Child Care Solutions for Trinidad and Tobago

20 Jan

Mother walking with child

The Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT)   joined the rest of the world in observing Universal Children’s Day on November 20th 2012, a day when we pause to reflect on the welfare of children around the world.  In May 2012 then National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy shocked many persons when he disclosed that between 2007 and 2011 (171) children were murdered and there were (507) cases of indecent assault and (6,703) overall serious crimes against children.  Against this background of growing crime in Trinidad and Tobago, there continues to be significant changes in modern family life.  Extended families are being replaced by nuclear families or just single parent households. We now have longer working hours and more women are entering the work force.

Often young children are left in unsupervised, inadequately staffed or unsafe child care facilities.  We see more latchkey children walking the streets alone.  Many children return from school to an empty home because their parent or parents are away at work, or are often left at home with little or no parental supervision.  Besides the obvious risks to the safety of these children, parents can be held accountable by child welfare organizations or law enforcement if children come to harm while left without proper supervision. Under the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Trinidad and Tobago has acceded, each State has a duty to maximise the survival and healthy development of each child under its jurisdiction.  Article 6 of the CRC provides that States Parties recognise that every child has the inherent right to life and States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

AFETT explored the need for proper child care solutions in Trinidad and Tobago in its November 2012 White Paper. It notes the murder of eight-year-old Leah Lammy in February 2009 which put a harsh spotlight and reality check on the lack of childcare solutions for working parents in modern Trinidad and Tobago. Leah was told to taxi home alone from school because her parents would not be able to collect her. What if Leah’s parents, both of whom were working on that fateful day, had access to a safe and reliable means of transport to collect their daughter from school? Or that their employers allowed at least one parent time off with pay to pick her up from school, and bring her back to an onsite company childcare facility or a registered childcare facility close to work or home? In either of these scenarios, it is quite likely the outcome would have been dramatically different. In the absence of safe, affordable and structured childcare facilities, working parents are hard-pressed to find solutions to their child care issues.

AFETT is pleased to note the recent advances in Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the protection of children.  These include the creation for the first time a Ministry solely dedicated to gender and child issues in July 2011 and the extension of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 13 weeks in 2012.  The 2012/2013 budget presentation also promised the promotion of day care centres, the full implementation of the Children’s Authority Act and the Children’s Act, and the implementation of gender-based budgeting throughout the public service.

Child care policies can cover a variety of options.  AFETT’s White Paper recommends that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago:

1)    As the largest employer should demonstrate leadership by implementing employment policies such as flexi-time / staggered hours, telecommuting, compressed work weeks, part-time / career breaks, job sharing, extended paternity leave, extended maternity leave with pay;

2)    Provide incentives such as tax breaks and grants for organizations that implement the initiatives above and demonstrate cost savings / productivity enhancements;

3)    Provision of child care assistance either in the form of tax breaks/credits or grants to low income families, particularly for children 3 months to 5 years old;

4)    Provision of tax breaks/credits or grants to companies who are unable to construct a child care facility and would like to create partnerships with existing facilities to subsidize their operational costs;

5)    Subsidize the cost of child care for their employees through BIK or allowances; and

6)    Provide a safe, reliable and subsidized public school transport system

AFETT is at the forefront of lobbying the Government and Private sector to implement family friendly policies in the workplace. Why? Because we can no longer afford not to.  The time to act is NOW.  AFETT invites you to participate in our upcoming national survey to help us make Child Care Solutions in Trinidad and Tobago a reality by emailing us at to advise of your interest.  On behalf of the children of Trinidad and Tobago and their working parents, we thank you for your support.


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