Tue | Jan 21, 2020

Tough love turnaround - Family Court offers second chance for parents, children

Published:Saturday | December 7, 2019 | 12:28 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Paula Blake-Powell (right), senior Parish Court judge of the Family Court, and Veronica Poyser (second right), director of court support services, have a light moment with parents Michael Reid (left), Kenisha Barnett (second left), and Anita Morris of the Family Court Parenting School 2019 at an expo on Duke Street, Kingston, on Friday.
Paula Blake-Powell (right), senior Parish Court judge of the Family Court, and Veronica Poyser (second right), director of court support services, have a light moment with parents Michael Reid (left), Kenisha Barnett (second left), and Anita Morris of the Family Court Parenting School 2019 at an expo on Duke Street, Kingston, on Friday.

Michael Reid, a father of nine, was taken to the Family Court earlier this year after it was reported that he left his nine-year-old daughter alone at home. His appearances in court and later referral to classes would redound to a greater benefit.

He was among eight parents who successfully completed the Family Court’s Parenting School Curriculum.

The Kingston and St Andrew Family Court Parenting School has produced 47 graduates since the programme was launched in 2013. Parents are referred by judges hearing their cases, the court’s counselling centre and partner.

The 53-year-old, who hails from Westmoreland, explained that he was living alone with his daughter and had to go to work. Reid intended to check up on her during the course of the day but failed to do so.

“Somebody reported it and the police took me to the court. The process was very hectic. I had to be going to court for over a four- to five-month period, and then after the court disposed of it, her honourable judge had referred me to the parenting class,” Reid told The Gleaner.

Getting time off was very hectic, but I must give thanks to my employer. He has been very understanding,” Reid said.

With his youngest child being two years old, Reid said that he “has a long way to go”.

“It has been challenging because my oldest child is 34 years old and the youngest one is two. It has been very, very challenging, but my children, who are adults, are doing very well and I am very proud of them,” he added.

PRIMARY TAKEAWAY

Reid’s most rewarding moment as a parent was when his first child entered teachers’ college.

“These younger ones that I have, I intend for them to grow up and achieve, just like the others,” he said.

His primary takeaway from the modules delivered by the court’s Social Work Unit and the National Parenting Support Commission, among other partners, is that children’s talents need to be developed.

Kerine Sewell’s teenage son began smoking and displaying rebellious behaviour when he was 14 years old.

“I went to the [police] station and got him in a home, just for two weeks to punish him. God does everything for a purpose, and He allows things to happen for a purpose, because bringing him here has made a difference in my life and his life,” Sewell explained.

While her son still has occasional bouts of misconduct, she is hopeful about the future.

Sewell is encouraging parents who are struggling with their children to seek help from the Family Court.

“I wasn’t coping well, because seeing one of my loves going the wrong way, it was a burden, but I’ve learnt how to cope and to give him time out,” she said of her son.

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, who delivered the keynote address, commended the court for initiating the classes, which are outside of its primary function.

Gordon Harrison reminded the parents in attendance that parenting is a tough job and that there is no harm in asking for help.

“You have to recognise, as human beings, although we try and we do well in many instances, no one person is the repository of all information,” she said.

She also said that children are humans and are impacted by the same social issues. For this reason, she said it was necessary to have regular check-ins with them.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com