Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson and State Secretaries Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs and Labor, and Raymond Knops of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 signed an agreement for the BES(t) 4 Kids, a program to strengthen the day care and after school care facilities on the island.
The BES(t) 4 Kids program, which started on January 1, 2019, is also for the other two Public Entities St. Eustatius and Bonaire. The program will offer the children in the Caribbean Netherlands more perspective, make the day care and after school facilities (financially) affordable for all parents so they are able to work.
The BES(t) 4 Kids program is a joint effort of the three Public Entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and three ministries, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW), the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports (VWS) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). The Dutch Government bears the costs of the program which runs from 2019 to 2022.
It is the ambition of the partners in this program to have high-quality, safe and affordable day care and after school care in place by 2022 for all children from ages 0 to 12+. The development of the child plays a central role, as well as ensuring a good connection with education and a useful way to spend free time. Parents should be able to work without having to worry about their children. Special needs children will be accommodated.
A joint vision was developed which states that “Sustainable high-quality care and education will be established for all children in the Caribbean Netherlands, by persons who are trained and qualified and understand the needs of all children, in a safe and caring environment, and in good cooperation with all stakeholders.”
Commissioner Rolando Wilson stated at a press briefing where the agreement was signed with State Secretaries Van Ark and Knops that when he became a Commissioner in 2016, he was determined to make things better at the day care and to solve the problems for personnel, the children and their parents. He said he was very happy with the signing of this agreement and the fact that the program can now be executed on Saba, strengthening what is already in place locally.
The benefits of the BES(t) 4 Kids program once implemented will be multiple, Wilson explained. Caregivers at the day care and after school care will be given training and quality programs will be introduced. Parents that cannot afford the fees will be able to send their children to day care and after school care. Day care and after school care will not be free, but on the basis of a social-economic indication, parents may make use of cost-reduction subsidies while they only have to pay a small contribution for their child.
Also, parents will be able to benefit from parenting workshops, lectures and other activities to improve their parenting skills, while children will be able to take part in more activities that are organized by organizations. “I strongly believe that the BES(t) 4 Kids will be beneficial to all involved. My compliments go out to all stakeholders. I want to especially thank the Ministries of SZW, VWS and OCW for their support. It is about working together and achieving together,” said Wilson, who assured that the Public Entity Saba would do its part.
“Wherever you live, it is important that every child can develop, grow up in good and safe surroundings, get good child care and grow up healthy,” said State Secretary Van Ark. “That is why it is so important that we invest in this. We all need to work together, join forces to invest in day care and after school care, invest in all children,” she added. The State Secretary emphasized that this was a very special program and that it was not a blue print or a dictated agreement. “We shared ideas and plans. Together we are making a great effort to improve things for all children.” The State Secretary said Saba served as an example in this.
The BES(t) 4 Kids is catered to the situation in the Caribbean Netherlands: the program was drafted together with the stakeholders. The Public Entities and the Dutch Government are responsible for the execution of their own plans of approach. The Dutch Government is making additional funds available so the Public Entities can carry out the program.
Further content to the multi-annual BES(t) 4 Kids program will be given in 2019 whereby the Public Entities will be able to continue their current policy in this area and the first steps are taken to strengthen day care and after school care.
State Secretary Van Ark visited the day care building in The Bottom on Tuesday morning. She received a tour by Day Care Coordinator Tessa Samuel-Alexander. The day care facilitates 54 children in two locations. There is a waiting list of about 20 children. The day care currently has a staff of 10, but more people are needed. The building in The Bottom, the former Governor’s Mansion, is being renovated. Work started in November 2018 and is progressing quickly, said Samuel-Alexander.