Commissioner of Education and Welfare in the opening address at the first conference on child abuse held on St. Eustatius on Thursday June 14th asked organizers and participants “Why is the village looking the other way on child abuse?” The well attended one day conference organized by the Centre for Youth & Family and the Expertise Centre with the support of the Dutch Youth Institute brought a full house of representatives from a wide range of social, education and law enforcement organizations on Statia together under the theme “ Child Abuse: Doing nothing is not an option”.
Commissioner Schmidt commended organizers for taking this first step in the right direction. He elaborated on the importance of addressing the child abuse because in his view it affects the future of St. Eustatius; “We like to say “it takes a village to raise a child” but where child abuse is concerned we must ask why is the village looking the other way; why are we turning a blind eye to the problem; why are we sometimes not bothered; why are there no policies in place to readily deal with the consequences of this abuse; why is there no structure system victims and their loved ones can turn to?” The Commissioner further elaborated, “ Child abuse is important because it affects our community; every new case stops the community in it’s tracks’ every new case revealed or exposed causes hearts to either beat faster or skip a beat, causes someone to hold their breath; every case demands attention from school management, social worker, police and prosecutor, and more. That is in the immediate. On the longer term this system of abuse can cost a lot more in lost production, lost input, lost revenue and resources and even lost futures”.
The conference highlighted the definition of child abuse; it’s meaning and possible consequences for the children, parents and society at large. When asked to give comment on the success of the conference here is what Sandra Voorneman, coordinator of the Centre of Youth and Family on St. Eustatius, had to say. “The conference was well attended and I believe it to have been a success. The reason for this conclusion was the wide range of stakeholders from various departments present. The Department of Welfare, Public Health, Education, Police, Court of Guardianship, Expertise Centre, clergy and the elementary and secondary schools on the island, were all present”. Voorneman went on to say that she was especially happy that Commissioner of Welfare Glenn Schmidt did not only deliver the opening speech but also took an active part in the conference and participated for its entire duration.
The Centre for Youth and Family Coordinator further explained that child abuse is not common only to St. Eustatius and that it is a very delicate topic. She is however convinced that everyone present at the conference recognized this. “We were able to discuss this delicate matter in a very active and positive way. I think what is important is raising the level of awareness on child abuse, recognizing that it is not only physical but can also be emotional and the effect it can have on a child’s development”, Voorneman said. Similar conferences are tentatively scheduled to be held on Saba on June 20th and on Bonaire June 27th. The one day conference was led by Stan van Haaren of the Dutch Youth institute.