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'In need of care' State grapples with uncontrollable children

Published:Saturday | February 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Anderson McLean

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

A vast number of children diagnosed as having behavioural problems, some with serious mental-health issues, are being placed in state care by their parents.

Alison Anderson McLean, the CEO of the Child Development Agency (CDA), said 90 per cent of the 16,000 cases reported to the agency annually involve children who demonstrate uncontrollable behaviour.

She was speaking during Thursday's sitting of the joint select committee of Parliament, which was reviewing the 2008-2009 annual report of the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA).

The OCA's report said 39 children, diagnosed with uncontrollable behaviour, were placed in juvenile institutions in 2008 after they were brought before the courts.

Parents neglecting duties

Committee member Gregory Mair said the increase in the number of children in need of care and protection was a result of persons relinquishing their parental duties to the State.

However, despite agreeing with Mair, Anderson McLean said the shortage of available professional help for the children has contributed to the high number of juveniles in need of care and protection.

She told Parliament that the agency had initially sought to assist parents experiencing problems through the Family Court. Anderson McLean said some parents exploited the system through the courts even though there were many parents with genuine problems who need help.

Anderson McLean said the problem was exacerbated by the absence of dedicated mental-health facilities for children categorised with "uncontrollable behaviour".

"I was shocked at the number of adolescents on Ward 21 at the university hospital. And they are mixed with adults because there are no mental-health facilities for children," she told the committee.