Chairman of the Children's Authority Dr Hanif Benjamin yesterday pleaded again for parents to pay closer attention to their children over the July-August vacation, and said children with disabilities should be given extra care and attention to reduce the chances of accidents.
Speaking at a press conference to address an upsurge in child deaths over the past two weeks, at the authority's Wrightson Road office, Benjamin said the parents of special-needs children needed to put measures in place to ensure their child was safe and secure.
"I want us to speak to not just 'normal' children, but also those living with disabilities. While we prepare for general safety mode for children, it is also important we speak to our children who may not be able to hear, or see. While adults might think that children understand safety, that is not always the case.
"Children are curious by nature, they will want to play and explore, so as parents and guardians we must develop a safety plan in our homes. Your level of supervision and involvement must be higher when dealing with a disabled child. A child who is immobile – how would you deal with such a child in an emergency? Or what about a child who cannot hear a fire alarm?
"Those are critical things we need to bring to our homes. It is not sufficient to shout at a child to leave something alone. We cannot allow children to venture into unsafe territory, saying, 'Who can't hear will feel.'
"That is why our children are dying and it is not okay. Children should be number one. There is no ifs ands or buts about it."
Benjamin also said the trend of parents leaving adolescents and teenagers to care for more than one child was unacceptable and illegal. He said proper supervision must be given to children, either through a relative or a trusted caregiver.
He also said bedridden adults were not an option to watch over children.
Deputy director of Care Services for the authority Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan also spoke, encouraging parents to play a more active role in their children's lives.
She said when selecting a babysitter or caregiver over the vacation, they ought to find a responsible adult, while also listening to any concerns of fears their children may have.