Children: Whose Responsibility?

A couple days ago the official Twitter handle of Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted that ‘Social responsibility means you should have the children you can afford to give the best life.’

I saw it this afternoon thanks to a colleague who retweeted it. The tweet reminded me of a conversation I had with a few people some time ago regarding my views on child bearing, child caring and this business of responsibility.

Yes, having and caring for children is in fact a social responsibility, but not just the social responsibility of parents; I believe extended families, the community and the state all have roles to play. It is for this reason that I believe, for example, that children should have free access to education – tuition, books, etc; healthcare should be free for all children and pregnant folks; communities should have fully functional entertainment and social development centres; and safe, green and play spaces should be available and accessible to children. It is also the responsibility of the community, the state and parents to ensure that children are protected from harm, including the nasty and disgusting abusive people dem outta road.

Once someone decides that they want to give birth to a child, caring for, supporting that child, and giving that child the best life possible cannot be their responsibility alone. After all, having children benefits the whole society. Therefore, raising skilled, educated, healthy, productive children who respect the dignity in humanity ought to be the social responsibility of parents/family, community and state. We cannot reasonably expect that parents alone should bear this ‘burden’.

Affordability of children is not something prospective parents alone should consider. The state and the community have roles too. We have a responsibility to ensure that if someone decides to have a child, we are creating the best possible environment for that child to thrive. It is our children who will manage families, communities and the state later on in life. How can they just be the responsibility of parents? Come on now!

And this habit we have of beating down on people who are affected by poverty every time we raise the issue of childcare needs to stop. Minimum wage already a beat down pon dem.

We need to be careful that we don’t suggest that people affected by poverty should avoid having children.

Sometimes pregnancies are unplanned, all when family planning and contraceptive use ‘up like 7’. We cannot continue to pretend that we live in a world where anything but abstaining from sex or tubectomy or vasectomy is foolproof where contraceptive use is concerned. So if someone affected by poverty should use the free condoms made available by the government and NGOs and ‘get ketch’ say on two or three occasions, what should we say to them? Are we going to insist they have a vasectomy or a tubectomy?

And even when abortion becomes legal, are we going to insist that they get an abortion?

The state needs to do a better job at ensuring that every child born into this country has a good chance of contributing to our development. Prospective parents also have that responsibility. And so does the community. Children are the responsibility of parents, the community and the state. And if you disagree, that’s fine. But consider who will be making decisions about families, communities and the state in a decade or two.

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