman, both native and expat.

      However, their expertise falls on deaf ears (CIG) and it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of a horrible stature.

      We don’t need an expert to show a child love, guidance and principles, you just need heart and be willing to give up some of your personal time!

      United we stand; divided we shall fall.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are educational psychologists in all the schools….recommendations are made….nothing is done….

  15. Elvis says:

    For years I have listened to so called leaders talk about Cayman’s youth and how they will fix it all with these programes these tactics, this facility that facility, only to be changed and nothing done, remember the million do.lar facility downscaled to 500,000 to 125,000 to nothing? I remember,
    Hang your head caymanian leaders etc, you do not care about your troubled youth or old people to be perfectly honest, it boils my piss to be honest.
    Do something and stop talking crap

  16. Born caymanian says:

    As a caymanian I am disgusted with our current government the only time we can get anything done or see them in person is election time . People of the cayman islands do we have to really wait until 2021 or can we the people of the cayman. islands call for a re election this country is going down very fast and brother Dart pocket getting very fat !!!

  17. Anon says:

    Encourage adoption.
    Promote sterilization.
    The Govt cannot be the police and baby sitter for the entire nation.
    Wake up people. The same churches that you put down on are teaching morals and ethics to your children.
    Each one is working to help as the needs are great. Encourage people with issues to go to counselling with pastors or leaders in your community.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Is the morning after pill even offered on this island? A lot of people should be given a monthly subscription…

    • Anonymous says:

      You would be surprised to know how many young girls swallow those pills like candy.

      Only to end-up pregnant for some degenerate a short time after.

      Young girls need to be taught from HOME, the consequences of early parent-hood, when one is not near ready and their off-spring becomes a menace to society.

      Education, is number one. Until we put education first, always; we will continue to suffer for our own ignorant and selfish decisions.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Government ready to build a dock to invite the world to the shores of Cayman, but can’t take care of the countries basic necessities.

  20. Sydney Williams says:

    This interview was supposed to highlight the hard and difficult work that CAYS does. It was not meant to cause a firestorm of Criticism about Politicians or Government. This was constantly expressed throughout the interview yet it is made to appear as though CAYS is sounding the Alarm no CAYS wants readers to understand that we have a difficult task and are doing the best we can. I am very upset when a political agenda is used which overshadows the help and work all of us do for these children. Systems are overwhelmed but a solution can be worked out if everyone involved came up with a Comprehensive plan to address the growing concerns. I apologize to our leaders and agencies if you have been unfairly singled out as the cause of the problem or not doing enough. I thought we were going to educate the community of our dedication not fan fires.
    Sydney Williams CAYS

    CNS: While we stand by the article and believe it is an accurate account of the interview, we are very disappointed that Mr Williams disagrees and would like to stress that the intention was purely to draw attention to the issues he spoke about. Nevertheless, we can all agree that the situation needs to be remedied.

  21. Anonymous says:

    When are we going to march against this government and their greedy corrupt ways?

  22. Anonymous says:

    These children need help and the message falls on deaf ears. The abused and neglected children of the country will grow up and become the gang members and home invaders that are destroying the country.
    The politicians are useless.

  23. LB says:

    Thank you Mr.Williams, well said!

    I have been saying time and again that with so many troubled, abused and neglected kids in this country it is CRIMINAL for the CIG to turn its back on these children.
    These children need world class professionals to help them to heal. Not local shrinks who are only able to medicate kids.

    Hon. Tara Rivers and Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, JP, MLA, must understand how the trauma of sexual assault may affect victims. They have created Cayman national youth policy after all! What this Policy in practical terms is about????

    The fact that Cayman documentary on sexual abuse to feature at international conference should make us all burn with guilt and shame. Yet, nobody seem to care, including churches.

    WHAT A SHAME! A GLOBAL FINANCIAL CENTER that neglects its own children and disproportionally, almost entirely focuses on pleasing transient visitors.

    World class expertise is overdue to evaluate and treat these kids. Community must step in.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lets face it, this government has turned its back on all Caymanians apart from a few wealthy developers and a GT watch/jewelry merchant! Vote them OUT!!

      • Anonymous says:

        #CLEANSLATE 2021
        #FRESHSTART 2021
        #VOTETHEMALLOUT 2021

      • Anonymous says:

        don’t forget they prefer to spend $1.3 million on a boardwalk in south sound across from wealthy homeowners yet ignore the needs of suffering Caymanian children. Sickening!

        • SSM345 says:

          Build a 1.3m dollar sidewalk 800yds long and leave a dead tree with old shoes nailed to it. The gaps every 60ft are strange as well, thought that disabled people were screwed till I saw they pouring mini halfpipes in between said gaps today. I personally think it’s the beginning of CECs development there; everybody seems to have forgotten that road is getting locked off and that you will soon be diverted through the rugby club to that lovely new bypass being built.

          • Anonymous says:

            The NRA submitted a proposal for approval of a boardwalk design, more simple but does the same job, costing $500k. Government ignored their proposal and are centrally funding the $1.3m boardwalk and it is being done by a private contractor.



      • Anonymous says:

        Fear not because once the dock gets started they will take all the troubled youth to work there. Just ask Minister Hew.

    • Anonymous says:

      On point!! The churches only care about who’s drinking after midnight on Saturday night. This is a prime example of things that they should concern themselves with, but they don’t give a damn about these kids.

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is so sad man.

    Cayman, we are too small to ignore this!

    Let us do better!

  25. Anonymous says:

    “Williams said the sexualisation of the children is alarming and it is the predominant problem for the girls at Frances Bodden, which now provides a safe secure environment for both girls and boys on care orders.”

    Can we pause for a minute from the Cruise Port and take a hard look at this core problem with our youth.

    Further, where are the CHURCHES in all this mess?

    After-all, we have so many.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes because if anywhere is a safe place for vulnerable children it is the CHURCH
      The irony is off the charts


      How many “church men” are locked up in northward for kiddie fiddling

      New idea, lets keep them as far away from churches and “church men” as possible

      • Anonymous says:

        The place that children have been most consistently abused in the west for the past 100+ years is within the “safety” of the church

        I agree, let’s rule out the churches to start

      • Jg says:

        A Church is a hospital for sinners. God wants you to come in mucky or clean and stay clean, unfortunately people backslide and give church goers a bad name which God does not like. A Church is where EVERYONE needs to be and follow the good teachings even if you dont want to believe the storyline. Why do people fear a witch or a cemetary more than God? That goes to show you give the devil more power than anything because its easier to do bad than good. Pray for these children that they become good, honest hard working people because they are the future.

    • Anonymous says:

      People are asking what is the Church doing. How about this? Church members foster children from broken homes. Church members act as emergency homes and provide respite care for the children when the Government can find no family members who are willing to care for these children. Operates food pantries right across the Cayman Islands providing food to the indigent. Has soup and food kitchens that are paid for by church members and prepared and delivered by church members. Provides free counselling and parenting workshops to parents who are struggling. Works alongside the prison, police and other social services to find church members in the middle of the night to take in children who have been abandoned by parents too drugged out of their minds to care for their children.

      You ask what is the Church doing? Next time, the better question will be. What am I doing?

      • Anonymous says:

        You must be talking about the children that ATTEND those churches.

        Fact is, the churches don’t want to be challenged are criticized.

        I know what I am doing, in my personal capacity to help others. I am not an organization however, like a church for example.

        Hope you can understand this.

        • Anonymous says:

          The point I am making is this. There are many people in many churches who are doing their part to help these families and children in crisis. Many of these churches do this work quietly and without much public fanfare.Most of the time it is done in this way to protect the privacy of the children and their families. The blame game gets us nowhere. We need a collective effort in these Islands to address an issue that too often gets swept under the carpet. It is time for Government to have an open and very public consultative process where the views of stakeholders, i.e. the public is taken into account and the Ministers responsible be held accountable.

          These politicians are only available at election time, but otherwise, they are like the Invisible men and women. Start holding politicians accountable in public and I bet you any money they will start doing their jobs.

      • Annonymous says:

        Only the legit churches not those JA ones on every corner where the Pastors fooling with the Sistas.

      • Anonymous says:

        From what I see the churches are pretty selective about who they help. If this is not true of your church then props to you… Seriously, huge respect to any one who steps in to help in a serious and meaningful way.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Why people have kids when they don’t want them is beyond me. Mandatory sterilization if you don’t pass a parenting test.

    • Anonymous says:

      THats just the problem, the last thing people are thinking about, when they are jumping into bed, is the possibility of a child appearing in nine months!

      The consequences of their escapade is far removed from their thinking. Unfortunately, we (society) end up dealing with the consequences of their poor judgment.

      I agree with you, sterilization.

    • Anonymous says:

      @11:04 am if you have nothing intelligent to say, please refrain from posting your comment

      • Anonymous says:

        Prevention is not intelligent? You and all your “well intentioned” commentors are doomed to repeat idiotic actions. Maybe that is the reason why nobody wants to give these programs extra fundings, because you apparently do not have a solution in mind, just more funding.

      • Anonymous says:

        The world is massively over populated. Sterilization is the most intelligent thing I’ve heard in years!!

    • Anonymous says:

      11:04am, I was told by a memeber of the public that sterilization is depriving them of their social right, to which I replied, “it is governments liability”. Too many are having children expecting others to care for them, so stop them from bring unwanted children into the world to suffer or become criminals. Too many lazy persons encouraged by NAU.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll say the procedure we dare not name


      • Anonymous says:

        For some reason people are more for sterilization than what rhymes with smishshmorshion.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, killing unborn children is a brilliant solution, and much cheaper than education and care. And why stop with the unborn? There are so many born people we could kill to save money as well. SMH

  27. Gt Voter says:

    This unity government would rather spend 300m on a dock for a few supporters than adequately fund programs that help at risk Caymanians, enforce the immigration and labor laws. This country is in trouble due to greedy corruption politicians and the incompetence at the highest levels that manages the civil service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep because they don’t get their pockets lined supporting the at risk segment of the population.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ Gt Voter

      And what are Caymanians doing about it? The ex-pats can’t vote for anyone. The Caymanian people have the power but refuse to use it. Far too much self interest on this island.

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