20 August, 2009


Why parents must be held more accountable and responsible. I was talking to the unmarried father of an 8 year old boy recently. He has a problem with the mother of his child. Every time he brings the child back to the mother after he has spent the weekend with him, the mother locks the child out of the house. She refuses to let him back in the house until he cries and begs to her satisfaction. She screams abuse at the child constantly. He has tried to get the Department of Social Development to help him, but there is nothing they can do under our present legal system. There is nothing the police or the court can do. There is no legal remedy. The mother has all the ‘rights’ and the father only has ‘obligations’. His concern is that the lack of love and affection is going to turn his child into a criminal one of these days. He is so right.

The present serious juvenile crime situation in Anguilla is a social phenomenon, not entirely susceptible to legal solutions. Only the parents can solve the nub or nut of the problem. The sad thing is that so many of our parents are themselves the product of broken and abusive homes. All they can do is to repeat the cycle of domestic abuse and neglect. It is human nature to do so. It is also an aspect of culture and education. When so many mothers and fathers have been educated to bring up anti-social children, why are we surprised when they so often succeed?

That is why some social reformers advocate holding parents responsible. We need to put more pressure on parents to perform their parenting role. It should be backed up with educational programmes on how to be a good father and good mother. It always amazes me how many parents do not begin to understand how destructive their example and behaviour is. Then, when we point the finger at them, they respond by saying it is unfair. No, it is not unfair.

If a mother or father persistently permits their child to be a truant from school, that ought to be a crime on the part of the parent.

If a mother or father persistently permits their child to mix with gangsters, that ought to be a crime on the part of the parent.

If a mother or father persistently permits their child to bear arms and offensive weapons in the home, that ought to be a crime on the part of the parent.

The object is not to punish the parent. The object is to convince the parent that he or she needs to do more to monitor and supervise the behaviour and acquaintances of their child.

The result will not be a flooding of our jail with delinquent parents. The Magistrate will make an example of one or two, and suddenly attitudes will change.

It is not the fine or the jail that is the wake up call. It is being brought before the court and named and shamed that is the effective part of prosecuting a social crime. We have to face reality as a society and take active steps to break the cycle of child abuse and negligent parenting.

Of course, if we were rich like the Americans or the British, we could try doing like them and throwing lots of money at the problem. I don't see that working for them, and we certainly can’t make that a solution here.

Just my thoughts, while I thank God every day that I am not a parent myself.


  1. Waiting until the child is old enough to skip school & tote weapons around the house is too late. Unfortunately, the "system" is teaching a lot of young women that having a baby ensures income from the father, so the mother doesn't have to work, other than at having kids by as many fathers as possible. The "fathers" use this as an excuse to bow out of their responsibilities and deny parentage or just refuse to pay support, daring the system to come after them. Of course, the children realize early on that this is going on & deduce that no one cares, or loves them, and this is how the "game" is played, so the cycle goes on and on and on. Violence will get worse, that is the guarantee.

  2. Look up Geoffrey Canada (there's an excellent book called Whatever It Takes written by Paul Tough). Mr. Canada has created "The Harlem Children's Zone, a 97 block laboratory in Central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle class peers, you need to change everything in their lives - their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child rearing practices of their parents."
    The Children's Zone has many facets starting with "Baby College" which instills parenting skills in pregnant mothers and keeps the children in a "safety net" until the child is ready for college. Mr. Canada does not give up on any child and works harder (and expects more from his staff) to deal with the "problem children" as well as their families, many of who constitute one parent taking care of multiple children, in order for everyone to succeed.
    Little Anguilla could implement such a programme at a low cost and could be a shining example of how to get out of the mess we, and many other islands, are facing with our "troubled" youth.

    I encourage everyone to read the book, websites and watch the videos available about this amazing programme and to take a piece of it away with you as you look at this problem.

    Here is an appropriate poem, written by Geoffrey Canada...

    Don’t Blame Me

    The girl’s mother said, “Don’t blame me.
    Her father left when she was three.
    I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,
    But I am poor and work hard you see.”
    You know the story, it’s don’t blame me.

    The teacher shook her head and said,
    “Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.
    He’s ten, but if the truth be told,
    He reads like he was six years old.
    And math, don’t ask.
    It’s sad you see.
    Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.
    Blame the mom, blame society, blame the system.
    Just don’t blame me.”

    The judge was angry, his expression cold.
    He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.
    Break the law again and you’ll do time.
    You’ve robbed with a gun.
    Have you lost your mind?”
    The young man opened his mouth to beg.
    “Save your breath,” he heard instead.
    “Your daddy left when you were two.
    Your momma didn’t take care of you.
    Your school prepared you for this fall.
    Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.
    But you did the crime for all to see.
    You’re going to jail, son.
    Don’t blame me.”

    If there is a God or a person supreme,
    A final reckoning, for the kind and the mean,
    And judgment is rendered on who passed the buck,
    Who blamed the victim or proudly stood up,
    You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,
    I did not let these children fall.
    By the thousands I helped all I could see.
    No excuses, I took full responsibility.
    No matter if they were black or white,
    Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,
    Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,
    I did my best to save them all.”
    And I will bear witness for eternity
    That you can state proudly,
    “Don’t blame me.”

    ‐ By Geoffrey Canada 
            February 2007

  3. Do you think that Anguilla has the strength of mind & purpose to change society? That is what it will take. This is a problem world-wide, not just in our little Anguilla.

    First, you have to admit that there is a problem.

    Second, you have to resolve to change--to make a drastic turn in direction (that is what repentance truly means)

    Third, you have to "stick to your guns" when the going gets rough--and it will.

    In current political (& societal) climate, can it happen?

  4. 80% of Anguillian children were straight A calibre, until the Governor and his pet Parliamentary Secretary for Education ruined an almost perfect education system, just like they have ruined everything else in Anguilla.

    It is a conspiracy. No education system could go from being so good to being so bad, unless it was willfully destroyed!

    Destroy the education system, destroy the children, destroy the Nation. It was all a big conspiracy and it has succeeded!

    I blame the British and David!

    ~ Conpiracy Theorist ~

  5. I wish that parents did not get all the blame for the criminal behaviour of children or young adults. Society as a whole needs to be looked at as a part of the cause. We seem to have deteriorated since all the development on our small island began. Youngsters as well as adults live everyday seeing Anguilla change for the worse. They see developers when they come to Anguilla paying expats huge sums of money for jobs which we can do but they do not pay us or want us the same. The youngsters hear the same stories about expats being allowed to work here some without work permits, getting all living expenses paid, vehicles food rent electric water etc, etc. The youngsters see that the developers apparently can do no wrong and the Anguillan Government never punish them for any wrongdoings.
    Our young people learn from what they see and hear whether it be in the home, school or outside
    in our country. Some of us are struggling and our children see and hear it whilst the expats have the good life and can do no wrong in the eyes of our government. Unfortunately i feel that the developers are calling the tune and we must show all Anguillians young and old that this must not continue or we will lose our country as we are losing our youngsters.
    We must examine if any of these developers have done any good for Anguilla and prove to our youngsters that we really do have their concerns in our hearts, tell them they are Anguilla now and in the future they will be our leaders.

  6. Don:
    I was shock when I read this post. I have forwarded it to the Minister of Social Services asking him to look into it. I appreciate your efforts in raising awareness of this issue. I also would like to encourage you to go the next step and not just raise awareness but avocate for a legal remedy to this situation. With you training and background I believe you can help. What is the process for getting a legal remedy?


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