EDITORIAL: Devaluing parental duty
THE DREAMS AND JOYS of parenting – birth, cuddling children and otherwise raising them – may be turning into nightmares for some Bajan women and their offspring.
For like a CD machine stuck on replay, the sad tales of poor parents, especially mothers, unable to support their children, are being published like a recurring decimal that’s tugging at our heartstrings while raising a fundamental question: is parental responsibility being devalued in our country?
Answer: a mix of poverty, unemployment, indifference and irresponsibility may be the root causes of the unfolding tragedy. It raises this question: is the responsibility of some individual parents being outsourced to the broader society?
Just the other day Sangene Broomes, a 38-year-old mother of a dozen kids, outlined to this paper the details of her depressing economic and social conditions – life in a dilapidated house in St Lucy; no access to utilities; a glaring lack of steady employment; and partial family support for some of her children – that led to her appeal for a helping hand.
About a month earlier, Kaliah Foster, a 34-year-old former student of the University of the West Indies, also sought assistance for her five-month-old daughter, whose absent father is back in his native Nigeria and isn’t supporting the baby. The mother of five was straightforward in outlining her needs.
“I want to (put) a roof over their heads,” Foster, a mother of four other children, said in an appeal for such “basic things like clothes, pampers, food, stroller and a crib”.
Clearly, as a country we have a responsibility to ensure that our youngsters don’t go hungry or have to, endure the awful consequences of nakedness or have to bear up under the absence of affordable housing.
Government-funded agencies such as the Barbados Child Care Board and the Social Welfare Department and the work of private voluntary organisations are already doing much of that, preventing many of the awful outcomes from becoming a reality. Clearly, more can and must be done to help the poor. The church has a role in this. That goal can be achieved by agencies having a greater presence in our villages and neighbourhoods. That means more government and private resources being allocated for child development.
However, there is the matter of the personal responsibility of mothers and fathers that begin with families having only those children they know they can support. It’s called “planned parenthood” and that’s where the Barbados Family Planning Association, which has done an excellent job over the decades, earns its keep. We must also guard against any manipulation of our generous impulses by unscrupulous individuals.
The hard truth is that our country has changed significantly in recent years, so much so that we have lost much of the essence of an African maxim: it takes a village to raise a child.