Letters to the Editor: Get involved in Child Month

The
month of May is a significant time of year in the Cayman Islands. It is the
month where the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing, in conjunction with
the Department of Children and Family Services, shine a spotlight on children’s
issues. Under the timely theme of Loving Our Children through Today’s
Challenges, this year’s Child Month will, yet again, prove to be an exciting
and informative time.

The
Cayman Islands has experienced, and continues to experience, great change and
challenges. Consequently, our lives have become fast-paced with most adults
struggling to create a healthy balance between the demands of work and family
responsibilities. This balancing act is further exacerbated when we add growing
financial pressures, unemployment and increasing levels of crime to the mix.
Our children and young people are not immune to these pressures and challenges.

In
fact, local research, such as the 2006 Report on Pre-disposing Factors to
Criminality in the Cayman Islands, show us that our children and young people
are being exposed to and contend with serious challenges such as drug misuse,
abuse, neglect, violence and crime. It should be no surprise, therefore, that
some families are becoming overwhelmed by these circumstances and are finding
it difficult to cope.

The
purpose of this message, however, is not to dwell on the difficulties as much
as it is to encourage people to strive to overcome them and concentrate on the
blessings and positive aspects of their lives. The Cayman Islands Government
recognises that in difficult times such as these the inherent challenges in
child-rearing are multiplied; parents are under greater pressure to provide for
their children in a context of limited resources and much uncertainty.  Loving our children through the challenges,
however, requires us to be ever more proactive and steadfast in our efforts to
nurture and empower them to reach their full potential.

We
must be creative, innovative and resourceful if we are to establish a protective
and supportive network that will impact children’s lives in any meaningful way.
If we want our children to grow into civic-minded, responsible, productive,
resilient, empathetic and caring adults, then it is up to each and every one of
us to work today to ensure that this becomes a reality for all of our children.

When
it comes to issues regarding children, the Ministry of Community Affairs and
Housing adheres to and is guided by the principles of the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child, which promote the protection of children
relating to non-discrimination; adherence to the best interest of the child;
the right to life, survival and development and the right to participate. 

Hence,
while our departments and agencies continue to strengthen families through programmes
and services that protect, educate, train, counsel and assist those most
vulnerable and in need, the Ministry is developing overarching policies and
strategies that aim to enhance the quality of life, especially for children.
For example, following a recent retreat on the implementation of the
aforementioned Report on the Pre-disposing Factors to Criminality in the Cayman
Islands written by Yolande C. Forde, we have begun to develop preventive,
holistic strategies to deal specifically with at-risk youth and ensure that
their needs are met.

But
the Cayman Islands Government and my Ministry cannot do it alone. We need to
build more private-public partnerships; we need communities and their leaders;
we need professionals; and we need volunteers to dedicate their time, their
passion and their skills to improving the lives and future outlook for our
children. Together we’ll make a difference in our children’s lives. 

Mr.
Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, is quoted as
saying: “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with
children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are
respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear
and want and that they can grow up in peace.”  Let this be our guiding principle in our
everyday lives and let us ask ourselves what we can do today to improve the
life of a child.

Indeed,
all around us we see examples of how expressions of love, encouragement and
support from adults can transform the lives of children and set them on
positive paths. Foster care parents, for instance, have selflessly opened their
hearts and home to children in need and I encourage you to learn more about the
foster care programme by contacting the Department of Children and Family Services.
There are also many other inspirational and positive community events taking
place, such as the Miles Ahead Do Something Festival in May. As each day dawns,
so too does the opportunity to change a child’s life. We are duty-bound to
strive for this and chart the way forward for our children. So get involved!
Our future as a country need not be bleak if we choose to work collectively to
steer our course towards a prosperous, harmonious, peaceful and respectful
society.

And
a small step towards this goal is to get informed by participating in or
volunteering for the fun and educational activities being held during this
year’s Child Month.

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