Trinidad: Mom of slain teen escapee rebukes Children’s Authority

(Trinidad Guardian) Single mother of two Natalie Brathwaite put her son in the care of the Children’s Authority of T&T because he was heading down the wrong path and she thought they would help him to become a better person.

Unfortunately, Simeon Daniel, who would have turned 16 in May, was shot dead along with 16-year-old Antonio Francois on Sunday in Laventille.

The boys were among five teenagers who escaped from one of the authority’s support centres on March 20. While nothing will bring back her only son and eldest child, Brathwaite yesterday said the authority has to do much better.

“I believe that whatever happens has already happened. At the end of the day, I don’t really fight these things. Is negligence on their part and they need to do better for the remaining children.

“My son is already dead and I cannot do anything about it. I cannot bring him back but that is a lesson for them to do better for the remainder of the children there. Just how my son got killed, somebody else child could be there and the same thing could happen to them because you all are being negligent. If it is a safe house, it is supposed to be safe in every aspect.”

Speaking with reporters at her Alta Garcia Trace, Siparia home yesterday, Braithwaite, a registered nurse, also denied claims on social media that she had abandoned her son and was a negligent mother.

Noting that the centre was a safe house to help children, she said, “I wanted my son to get better. People saying things like I abandon my son and why I sent my son there. They don’t understand, that’s ignorance.

“No mother would want their son to go astray and if you see an avenue where you could get help for him will take that avenue.”

Braithwaite, 40, explained that her son started smoking cigarettes and graduated to smoking marijuana when he entered Form Two. She said Daniel’s father died when he was just six or seven years old, so she would leave her children at her sister’s home while she went to work.

Brathwaite said she tried speaking to Daniel but he would not listen. She said he would often come home at late hours. Last July, she said she took him to the Children’s Court and a probation officer and a counsellor were assigned to him. They did several sessions of counselling but he still was not listening and he missed two of the virtual hearings, so on January 25 he was placed in the custody of the Children’s Authority.

The system is set up in such a way that she could only visit or speak to her son at his request. The location of the centre was not disclosed for security reasons, as other children were staying there for various reasons. She said he would speak to her almost every week and she visited him once at an institution in Chaguanas.

Brathwaite said Daniel never told her he was unhappy or being ill-treated. She took him KFC and other items, hugged and kissed him and told him she loved him. Brathwaite said the official assigned to his case also told her that he was doing well and they were planning to send him home soon on a trial basis. They were also going to arrange to transfer him to Servol to do a trade.

“The woman (official) told me he was very quiet. He don’t make any kind of physical trouble or anything like that, but she said the issue with him is the company that he keeps. He needs to be able to differentiate good company and bad company, which was the problem because he was not a leader, he was a follower, that was his biggest problem,‘ Brathwaite said.

When the authority officials informed her that he was missing, she said her family also had people searching for him but they got no feedback. However, she said last Thursday, her nephew saw he was on Instagram and called him. Daniel answered and said he was okay and would return home in a “timing.”

Braithwaite believes her son did not come home because he knew she would send him back to the home. She said she found out he was murdered when her cousin called her.

The mother said investigators told her he escaped the home through a space in a burglar-proofed window. She believes her son followed the other boys because he did not know anyone at the centre or in Laventille.

Disappointed in the authority, Braithwaite said she had put her trust in the institution and they were supposed to have put measures in place to ensure her son was safe.

“The investigator told me my son was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.

Brathwaite said she was looking forward to being with Daniel for his birthday.

“Even if he did not come home, (then) at least I know eventually he would come home. I was looking forward to him coming home different.”

She advised parents to talk and pray with their children. She believes her son may have been acting out because he missed his father. An autopsy is expected to be done on Wednesday at the Forensic Science Centre. Investigations are continuing.