Many children in Belize live in neighborhoods where gang culture is prevalent. Exposure to armed violence affects children’s emotional and psychological wellbeing as well as their academic performance. This is compounded by other risk factors including poverty and trauma. TheMetamorphosisProgramme provides wrap around support services for high-risk male children and adolescents with the aim of building resiliency in the children and their families. Over the course of its five-year multidimensional implementation, the programme has served as a qualitative research with a flexible enough programme design to adapt to new challenges on a case by case basis.
The Round Table Discussions were held with CEO’s from key ministries, Technical Professionals in mental health, social work and youth service provision, and Educational Professionals. Each Round Table began with presentations on the guiding frameworks and theories underpinning the Metamorphosis Programme which include Domains of Well-Being, the Ecological Approach, and the Hierarchy of Human Needs.
Counsellors and social workers presented their case studies which were based on first hand accounts of working with the Metamorphosis children. The Metamorphosis Team was faced with the very real effects of childhood neglect and violence manifested in the children physically, emotionally and academically. Many of the beneficiaries of the programme are discovered to have fundamental needs that are not being met, and while the case studies presented at the Round Table Discussions illustrated this, they also highlighted the hope that is sparked and the progress that is made when children are given the support and the opportunity to just be children.
The team also presented its findings on the roles of Trauma, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Resilience in the Metamorphosis experience.
Presentations from each of the three Discussions wrapped up with an overview of the challenges and lessons learnt from the programme such as the importance of flexibility in programme design for programmes such as these. An important finding was on the prevalence of trauma, its long term impact on the affected children and its effect on support service providers. Trauma also has implications in children’s educational performance and literacy. Additionally, the gap in mental health services, compared to the high level of need for such services, was highlighted.
Of note, this study holds serious implications for policy interventions such as the importance of a multidimensional approach, the importance of linkages between interventions and the national response to citizen security, the need for knowledge sharing among programmes like Metamophosis, the need for capacity building in mental health, and the emphasis which should be placed on literacy programmes for high-risk children and their families.
At the end of the presentations, discussions were held with the duty bearers who gave valuable input which acknowledged the importance of the study and its implications in similar programmes, the need for coordination across services and sectors, the need for greater budget allocation to mental health and social support services, and the importance of capacity building in education and social services to work with children living amidst gang violence.
The full report can be accessed here.