By Francisca Jordan
Between 2007 and 2011, a total of 171 children were murdered in Trinidad and Tobago and there were a total of 507 cases of indecent assault and 6,703 overall serious crimes against children. Against this background of growing crime in the country, there continues to be significant changes in modern family life. Extended families are being replaced by nuclear families or just single parent households. We now have longer working hours and more women are entering the work force.
Often young children are left in unsupervised, inadequately staffed or unsafe child care facilities. We see more latchkey children walking the streets alone to return from school to an empty home because their parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little or no parental supervision. Besides the obvious risks to the safety of these children, parents can be held accountable by child welfare organizations or law enforcement if children come to harm while left without proper supervision. Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Trinidad and Tobago has acceded, each State has a duty to maximize the survival and healthy development of each child under its jurisdiction.
The Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT) explored the need for proper child care solutions in Trinidad and Tobago in its White Paper presented to local stakeholders in November 2010. It notes the murder of eight-year-old Leah Lammy in February 2009 which put a harsh spotlight and reality check on the lack of childcare solutions for working parents in modern Trinidad and Tobago. Leah was told to take a taxi home alone from school because her parents would not be able to collect her. What if Leah’s parents, both of whom were working on that fateful day, had access to a safe and reliable means of transport to collect their daughter from school? Or that their employers allowed at least one parent time off with pay to pick her up from school, and bring her back to an onsite company childcare facility or a registered childcare facility close to work or home? In either of these scenarios, it is quite likely the outcome would have been dramatically different.
AFETT is pleased to note the recent advances in Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the protection of children. These include the creation for the first time a Ministry solely dedicated to gender and child issues in July 2011 and the extension of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 13 weeks in 2012. The 2012/2013 budget presentation also promised the promotion of day care centres, the full implementation of the Children’s Authority Act and the Children’s Act, and the implementation of gender-based budgeting throughout the public service.
Child care policies can cover a variety of options. AFETT’s White Paper recommends that Trinidad and Tobago’s Government:
- As the largest employer demonstrates leadership by implementing employment policies such as flexi-time/staggered hours, telecommuting, compressed work weeks, part-time/career breaks, job sharing, extended paternity leave, extended maternity leave with pay;
- Provides incentives such as tax breaks and grants for organizations that implement the initiatives above;
- Provides child care assistance either in the form of tax breaks/credits/grants to low income families, particularly for children 3 months to 5 years old;
- Provides tax breaks/credits/grants to companies who are unable to construct child care facilities and would like to create partnerships with existing facilities to subsidize their operational costs;
- Subsidizes the cost of child care for their employees through BIK or allowances.
- Provides a safe, reliable and subsidized public school transport system.
Francisca Jordan is the Director of Research and Public Advocacy at AFETT. Ms Jordan is an accomplished communications strategist and advisor with over (24) years experience in Corporate Communications, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service. Ms Jordan has assisted several large and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in both the public and private sector by providing winning strategies that transform business, drive sales, engage customers, employees, and other stakeholders and increase brand value.