The economic recession is taking a toll on families in Barbados and could result in children being at risk. However, according to Acting Chief Public Health Nurse, Claudette Casey, a strong family unit will provide a nurturing environment for children despite global challenges.

She made these comments during the launch of Child Month activities at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, Jemmotts Lane, St. Michael, today. The activities will be held during each Child Health Day – Monday and Thursday – throughout the month. Mrs. Casey pointed out that the family structure was changing and this resulted in the rise of problems such as, child abuse; neglect; domestic violence; deviancy and obesity, to name a few.

"…The impact of the recession means that we have to do more with less at a time when the demand seems to be exhaustive. In the month of May – Child Month, a time when we seek to sensitise the nation about issues relating to children, the message has become even more critical.

"Many families are under immense stress and their circumstances dire. As has been reported in the Press recently, three hotels have been closed. The potential loss of employment to over 600 workers will impact on the family well-being. One can only imagine the potential impact on family life. It is, therefore, inevitable that the vulnerable, including the nation’s children will be at additional risk," Mrs. Casey noted.

She said the theme for Child Month Empowering Families, Save Our Children was most timely since it underscored the importance of the family and its role in facilitating the well-being of the nation’s children. Mrs. Casey added that because of the "multiplicity of potential threats to family life", the family could not be expected to do it all.

Fortunately, she noted Barbados had an enabling political environment, a Government that valued its people and that was committed to the development of children. To this end, she added that the state invested heavily in health and education with Government spending 4.4 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on health and 6.67 per cent on education.

??The Acting Chief Public Health Nurse said that the scale of the challenges facing families, coupled with resource issues, demanded that the empowerment of families became imperative.

Mrs. Casey emphasised the need for a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach involving stakeholders comprising the family, community, Government and non-governmental organisations.

"The goal of empowerment is to assist families towards greater self-reliance and independence, enabling them to make effective, informed choices while, at the same time, taking responsibility for their actions and the choices that they make. Now how can we achieve this?

"We must put the family at the centre of all activities. We must remember that families already have strengths and strategies for their survival. They have a wealth of knowledge about their own families and communities. The days are long gone where families were perceived by some as passive recipients of care," Mrs. Casey asserted.


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