There are few things more tragic than the loss of a child, especially in circumstances that could have been easily avoided. For some unfathomable reason, the past few months have been particularly cruel to the innocents.
In February, a four-year-old was burned to death after falling asleep in the back seat of a car that exploded while being repaired by his father. In March, a two-year-old died after being pinned under the wheel of a vehicle driven by a relative. In May, a six-month-old baby died after being found unconscious at a day care centre in El Socorro, shortly after being fed and put to sleep.
This week, however, the news about children has been especially tragic. On Monday, a four-year-old child at the Bridge of Hope Children’s Home in Sangre Grande was found dead in circumstances yet to be determined. On Wednesday, two-year-old Terracina Ariel Meena Moonilal was crushed by a truck in Wallerfield. Then on Thursday came the harrowing report about three-year-old Isaiah Hazel. Little Isaiah left for classes in a school van with other children. Apparently no one noticed that he had not exited the vehicle at the school. It is believed that he fell asleep and, unknown to the driver, was still in the van. The vehicle’s windows were rolled up and it was locked. His body was found six hours later by the other children on their return to the van at the end of the school day.
While the causes of the two deaths at children’s homes have not yet been made public, all these incidents bring into focus such issues as the child-proofing of homes, the training of individuals with responsibility for children and child-care standards employed by businesses involving children.
For those affected by the deaths of these children we have no doubt that the grief has been beyond unbearable and that the victims were deeply loved. However, while accidents can and do happen, everyone with responsibility for children should be aware that they require extra vigilance. Children need adults who can think for them, exercise judgment on their behalf and are forever anticipating the trouble into which they can get themselves. Anyone who has ever taken care of a child will know that when it comes to children nothing should be taken for granted. Every possible scenario of danger has to be catered for and everything has to be double and triple-checked, because the risk is that a life could be lost in a split-second.
The Children’s Authority came into existence because it was clear that the protection of children needed co-ordinated, expert and sustained regulation, not only to secure the well-being of children but to seed and cultivate a national culture of child-care that takes account a changing world. The villages that were once available to raise a child no longer exist in a world where children face untold new dangers. More than ever, we are called to be alert on behalf of our own children and those of others. The message needs to go out loud and strong: when it comes to children take nothing for granted.