My childhood — a rude, rebellious teen with no parental guidance

THE product of a broken home and unfit parents, 33-year-old Jasmine says her childhood which was marred by molestation and rape made her a prime candidate for early pregnancies and motherhood without a blueprint.

Three pregnancies later, Jasmine who is the mother of a teenaged daughter is locked in the battle of a lifetime trying to prevent her child from repeating her mistakes and prevent her from being placed into State care, a fight the Children and Family Support Unit of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), is helping her wage.

“I got pregnant at age 17 because I did not have the right parents. I got molested, I got raped and throughout all of that nothing came of it. I was just growing up, existing, I was just there. Because of that, bad company, men and all of that. That was me, that was basically my childhood, a rude, rebellious teen with no parental guidance,” she told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

As she spiralled out of control, becoming promiscuous, reality came knocking.

“So here comes pregnancy, here comes my daughter, I had her like couple months before my [18th] birthday. Right after her, came her brother because again, I didn’t have any guidance, no one in my corner to say well this is life and this is what you are supposed to do, this is what you are supposed to expect. So, I am basically a self-taught woman but yet still at the end of the day we all need help,” she said candidly.

Despite now having two children she said her gamble of a life continued.

“I dropped out of school, two babies living on the street; leaving from friend’s house to friend’s house to man’s house, all over the place until I decided in my mind that I was going to go back to school,” she told the Observer.

With that resolve the young adult enrolled with the HEART/NTSA Trust and bagged a certificate in housekeeping and hospitality.

“Then I went back and got a Grade 1 in level two hospitality. With that certificate I was able, to get a little job. I started as a cashier in a supermarket. From there I sent myself to another school and became a security guard, which I am now from 2014,” the young mother said.

While trying to balance her life, her children and her job, the young mother who says she was ill-equipped by virtue of her own childhood saw her daughter now a teen heading down the same path she was trying to emerge from.

“With the way I was raised, I wasn’t raised with love, I don’t know how to show love. I don’t know what my love language is. I mistake love for sex. They say when you have sex that’s what love is supposed to look like, so with my daughter, I did not know how to show her love, so you know she go come rebellious like myself,” she told the Observer.

Enter the CPFSA and it Children and Family Support Unit (CFSU), which she says is her stroke of luck.

“But the difference is I am not letting her go. I would not let her go; I would not give up on her. I tried my best to be there for her to correct her all the time. Eventually there was a situation where we had to go to court. I got help from CPFSA, in particular Miss Cunningham, my godsend. She helps me a lot, she does a lot for me, she is there for me night or day, whenever the situation arises; she enrolled me in parenting class which is doing a whole lot for me in dealing with my teenage daughter and my sons, also,” she said.

Despite a custody battle which began last year and ended earlier this month which the young mother says has left her feeling “sore” as she ended up losing temporary care of her daughter, she is counting on having the decision reversed in another year or so.

“I lost custody because I did not know what I was doing as a parent, so I have a whole lot of mishaps and a lot of things I did wrong that I wish I could change…I was fighting for her, I was fighting with her, I was fighting for my own sanity,” she told the Observer.

She says with the help of the CPFSA she is closer to breaking the cycle of failed parenting and achieving her dream of a settled and happy family.

“CPFSA, you have really come through for me. [Case officer], you are still my little light, and I would like to say thanks to her for helping me become a better person. I am not there yet, nowhere near there but I am working on myself, and I am trying to be the best mother I can be for my daughter and my two sons,” she said.

Established in 2009, the CFSU provides interventions for vulnerable children and their families, and is seen as an alternative programme, which prevents children from being placed into State care. More than 4,000 children have benefited from the programme since in operation.

The unit also acts as a diversionary programme for children who are exhibiting maladaptive behaviours which places them at risk.

It also provides parenting tools which seeks to strengthen the family’s capacity to successfully manage and mitigate both the internal and external pressures that may threaten the stability of the family.

Head of CFSU at the CPFSA, Jean Duhaney, explained that the programme is also aimed at maintaining functional family units, and provides access to available social protection programmes, while seeking to engage stakeholder in various sectors.

“The programme allows families to take on responsibilities, without seeing State care as the first option. It serves a valuable purpose because sometimes there may be a breakdown in the family, and we have to intervene, and reunite them in some cases. The State is always viewed as the last resort for children, having explored all possible family placement options and targeted interventions,” Duhaney said.