New plans underway to improve Child protection on Sint Maarten
Philipsburg, the Honourable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson, held a virtual meeting with various stakeholders from within the ministry as well as representatives from external agencies.
The meeting?s purpose was to address a growing concern within the community and the relevant stakeholders regarding child protection in general and specifically the Alternative Care System (foster care system), which has changed drastically over the last three years. Since then, there has been a decrease in the number of Alternative Care Homes (Foster Homes) currently in operation on the island. With the sudden closure of two of the three local Alternative Care Homes, the need for more housing within the Alternative Care System is an especially pressing matter. Compounding on the issues mentioned above, it was also brought to light that specialized care facilities need to be established for girls and minors with disabilities.
All stakeholders were able to express their professional recommendations based on their organization's findings, assessments, and experience thus far concerning this critical topic. Having this meeting was very fruitful. It gave direct insight and fueled a conversation that has been needed for some time now between these stakeholders who play a crucial role within the childcare system and the Ministry of Justice. To the minister's delight, all of the stakeholder's points echoed her sentiments and vision concerning the protection of the children within our society, and the reinforcement of the law, which safeguards the ?Rights of the Child?. All participants of the meeting agreed to the need for the establishment of a new Alternative Care Facility in accordance with the minimum standards for children homes to be staffed with the appropriately trained personnel. Additionally, a review of the support to Alternative Care Parents (foster parents) needs to be conducted and adjusted according to recommendations to better support Alternative Care Families who play a crucial role in providing Alternative Care Children a safe home. Minister Richardson emphasized the Ministry?s commitment to the representatives of the initiative to move forward. A
solid action plan will be established, one that will improve the effectiveness of the Alternative Care System, as part of the broader vision of strengthening the child protection system on Sint Maarten and will ultimately ensure the success of every child it serves.
The minister would like to thank all stakeholders that took part in this meeting. Even though our island is currently experiencing a turbulent time, she is proud to see that the people of Sint Maarten are still forging ahead, tackling and addressing relevant issues within our community. A follow-up meeting has already been scheduled for Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020. In the interim, all parties will share relevant information and documentation with the Minister of Justice to aid as a base to get the project underway. We are #SXMStrong
The stakeholders in question were namely;
Within Justice Acting Heads;
Foundation Judicial Institutes Sint Maarten (SJIB); Cynthia Filemon, and
Court of Guardianship; Kimberly Brown
UNICEF NL; Suzette Moses-Burton (Child Rights Specialist), and
Sint Maarten Development Fund; Makhicia Brooks (Managing Director).