The current COVID-19 crisis in this country is forcing parents to make hard decisions on childcare, and the State’s child protective services and bodies must be mindful of this harsh reality.

That’s the assessment of Folade Mutota, Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), who is making a special appeal to the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (Children’s Authority) to handle any upcoming cases with extra sensitivity and compassion.

Folade Mutota also is advising the Children’s Authority—and by extension, the Government—to have a proper operational response plan to deal with children’s issues arising from the crisis.

The full text of WINAD’S statement on the matter, follows…

COVID-19 PARENTING CHALLENGES:
CALLING ON THE CHILDREN’S AUTHORITY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

In the words of Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, “these are not normal times and we must act differently”.

In these not normal times, the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) calls upon the Children’s Authority of Trinidad & Tobago to be mindful of the hard childcare decisions many parents will be required to make in this time of COVID-19 restrictions and social isolation.

In light of this, please conduct your business not with the heavy hand of the law, but with a spirit of understanding that childcare options are severely restricted at this time.

At this time of COVID-19 restrictions, parents are forced to grapple with multiple challenges specific to the care and wellbeing of their children. These challenges include the fact that schools remain closed for an indefinite time, dropping children off at friends and family is not an option, taking children to work is out of the question, and having them accompany you as you undertake mundane tasks such as grocery shopping, may lead to them being denied access to some establishments.

WINAD calls upon the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago to consider the case of essential workers, particularly those who are single parents, and other single parents with limited or no support.

Whilst not recommending that the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago abandon its mandate to protect our nation’s children, WINAD is however asking the Authority to carefully take the time to develop a COVID- 19 operational response, steeped in the reality of our current national situation. Quite simply, at this time, our usual childcare possibilities are not available to many parents.

Very importantly, most parents are not leaving children at home to attend COVID-19 parties, or to be a part of other forms of leisure and entertainment. Therefore protocols that remain committed to the removal of children from the home if they are thought to be ‘un-supervised’ are just another source of anxiety and stress for wide cross sections of our population, including some of our essential personnel.

We must work out childcare alternatives at this time that protect children and support parents.

WINAD urges the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago to partner with civil society and other government agencies to create safer communities for our children. Our first response must not be the uncompromising hand of the law. Let us use the opportunity presented by COVID-19 to frame a response grounded in childcare, and not one committed to the punishment of parents.