The Child Care Board Act (CAP 381) was intended to be very limited in scope to care for children who clearly needed help. Anyone with common sense could identify such children. Two problems became apparent. The first is the recent poor management in implementing the Act. The second is the abuses of this digital age that the act did not foresee.
The Solutions are obvious. First, manage the implementation in accordance with international standards like the ISO 9001. The second is to amend to act to include the observed abuses of this age. This solution was rejected in favour of abolishing the Child Care Board Act and replacing it with a new Child Protection Act – which is currently in Bill form.
BUILDING HEAVEN IN BARBADOS
The Child Protection Bill appears to have been written by persons who never had children, and forgot their childhoods. The Bill assumes that we live in heaven, and any breach of that heavenly conduct is defined as abuse. Section 3.1 describes the purpose of the Bill.
“The purpose of this Act shall be to (a) ensure compliance with:
(i) the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(ii) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
(iii) all other international instruments to which Barbados is a party with special regards to those which afford a child the necessary protection and assistance so that he can assume his eventual responsibilities within the community and for the full and harmonious development of his personality and to grow up in a family environment imbued with happiness, love and understanding;” (Section 3.1)
So, the purpose of the Act is to ensure compliance with foreign ways of raising children that those countries have failed miserably to achieve for themselves. It would be fine if the Bill were an aspirational document. But it is to become Law, with unreasonably severe penalties for almost all Barbadians.
Parents, teachers, nurses and pastors who do not report “abuse” are liable “to a fine of $20 000 or to a term of imprisonment of 2 years or to both” (Section 24.7). Parents and relatives who leave a child under 12 years unsupervised are liable “to a fine of $25 000 or to imprisonment for a term of 5 years or to both.” (Section 60.1) A parent who abuses a child is liable to a “fine of $100 000 or to imprisonment for a term of 10 years or to both.” (Section 61)
The Bill casts a wide net to capture abuse. For example, financial abuse “includes withholding the financial support necessary to maintain a child” (Section 2). Who determines the amount of money necessary to maintain a child? What happens if the parent loses her job and must reduce the size of everyone’s meals to pay the mortgage or rent?
Emotional abuse includes “the use of threatening words or behaviour” (Section 2). So, what happens if a parent threatens a badly behaved child with discipline. Well, according to the Bill, a fine of $100 000 or imprisonment for 10 years both (Section 61). Have we lost our minds?
Physical abuse includes any act “which causes pain” (Section 2). Seriously? Are spanks not supposed to cause pain? Verbal abuse incudes communication to harm, including “by silence” or “shouting” (Section 2). These seem like rules for lunatics in an insane asylum, not laws for a country of sane people.
GUILTY AS CHARGED
It would be impossible for me to raise any child under this Bill without being found guilty. I believe that the same would be true for our parents and fore-parents. No relative or friend can bring their children for me to watch. Even if they deposited the fine of $100,000 in my bank account, I would still be liable for 10 years in prison.
This Bill seems designed to make almost all Barbadians guilty – and bankrupt. Why? There are too many traps hidden throughout this Bill. My recommendation is to follow the obvious solution of amending the Child Care Board Act and improving management.