MONDAY MAN: Job No.1 is children
VETERAN SOCIAL WORKER Colin St Hill believes many Barbadians take the role the Child Care Board (CCB) plays for granted.
St Hill, who has worked with the agency for 23 years, understands fully just how the job he does makes a difference in the lives of many families.
“Sometimes we take a lot for granted in Barbados,”?he said. “It is only sometimes when we travel that we can see what we have. People may ask how useful is the CCB to Barbados’ society, but then I have to ask how many children do you see sleeping on the streets of Barbados. That gives you an idea of what we do and the impact we are making.”
St Hill held the post of child abuse coordinator until the beginning of this year when he became residential coordinator at the board, which he credits with cushioning the impact of poverty and homelessness on children.
He recalled that as a teenager he counselled and advised his classmates not to get into trouble, not to fight, to study – and therefore his seeking employment in social work, especially with children, was “just natural”.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and a diploma in management, he went to Jamaica to complete the certificate in social work course before pursuing his master’s in international child welfare in England.
That fully prepared him to immerse himself into his work where he helps children and their families both directly and indirectly. He recalled that one of the most interesting experiences he had on the job led to the formation of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA). He said many men coming into contact with the CCB were encountering issues related to involvement with their children and they would blame the CCB and the court system because they figured not enough was being done to help them.
Through a forum St Hill organized, MESA was formed. “I felt there was this need for men to really share their experiences, rather than speaking on the individual level [and] also to come up with systems and ways and means by which they can be more involved in their children’s lives.”
He added it was a good feeling knowing that he could make a difference daily.
“Sometimes you pass the road and you do not remember someone but they come up to you and say ‘thank you’. Doing this job has taught me to treat everyone with respect. No matter where they come from, how poor they are, how they dress . . . we must treat them in a way that they keep their dignity intact.”
St Hill said children were often caught in the middle of the breakdown of father and mother relationships.
“That is a concern because we find that parents do not fully understand the impact that their behaviour is having on their children which is really long term,”?he said. “So when you have a child in the middle of the cursing and telling the child bad things about the other and questioning them, it places a lot of emotional stress on the child. I am concerned about that.”
St Hill said the society had managed to maintain a decent standard as it related to the care of the children. However, he was worried about the level of neglect and the lack of supervision at times for some very young children.
He said the CCB had several programmes in place which acted as safety nets for the children in such cases. They include a child abuse programme, school education sessions embracing child abuse awarenesss, and a foster care and adoption programme.
On foster care and adoption, he said the board was always looking for people and would welcome more coming forward.
St Hill said his job was a joy and he also worked closely with a number of organizations, including PAREDOS and the Barbados Family Planning Association.
He is a part-time tutor at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic in the child care and nursery management programme, and also works with men on domestic violence and parenting.