Caring for our kids

| 01/11/2011

Holidays can prove challenging for parents, particularly those with work commitments and limited vacation days.  A lack of school environment means they have to find alternative child care, so that they can continue to work, while simultaneously know that their children are safe.  I get it – I am a parent. 

I am fortunate because I am able to afford summer camps and my son has many friends whose parents I can turn to when camp finishes.  Others have less disposable money for such services but are blessed with supportive families and friends … there are always ways and there are always solutions if you look hard enough for them.

Having opened with the problem, I feel compelled to highlight what I consider to NOT be an option.  Neglect, essentially.  This week I found a 7 year old boy in the kitchen at work.  He was parked in front of the TV watching Cartoon Network.  Employees were carrying on as normal, basically ignoring him.  I noticed his arms pulled into his t-shirt and engaged in a conversation, asking if he was cold.  He was.  I found a snuggly chair for him to curl up in and headed to HR to find a t-shirt he could put on over his own clothes.   I asked if he was hungry – he was.  No food or drink had been left for him.  Did he know whether his father was coming for him? He said he was but didn’t know when.  This is a parent who decided that leaving his child in the kitchen all day with nothing to do, eat or drink, nor warm clothes to protect his skinny little frame from the frigid a/c was ok.

I asked if he knew where his father sat so he could go to him if he needed him – he did not.  So I set about printing off dot-to-dots, mazes, pictures to colour, found a stack of paper, and coloured pens.  I gathered my own snacks – an apple, some cheese and crackers and poured him a glass of water.  I checked that he knew where the bathroom was and showed him where I sat if he needed anything.  The child never smiled, barely spoke above a whisper, but ate his apple, andgot busy drawing some very creative pictures.

His father eventually took him out to lunch at 1:30pm, having failed to check on him once over the course of the morning. 

I have talked to staff in the George Town library who commented that they hate seeing kids dropped off and left for the entire day with not enough food or drink, only to be picked up at the end of the day.  Children need more than to just be in a safe environment (under the watchful eye of people who are not employed to watch them).  They need stimulation (and no the Cartoon Network and Nintendo DS do not count), they need conversation, regular feeding with healthy food and water, exercise and care.

I believe that this little boy’s father failed him today – a little thought and no extra cost would have meant that this boy had food, drink, a sense of security that he could find his Dad, warmth, brain stimulating entertainment and a notion that his Dad COULD be bothered to make the effort, even if he couldn’t sit with him. 

From a community perspective, I was equally perturbed that so many people walked past without so much as acknowledging this little boy or checking that he was OK.  I believe in community.  When we find ourselves lacking parenting skills, the community can pick up the slack, to show the neglected or loved but poorly parented children that someone cares, wants to help and takes an interest in them.  Each one of us can set an example to a child, which may inspire him or her to make decisions on what or who they want to be as they grow up.  With no role models, what does their future hold?

I am not a perfect parent, I don’t pretend to be, but I do know that kids are our responsibility to nurture, guide and raise, so that they have a strong foundation onto which to develop and build their character, ethics and future.  We must listen to them, answer their wide-eyed questions, explain why some things are right and others are wrong, be consistent in our teachings and help them to learn that choices lead to consequences – and that we should all be accountable for the decisions that we make.

It costs nothing to care, nor to lead by example, nor to talk to a child and really listen to what they have to say.  But with our youth turning to crime in the most alarming way, surely it is the very least contribution we could make to our society … and costs not a dime.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Next time call child and family services.  I am sure they will be happy to assist next time Soapbox Sally.  If these things continue to be unreported then nothing can be resolved.  They need to be told that things like this are happening.

  2. Anonymous says:

    One of the biggest problems in this country is the blaming mentality people use to avoid personal responsiblity.

    This trend extends in all areas but it is most damaging in parenting or lack thereof.

    All the people who write in to enable parents who do not live up to their responsiblity to care for their children are also part of the problem.

    In many jurisdictions parents who are found to be unable to properly attend to the needs of their children have those children taken out of the home. The most common example of this action taken are with parents who are addicted to alcohol or drugs and have young children living in an environment of neglect removed.

    Another danger of lack of parenting a child in an environment devoid of love creates a child who does not love or care about themselves or others. A child without feelings of love and caring are able to become devoid of feelings toward others and are ripe to become dangerously violent toward others.

    Look at the number of violent young people in the society here. Does anyone wonder how or why such violence is found here? Is it genetic or is it the parenting? A study of these violent young people and their backgrounds and home life will be telling.

    Keep denying negative homelife in some of the families and continue to get the consequences.

    • Libertarian says:

      "One of the biggest problems in this country is the blaming mentality people use to avoid personal responsiblity."  I agree that parents need to be held responsible for the upbringing of their children.

      However, I am afraid that our education, immigration, and labor-commercial systems, and all other major systems of our society, plays an important role in that upbringing. Hence, my friend, responsibility must work both ways. Ever heard it said, it takes a community to raise children?  

      • Anonymous says:

        How is it that only a portion of the young people are suffering from this lack in the government services toward the raising of the children of the country?

        With parents taking their responsiblities seriously the children have a good chance in developing into positive members of society with good sets of values regardless of the faults of government.

        But if the parents are irresponsible toward the raising of their children then all other aspects of your village will have a difficult if not impossible mission in instilling positive values into the children.

        Why didn't you blame the teachers as well for not raising the children properly? What about the role of church in molding the values of young people? A family with close ties to the church and who give love and attention to their children in parenting will likely be successful regardless of the other groups to whom you would prefer to shift the blame.

        Instead of libertarian you should just call yourself liberal.


        • Libertarian says:

          Again, not disagreeing with you on personal responsibility. Just that we have to be cognizant of the fact that the rest of the community; especially, those in leadership responsibilities, plays an important role in the upbringing of our children. Wouldn't you agree?

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree that extended relationships impact the development of children including school and government programs but by far the most prominent impact of childrens development is from the parents and that cannot be ignored especially if drugs and alcohol are a problem within the family.

            One of the hallmarks of Cayman society is to keep the family secrets within the family when this family is dysfunctional the children suffer and ignoring the problem as has been tried in the past has proven not to work. Some people are not capable to be parents and neglecting or abusing children is not a right of a parent.

            If the parents are let off the hook as you seem to believe they will continue to abuse and or neglect children at the peril of our society.

            I apologize for the liberal cheap shot, I was raised in such an alcoholic environment and only the love of a great aunt kept me from turning destructive, other family members were not so lucky, thus my passion about this issue.

            • Libertarian says:

              "I agree that extended relationships impact the development of children including school and government programs but by far the most prominent impact of childrens development is from the parents and that cannot be ignored especially if drugs and alcohol are a problem within the family."

              Well there you go – we pretty much agree on the same thing.

    • Uhmmm says:

      I do not like it when a drug addicted parent  is allowed to assert any influence over a child.  I think the way around it is to provide the laws a more strict way to ensure that if a parent of a child has proven drug abuse they are not allowed custody over any child unless they go through a very strict and difficult process to prove that they are no longer addicted to drugs.  I think the process should also include parenting classes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We all know we live in a world where parenting just isnt' what it used to be for one reason or another. This is not just happening in Cayman, this is taking place everywhere.

    Unfortunately, the problem continues to grow because parents are not held responsible for their actions or lack thereof, so they do not suffer any consequences.

    Examples need to be made where parents have to pay when their children committ a crime and parents are put in jail for child abuse or neglect.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry Soapbox Sally but I'm not as mortified about this as I am about the 2 yr old walking around my neighborhood while the mother is in bed sleeping.  Have you ever wondered what happens to those children whose mothers and fathers are out drinking at night and have drug and alcohol abuse problems?  Well, let me tell you that those children are fending for themselves in the kitchen in the mornings trying to get food.  If they are lucky there is actually food in the house.  The older siblings and I mean like 1-2 years older are changing the diapers of the younger children while the mother sleeps.

    That man is lucky that he can even take his child to work.  Most employers won't even allow that.  I know that I can't take my children to work with me because even though my boss has a child, she doesn't like children at work.  My other boss didn't mind and she didn't have children.  Go figures.   

    I think it takes a village to raise a child but at the same time, we are assisting those bad mothers and fathers by taking care of their children for them while they are out partying and having a good time.  There is nothing wrong with having a good time but if you can go out and party, you should be able to get yourself out of bed the next morning and tend to your child.  I can understand if it's a teenager but not a young child.

    I wonder if in this instance this person was not used to taking the child to work not that it is an excuse but not having it as part of a normal routine, sometimes people don't think straight.  I agree with another poster that it sounds like a problem with Time Management.  I don't like to label parents as bad in a case like this which may be an one off thing of someone not managing their time correctly and having to take a child to work at the last minute because other plans fell through.  However, someone that does this on a consistent basis would really bother me.

    • Soapbox Sally says:

      Oh believe me, what I express above is the thin end of the wedge, on the subject of neglectful parenting…..and my despair at witnessing it only increases with each act of wilful neglect and abuse.  But what starts with basic thoughtlessness can easily evolve to just leaving the kids to fend for themselves on occassion, and then to regular absence like the one described by "Neighbour".


      I could have cried when I watched a little boy, around 18 months at Camana Bay get heavily body slammed by a bigger child who was charging at full speed without looking where she was going.  Both children went flying and the baby cried.  The mother, who was grossly overweight, failed to get out of chair to see whether her baby was injured  and a very resentful and angry faced child (around 7 or 8) eventually stomped over and roughly hauled the baby by his arm to the mother.  No cuddles, no sympathy, no checking for injuries, no caring.


      The 7-8 yearold can hardly be blamed for being resentful, she didn't ask to be a parent to a baby so soon.  The mother was grossly overweight, and may be physically impaired as a result. Even if I stretch to my most generous and say that perhaps she couldn't get to him quickly….she could have vocally expressed some concern or sympathy and pulled him onto her lap for a cuddle and comfort or demonstrated caring in some way.  There are many kind loving, physically impaired excellent parents around.  Her disability is no excuse for her coldness.


      This leads me to an interesting observation….we talk about the problem of teenaged parenting – inexperienced kids raising babies, resentful and angry.  But when the parent steps back from the job of being a parent and leaves it to the older siblings, then this results in the same problem – kids being raised by angry kids…..teenaged parenting is therefore, surely a much bigger problem than statistics might suggest. Far bigger than solely looking at kids that have physically birthed a child; there are child and teenaged parents throughout our society – forced to raise kids and absolutely no skills to do it.


      I have been speaking to the Family Resource Centre who try to support, guide and teach teenaged parents in parenting skills and also offer care so that they can complete their homework.  I will be volunteering my services where I can, to assist with this.  If I can contribute to changing the cycle for even one child/parent, then maybe I will have helped a bit,.  A drop in the ocean?  Maybe, but perhaps we can begin to change things, one child/parent at a time.  At least I will feel better being proactive, rather than sitting wringing my hands about it. 



      • Anonymous says:

        BTW, I'm pretty certain that the mother of that 2 year old went to one of those teenage parenting work shops or whatever they are called.

        You are absolutely right about the older children taking care of younger children asthis mother did take care of younger siblings and now has several children of her own.  She is now repeating the cycle and doing the same to her children.  I don't know the answer but something has to break the cycle.  

  5. Anonymous says:

    If more people loved their children more than they loved themselves, this would not be a problem. The problem is the 'me' society. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    In the scenario above, ultimately someone did take care of the child, therefore nothing bad happened. It could be just a one off occasion.  Everyone has bad days right?  But what if it is not? How can the situation be fixed so it doesn't happen again?  What if father in the scenario does it again? Why should it be Soapbox Sally's responsibility?  She may end up like the scenario of A kind neighbour

  7. Anonymous says:

    The father in this scenario sounds like my ex husband that wanted joint custody to control me. He takes our kid on his weekend and plops him down in front of the tv. Between cartoon network and all the DVDs/video games it must be at least 30 hours in front of a tv during the visits. Lunch consists of usually cereal, a boiled egg, or a dry bread sandwich. Nothing planned, thought out or healthy. Let me clarify that this isn’t about not having the money or time to provide better. It is just poor parenting. How bad does poor parenting have to get to be defined as neglect?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Maybe it is time to start relaxing the rules on abortion or begin marketing where free birth control can be found and what other options there are besides giving birth to a child that was unplanned and a future not foreseen as a lifelong commitment of being a parent. It could be that many neglected children are children that were unwanted and continue to be treated as such. 

    In the long run the govt would save a ton of money in the child and family services dept.  Instead of paying all these people money to support children that the parents did not financially plan for. 

    • Anonymous says:

      A child is not unwanted if only one parent decides to turn their back. Sometimes a person decides not to abort a baby because it is not in their moral values to do that; however it is also not in anyone's best interest to shove a child in the face of a parent that didn't want to have anything to do with it to begin with. I don't know about you, but nothing is more unattractive to me than a woman who can't live without approval or to be alone to fend for herself, making threats and using an innocent child as her battle ground. If you make the decision to keep….you better be making the decision to teach, love and fulfill all obligations to the child. I chose correctly and I have never been happier. I am raising a child who is protected, loved, feed, clothed and above all HAPPY.

      Free birth control/abortion laws… advice; I GOES BOTH WAYS. I would like to think that people know how babies are made but it is just so much easier to play dumb when one is……Protect yourself and your life. Don't cry over split milk. There should be a law against the use of Ignorance on a daily basis. You would be allowed to use it once and then the option is lost!!

      Financial help should be offered to a child you had every part in creating, if you are able to. If you can't contribute financially then make adjustments in your life to atleast provide love, and if you can't manage to even do that then I say "An absent parent is better than a Hateful one". A good parent loves themselves first and then ALL their children. 

      In the end……..the child will be blessed and loved and feed and clothed and will grow up surronded by all wonderful things by the parent who made the right decision….thats when the other parent wished they had stuck around.

      As for the father who took his son to work and left him in a break room….take a personal day or call out sick!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok so moral values dictate not to abort a baby.  They should have probably thought about moral values when making the child!

        Yes making a baby goes both ways, but babies cannot be born with the woman.  A woman in her sole discretion makes that decision.  Educating children on the availability of birth control and aggressive advertising to everyone on where to go to get birth control.  I am so strong on this point that I believe that all the high school girls should have mandatory coils inserted once they get to high school unless the parents sign saying otherwise.  If a parent signs to say they do not want their daughter to have it they have to provide compelling evidence as to why not.  These things are good for 5 or so years and can be changed as time goes by.  That way unwanted is out the window. 

        All female prisoners should be the same.  Once they are released they must be on birth control.  Heck if I was in charge the majority of west bay would have a coil.  If for whatever reason the coil gets pulled out then the information for where to go for an abortion should be freely available and easily accessible.

        These children are unwanted.  If they were wanted both parents would be fighting for them not one walking away, leaving one parent with the responsibility.  Or the parent that has the responsibility but relies on the kindness of people like “A kind neighbour”.  That is a cop out, take care of your own children.  If you didn’t want them, you shouldn’t have had them.  If it is too late and you did have them well, put them up for adoption.  Maybe that should be Cayman’s next economic pillar and scrap my whole birth control idea.  Have loads of children and put them up for adoption. 

        I definitely do not agree with loving yourself first then all your children, because that seems to be the problem now.  The parents do love themselves.  They love themselves so much that nothing else matters but them and their life.  The children are just a nuisance which is ruining their lives.  So I disagree and believe that you should put your children before yourself.  It comes with the territory of being a parent that the children take precedence. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well said Sally!  Today you witnessed the clear neglectof a young child. I too have cringed when I visit the supermarket and see some overweight (and quite likely exhausted) parent screaming at  a young child.  This is abuse of a young child. The really sad part is that over time these very children are likely to become neglectful and abusive parents.

    Like you I would like to elevate the awareness of this issue in Cayman.  You are off to a good start with this viewpoint, but unfortunately the people who should be made aware of the negative effect their actions are having are unlikely to read this viewpoint.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Everything is about perception.  If you change your outlook you change your life. 

    This shows that the child is not that important.  You need to make money to live, but don't lose sight of what life really is about.

    Work/life balance is important.  Time management and assessing the real needs of your child or children.

  11. A kind neighbour says:

    I have recently been exposed to this problem.  During the past week when the children were out of school, my husband or I were home each day with our son.  Before 9am each day, two little boys from down the street (ages 6 and 10) were at our door wanting to play with our son (or more specifically, his toys).  It turns out that they were left at home on their own while their mom is at work (no mention of dad).  It is completely unacceptable that these kids be unsupervised!  They are at our door at the same time on weekends, and if we tell them we don't want visitors, they tell us they have nothing to do and then hang around outside.  Their mom has never even met us yet is apparently comfortable leaving them in our care, without even asking us if it is ok.  I am starting to feel like a prisoner in my own home because any sign that we are home, they are knocking on the door.  How can a parent not wonder where and what their young children are up to?!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Isn't this all a description of child neglect?  Isn't child neglect a crime?  Isn't child neglect equivalent to child abuse?

    • Anonymous says:

      Should it be reported to child and family services or the police?

      I could call out all my neighbours and that poor family with the kids constantly knocking on their door would no longer have to worry.

  13. Anonymous says:


    The government should never be blamed for bad parenting.  The government can assist with bad parenting but bad parenting is just that bad parenting.  The government can ‘try’ to counteract bad parenting with making etiqueMinimizette classes a mandatory part of the entire school system, in addition to a standalone class.  However, I have seen that fail as fairly recently a mother complained on the local news of the school trying to impose the length/style of hair rule on her child.  Defiance of whatever rule the school has backed up by the parents teaches children that they do not have to obey the rules. 

  14. Libertarian says:

    Sally, unfortunately, we live in a world where it is all about what you can get and hold onto for dear life, and millions of people take that to heart over their families, love ones, and children – even over health and well-being. The system of capitalism just feed the distorted view even more. Hollywood, having a secret lover on the side, BBM, Facebook, texting that you can't text no more, going out to meet friends, making mo money… all feed the distortion that HAVING is BEING. Mothers and fathers are so caught up in their little worlds, they have no time to be distracted by their children, so they place them in front of the television or some electronic device to get rid of them. Mothers and fathers themselves, are having problems in coping with their personal lives, inner feelings and emotions. Sometimes they are the ones who are victims of bad parenting, and have not heal or recovered from the past all to unintentionally take it out on their children.  

    The Cayman clock is wind up like this  – you wake up, rush to work, kill yourself with work, get home, throw your feet on the couch, entertain or refresh yourself (about "me"), go to bed… and start the cycle all over again… During which time, parents want nothing to do with the responsibility of having to deal with somebody else's problems. they are tired, stressed, and the cost of living makes matters worse. Usually, children are left on their own to watch the TV and play video games, or to go out with friends of bad company. Then these parents try real hard to get up and feed their children, order them to take a bath, and go to bed. Some parents are so caught up with themselves, they neglect their kids from the time they come home:- no cook meal, but go in the fridge and make your own thing!  No structure, but go to bed when you feel like. And there is no one-on-one conversation. When kids have problems, they have to go and talk to their peers, and some of these peers look up to someone like a drug dealer, take rides in the tinted windowed cars, and go about Cayman. The parents could care less who they are with. The daughters are left on their own and some of them become pregnant. When the weekend comes, most of the time these parents spend their times for themselves – again, they leave the kids home.

    Who fault is it?  If I made a pie chart, I would say, 50% is the parents fault, 40% is the fault of our government and societal demands, and 10% falls on those teenagers becoming young adults who can make a difference. But pretty much the parents should be the sole guardians, and are responsible in getting their lives together.

    • Anonymous says:

      What you have laid out sounds like:

      • Poor time management
      • People that didn’t want children
      • People that didn’t realise the consequences of having children require real effort.
    • Anonymous says:

      Once again my replydisagrees with libertarian in the fullest whose concept of personal responsiblity is deeply flawed.

      When a parent does not accept responsiblity for their children the society in general will suffer. To put equal levels of responsiblity with the government and with teenagers as with parents is completely misguided.

      One area of breakdown in the society that confuses me is the breakdown of the extended family here in Cayman. With such a small community and extended families found here where is the extended family support for the children here?

      Parents are responsible first and foremost, blaming others is dishonest, misguided and not useful in solving the problem.

      • anonymous says:

        i have to agree with lib on this one.  government is responsible…maybe not by 40 percent, but they are part to blame for the external factors effecting parents and young children. they are to blame for the educational system as well. i would'nt say its all the parent fault. it takes a community to raise and guide young people