Dubai// A lack of specialists and insufficient laws allowing intervention in domestic situations are among the biggest challenges facing social workers helping to turn around the lives of young criminals.
Finding the right person for the job is high on a list of challenges facing the Community Development Authority’s Women, Youth and Children Department, the body responsible for rehabilitating juveniles in Dubai.
“There is a shortage of specialist cadres in the UAE and this is one of our biggest challenges,” said Bushra Qaed, head of the department. “In our work we need to be highly motivated, patient and strong to be able to achieve something.
“Because of the demanding nature of this job you find that not many people are willing to carry on with it.”
About one in five juveniles arrested in the emirate this year was a repeat offender.
The authority provides help to any child who has a court case registered against them. It has registered 27 children so far this year. More than half were Emirati and four were girls. Most are aged between 16 and 17 while the youngest was an 11-year-old convicted of begging.
Approximately one in four children were involved in drug cases, mainly Tramadol consumption, another quarter were accused of theft and a similar amount were accused of sex crimes including rape and consensual sex outside marriage.
Another obstacle the department faces is the lack of laws allowing staff to intervene in a family situation, especially when visiting a child’s homes.
“Today we carry out visits to the houses of children and in many instances we are welcomed by the family but we still do not have a legal cover by the law,” said Mrs Qaed.
Families are usually very welcome of the department’s work when their children are in custody, but as soon the child is outside they become less welcoming of the social workers, according to Mrs Qaed.
The department has several initiatives in place to help rehabilitate children who have been involved in crime. Among them are visiting the parents of juveniles in custody to help them prepare a healthy environment when the youngster returns home.
It also offers individual as well as group therapy to offenders and their families. This year the department has started studying the family as a whole in order to rehabilitate children.