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Magistrate to mom of 15-year-old: You dropped the ball
The mother of a 15-year-old boy who claimed he was an orphan and had to beg and steal to survive showed up in court yesterday, but was not allowed to take him home. After learning of the child’s predicament through newspaper reports, the Children’s Authority appointed attorney Renuka Rambajhan, who was also in court, to help him.
The teenager pleaded guilty over two weeks ago to stealing a cellphone but was remanded into custody to the Youth Training Centre (YTC) because he had no family support and no proper address. He initially told the court both his parents were dead. When San Fernando magistrate Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds learned his mother was alive and living somewhere in Pleasantville, she sent the police to find her.
Despite not having seen each other in a year, mother and son showed no emotion when they saw each other yesterday. But while the magistrate was admonishing her about not doing enough to help her son, the mother began to cry. The magistrate told her she needed to toughen up, take responsibility for the position her son was in and set an example for her children. “Life does not allow you to escape,” she added.
The court had heard on a previous occasion that the boy was often seen begging near Gulf City and did not attend school. The mother and his 19-year-old sister, who was also in court, said they were not aware he was begging. However, the mother said when her son was eight months old his father died. She said her daughter’s father was not helping her so she used to “look for help” to care for them. But when she got a job with the Unemployment Relief Programme, she stopped.
The mother said her son last lived with her and his aunt in La Romaine. However, she said, he was not listening to her, was following bad company and was “breaking biche.” He stopped school in Standard Two, she added. When she got notice to move a year ago, the mother said her son went to live with her brother in Dow Village. But “some months now” he ran away and went back to La Romaine, she said. She made a report but she said the police could not find him.
She is now in a common-law relationship, has a six-year-old child and is living in Pleasantville. As a mother, the magistrate told her, it was her responsibility to ensure that he attended school. She added: “There are other things you could have done. You dropped the ball. “Children aren’t born bad. They have the potential to get very bad. The adults are responsible for them, to scope, guide, mould, sculp. You are the ones who mould their morals,” the magistrate told her.
However, she said the teenager and society also have to shoulder some blame. Rambajhan said although the Children’s Authority was not properly constituted, it would do all it could to help and would put together a package of social services available to the family. Glad to have the authority’s help, the magistrate said they had to fix the wrong, “Otherwise it will grow worse. The logical conclusion is he will be dead.”
Rambajhan said where the mother was living was cramped for space but she was willing to take him home with her. She said the boy’s uncle also was willing to have the teenager stay by him again. However, the magistrate said she did not want to release him into anyone’s care until an assessment was done by a probation officer. Then, she said, she would decide whether he would be spending Christmas at a home or in YTC. The teenager was remanded in custody and the matter was adjourned to next Friday.
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