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aimed at addressing the underlying cause of young offenders' delinquent
The harsh socio-economic conditions that Zimbabwe has faced over the past decade have not spared the vulnerable members of the community, the children. Some parents and custodians earn below the poverty datum line and cannot afford to adequately provide for the children. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has left many orphaned children and child headed households where the children cannot afford to meet their basic needs, including provision of food.
There has been an increase in the number of people migrating to neighbouring countries in search of greener pastures and for some of the parents who are still in Zimbabwe, they hardly get time to spend with their children as they work for the sustenance of the family. Children are therefore left without supervision or guidance which will enable them to become responsible citizens. These harsh socio-economic conditions, lack of supervision and guidance often leads to children's delinquent behaviour and criminal activity. This article will discuss three diversion activities which are aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the young offender's behaviour.
Constructive use of leisure time
This is intended to provide appropriate activities to occupy the leisure time of the young person in order to prevent him from engaging in crime motivated by boredom or lack of appropriate supervision. This may include activities such as sports, church or youth groups and training programmes. Activities are not to be selected as a form of punishment and should be identified and agreed to by the young person. The young offender may also identify an individual within the community or at church whom they chose as a mentor so that they spend their leisure time with and receive guidance and supervision.
Attendance at a particular institution for educational or vocational purposes
The young offender will attend at an institution where they will receive educational support or vocational training. This will enable the young offender to receive education and training which will enable them to become professionals or skilled in a certain trade. The young offender will therefore be able to look after himself and his family through an honest living instead of engaging in criminal activities. The attendance can be part time or full time. However, this activity should not be recommended where it will result in the separation of the young offender with his family.
Family group conferencing
The objective of this activity is to allow the family to meet as a group to identify any problems which may lead to the child's delinquent behaviour and then be empowered to formulate a plan which will address the underlying causes of the young person's behaviour. The family may consist of community or church leaders, elders and even teachers. Family members who attend the meeting should be suggested by the child, in consultation with the parents or guardian. A trained social worker will coordinate the meeting but must ensure that the family takes responsibility for the resolution of their problems. With the assistance of the social worker, a plan is drawn up and agreed by all members to ensure that the young offender benefits from the process. There is need for monitoring and evaluation of the agreed plan to ensure that the child receives the proper supervision and guidance.
Visit the Justice for Children Trust fact sheet
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