Guyanese Participates in Exchange Program on Children in the U.S. Justice System

Georgetown – Ambassador Perry Holloway met with Guyanese social worker Shaundell Shipley who recently returned from the United States after participating in the Embassy-sponsored International Visitor Leadership (IVLP) exchange program – “Children in the U.S. Justice System” from January 11 – 29, 2016.   Ms. Shipley is the Program Manager of Blossom Inc. and has been involved in child advocacy and community building work since 2005.  Blossom Inc. is a non-governmental organization that partners with the Childcare and Protection Agency as part of the Ministry of Social Protection to provide services of a Child Advocacy Center in Regions 2 and 4.

Through in-depth discussions, workshops, and site visits, Ms. Shipley and her global counterparts had an opportunity to explore the U.S. judicial system, with special emphasis on the legal structures in place to protect children. The program offered exposure to the juvenile justice system in the United States and afforded participants the opportunity to compare best practices in treatment and rehabilitation, focusing on the needs of juvenile offenders and their families.  Participants heard from the Honourable Paul W. Grimm and Honourable Cathy Hollenbery Serrette, both senior judges for the United States District Court of Maryland and members of the International Hague Network of Judges, on the role of key players in the juvenile justice system, and the current issues facing children in the United States. Other speakers included representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Superior Court Family Law Court.

Ms. Shipley, in what she describes as a “life-changing experience,” cited the extraordinary benefit of the global network of colleagues she met during the program. She now has professionals from other countries with whom she can communicate in sharing and learning new pathways to success. Ms. Shipley expressed to Ambassador Holloway her intention to apply the knowledge gained from her experience to benefit her organization and most importantly, juvenile offenders.

Among the highlights of her program was a visit to the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center, a 78-bed juvenile detention facility located in Albuquerque, New Mexico that houses youth ages 11 to 17 in a safe, secure, and humane environment while they await court dates on criminal charges.  It is Ms. Shipley’s hope to replicate a similar model in Guyana.  She noted the timeliness of her visit as there is currently a review of the juvenile justice bill in process.

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. The IVLP brings together emerging leaders in their respective professions to learn how U.S. experts in their professions operate, and to share best practices with the other program fellows who hail from across the globe.