EditorialManager Student Support Services Division, Member Transitional Child Protection Working Group
Olga Mussington Service M.S
What usually comes to mind when you hear about protecting children? Who would you say is responsible for protecting children? Many would say that parents are. I agree that parents play a major role in protecting children, and support must be given to them in their role as primary caregivers. Child protection, however, is everyone’s business and as a community we all have a role to play. The famous saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”, conveys that it takes many people (the village) to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children. It acknowledges that the primary responsibility is with the parents or the primary caregivers, but the support to parents from the “villagers” is fundamental.
These days supporting parents to protect children is even more critical. With the breakdown of families, the extended family not being as connected as it used to be, economic pressures, parents working multiple jobs, and the negative influences of social media, all these factors, individually or collectively, increase the vulnerability of our children. This vulnerability can expose them to harm, which in turn affects their wellbeing and development. If we truly believe that our children are the future, then it is critical that we protect them today. We can no longer talk the talk but not walk the talk. We can no longer sit on the fence and point fingers at parents, instead we should ask, what can I do to provide support?
At the Student Support Services Division (SSSD), our motto is “if every child must learn, then every parent, family and community must be a part of the process”. Here again you see this village mentality that we encourage. We truly believe that we must rally around our children, and one way to do so is to provide support to parents in order to protect children. Children that are supported feel safer and are better equipped to deal with challenges from the external environment. Government, the business community, and civil society organisations are key supporters, but there is a role for us all.
We are at a critical stage in our development here on St. Maarten as we build our island nation. How can we develop leaders if we do not protect our children so that they are able to lead? How can our children benefit from education (a key pillar) if they are unprotected and as a result develop barriers to learning? How can we say we are building a nation if we do not see ourselves as builders and take on the responsibility that role requires of us?
Child protection is everyone’s business. Ask yourself: how can I support that parent in my community? How can I reach that parent, whether it be our neighbour, co-worker, church member, etc? We all have a shared responsibility and as such we must get back to being an active member of that village. The future of our country, our communities and our families depend on it.