The Daily Herald reports that the Court of Guardianship held an open house Friday, in cooperation with Body, Mind and Spirit Foundation (BMSF) and Youth and Family Centre.
In her welcoming remarks, Anastasia Simmons reminded her audience about the universal Children’s Rights Day observed November 20, and of Saba’s delegation to the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Youth Fund of the Netherlands Antilles JENA in Curaçao. Several community-based organisations working with youth sponsored the trip and the children were happy to tell about their experiences there.
Acting Island Governor Franklin Wilson addressed the few gathered parents and children, stressing that while the children’s rights are not taken lightly, it was a fairly recent struggle to get these internationally recognised and work is still needed in creating awareness and monitoring their protection. He said the local government is championing the rights of the child and marked attempts to combat child abuse and neglect. The Saba government seeks to ensure that all children go to school and have a proper living environment, as well as adequate nutrition, Wilson said.
The manager of BMSF spoke about the various anti- bullying efforts promoted by the organisation, which has broadened its mission to encompass not just issues related to the child’s healthy development, puberty, reproductive health and teenage pregnancy, but also their behaviour in exposing them to health risks. These include anti-addiction campaigns and motivational programmes for an active and balanced healthy lifestyle.
Youth and Family Centre’s director Ankie Blank mentioned the importance of structural development within the family and gave tips to parents on how to set-up healthy routines and encouraged them to visit the centre. She said children need “house rules,” have to show respect in communicating with others and have limited television-time each day.
Simmons mentioned several changes within the Court of Guardianship, such as its relocation to a new office in The Bottom. The Court of Guardianship, also known as the Office for the Welfare of the Child, introduced a US $28 fee anytime the office is tasked to complete research or make requests to a judge. The fees are to be paid to the court recorder and are applicable to cases of divorce involving custody of children, child allowance and adoption, changing of a child’s name or requests for guardianship. “Another area that is being strongly looked into on a criminal basis is sexual abuse of minors,” said Simmons. She added that this includes “sexual abuse relating to human trafficking of young children, boys and girls,” as well as “the relationship of the minor with an adult person.” Local authorities are investigating if the family “is using the child to create a dependency of a minor towards parent or an adult man or woman as lover,” she said.
Authorities are also looking into cases in which parents are having “financial gain by permitting a minor to be involved with an adult, and if they are paying close attention to these relationships of the youth up to age 17.” Simmons is tasked to look into cases involving parents that allow minors “to often go, stay or be around an adult male or female’s home” in exchange for a certain gain for the parents. This, she indicated, involves the child abuser taking care of bills for the parents. “These parents will be punished just as harshly as the person that is committing the sexual abuse,” said Simmons.
She also spoke about visitation rights and parents’ responsibility to observe set dates. If these dates are not respected the presumption is that of the adult breaking the law. She warned parents to be aware of the consequences of their actions.
Many children from The Bottom later joined the plentiful buffet while BMSF set-up anti-bullying cartoons for the youth to enjoy.