Family Centre Outlines Community Commitment

August 2, 2017

Family Centre has “committed itself to working with our at-risk children, their families, and our community,” with Executive Director Martha Dismont saying that “as we, through our services, prepare families and children to participate in our society in a more healthy and productive manner, we hope that we will have a society worthy of their efforts.”

Speaking to the Hamilton Rotarians, Ms. Dismont said, “Today, I want to take a moment to provide you with a brief description of who we are at Family Centre, at our core.

“We are devoted to the well-being of children because they deserve our support and because they are innocent beings who did not ask to be brought into this world; they are our future lawyers, doctors, masons, plumbers, caretakers, or gang members; as a community, we have the opportunity to support their positive development, or not. As an organization, we make it a priority to do so.

“We are devoted to strengthening family because we know that children are shaped by their family system; as they develop, if they do not have a nurturing, supportive family structure, they become a burden to society and their families.

“We are devoted to the well-being of the Bermuda society, because families and their children are not isolated from the “woes” of society; they live, move and breathe in our societal environment, and these children and their families will have a fighting chance no matter what their circumstances are, if we have a society of healthy, nurturing, and caring adults.

“Family Centre is a registered charity and thus our services are free to families. Our services include: individual and family counseling, parent education [or family group training], social skills groups, youth leadership programmes, Beyond Rugby, and advocacy and training of groups and professionals on how to intervene with children who have faced trauma in their lives.

“We increased our age range up to 18 years of age as of Sept 2016.

“Our services are geared to reach the individual, their family, high risk targeted groups in the community, and professionals who need training.

“We believe in collaboration with other agencies, and I, recently, took on the Chair of the Inter Agency Committee for Children and Families, an association of service providers, to demonstrate our commitment to work with others, collaboratively, to solve our societal social problems.

“We operate within a budget of $2.7 mil, to support seeing over 260 families in counseling services, and another 300 families and individuals in our community outreach and training programmes. We have 20 staff persons, including two psychologists, and we do our best to retain our staff with decent pay and benefits, because our clients need the consistency of staff in order to get better themselves.

“We are an accredited organization, and are proud of the fact that this is important to us; accreditation requirements help us to be accountable to our donors, and to our clients.

“Families leave our services completing a goal plan of healthy interaction with children, and hopefully improved emotional well-being.

“We believe that a healthy and stable child depends on a healthy and stable family, which also depends on a healthy and stable society.

“We also believe that “one hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car we drive, what kind of house we live in, nor what is in our personal bank account, but it will matter whether we have made a difference in the life of a child.

“Your dollars donated to Family Centre on our TAG Day, tomorrow, August 2, will support critical services for at-risk children. We will continue our work, if you continue to support us. And, no matter what you see in the press, we are always in need of additional funding support to keep up with the demand for the services.

“And, on that note, if we can take a few minutes to remind ourselves why there is such a high demand for services.

“We are seeing an increase in domestic violence, financial struggles for families who can barely make ends meet in this very ‘high cost economy’, and families who are not working, nor skilled up to take the jobs that are available.

“We are all too familiar with our current recurring crisis of increased gang violence, which is a representation of the growing number of disenfranchised young adults, young adults with no sense of real belonging, lacking a solid education foundation, and often disconnected with family.

“For those who continue to be challenged in understanding how this small little island continues to struggle with these social issues, it is important to note that it is not uncommon for communities to struggle when you have the conditions that we have.

“We are faced with a large percentage of cases of unaddressed trauma, a continued lack of real investment in a public school system that is seeing more and more trauma-impacted children enter the system, a portion of our population that requires re-tooling and re-training for 21st century jobs, and classic unaddressed race and class issues in subtle and blatant areas.

“There have been many efforts to tackle most of these issues, but I don’t believe that we have had the proportional response that is required.

“As the saying goes, “When the tide goes out, we can see who has been swimming naked”. When we are faced with a struggling economy, the need for new job skills and education, and family stressors, our family systems struggle. We have been in a crisis state with public education, increased gang violence, and disenfranchised youth for some time.

“Yet, we have not responded as if we are in a crisis. We seem to be still reeling from the unbelievable shock of it all, and meanwhile families and young people are living this life for far too long. There is a responsibility that parents must take to be better in the lives of children, and to find the solutions that they need to improve their lot in life, but we also have the responsibility as a community to place an emphasis on family strengthening.

“Good businesses work hard to ensure that their employees are in a position to do their best. Is it too much to ask for Bermuda to focus on family, the center of our resources and strength as a tourist destination?

“It is important to note how important education really is. The percentage of those within the gang culture who have a high school diploma or college degree is small. Young men and women who have dropped out of school, or who have been removed from school, truly want to find a way back to a positive path.

“I hear more complaints about Bermudians who are not “job-ready” than businesses willing to pitch in and help our youth to become job-ready. Those who have chosen to act out violently, particularly, within gang activity are most likely young men who have been released from school environments, and dismissed by their families, and seen as ‘incapable of learning.’

“They must be given a concerted chance to get back on the right path. In 80-90% of the cases of these young men, they desperately desire an increased level of education, more self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and a future for themselves, absent of the violence.

“We must ultimately ask ourselves, are we truly serious about addressing our social ills? Are we ready to invest the appropriate dollar, resource and effort into ensuring that our young people and the unemployed adult are trained with skills to be in a position to take the new jobs that are being developed?

“Are we instilling in adults the necessary nurturing sense of care and response to children and their emotional needs? Are we properly treating the adults and parents of our children for their emotional neglect and trauma? Are we improving the public education system with urgency so that we no longer have young people who are leaving school without a degree, without skills, and without a sense of purpose?

“There is no true wealth without work. So, we must get to work and place the emphasis where it needs to be. You were all children once upon a time. What actually helped you to be successful?

“Family Centre has committed itself to working with our at-risk children, their families, and our community. As we, through our services prepare families and children to participate in our society in a more healthy and productive manner, we hope that we will have a society worthy of their efforts.”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Faith Choice Change says:

    Awesomeness …

  2. Community First says:

    First Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10, KJV): “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

    A very important message from Ms. Dismont and raises the vexing issue of our ongoing fragmentation within families, churches, charities, schools and other service institutions. When will this talk move towards meaningful action and how much more private charity funding will we pour into a system that is so resistant to change and help all our people?

    The concepts of universal access to quality health care, education and other basic human needs in Bermuda is discussed often and yet never acted upon for it threatens essential funding of current services that thrive financially in our current system of division for profit. More money appears not to be the answer – we need to change the way our human services are structured, funded accessed and evaluated.

    I admire Ms. Dismont’s tenacity and perseverance – for the 260 families engaged in their counseling services and the 300 plus additional families being served, The Family Centre is the shelter in our financially driven and divisive economic storm.