Message by Hon. Vincent O. Wheatley
Minister for Health and Social Development
“Keeping Our Children Safe during 2023 Festival Celebrations”
As the Minister for Health and Social Development with responsibilities for Children, Family and Support Services, I am imploring all parents, guardians and caregivers to put the necessary precautions in place to safeguard our Territory’s youngest and most precious resources, our children during the 2023 Emancipation Festival Celebrations.
The participation of our children in the various activities during Festival, such as our Parade, Cultural activities and the Prince & Princess Show are a part of our Virgin Islands culture and all are welcomed to celebrate and engage during this time. However, it is important that the well-being of our children is not lost or neglected in all the festive activities taking place.
Parents are reminded to remain vigilant of their child or children’s whereabouts to avoid situations that could compromise their safety. I would like to share a few tips parents can implement during our 2023 Festival Emancipation Celebrations to keep our children safe:
- Write your phone number on your child’s wrist and cover it with liquid band-aid in case of separation. The liquid band-aid will prevent the ink from rubbing off.
- Take a photo of your child with your cellphone at the start of the event so you have their clothing, hairstyle and an up-to-date photo ready to show the authorities should you need it. It may also be helpful to dress them in bright clothing at these events. That way you can easily spot them in a crowd.
- Ensure that you teach your child their first and last names as well as your first and last names (and not nicknames) just in case the child becomes separated from you. Imagine a child being found by the authorities, and then asked what is the name of your mommy; and their response is “mommy’. That certainly will make it difficult for the authorities to find you.
- Have your child memorize your cell phone number. If your child has their own cell phone, be sure it is properly charged and that they have your contact details stored.
- Parents should identify the nearest Police Officer or security officer and ensure that the child is aware of their location as well, in case of separation.
- Identify a landmark or meeting spot for children that they should go to if they are separated.
- Do not leave your children unattended in vehicles.
- Please be sure to accompany your child to the public restrooms if they have to use the bathroom. If you cannot go, be sure a trusted adult accompanies them.
- Do not leave your children home alone.
- Be cognizant of who you leave your children with and where you left them.
- Parents are also reminded that in case of an emergency, call 911 or 311.
- At the different events, especially in the festival villages, I am asking vendors to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages or any illicit drugs to minors.
It takes a village to raise a child and I am calling on the entire community to keep our children safe during this time. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We cannot take anything for granted, especially the care and safety of our children.
Let us all play our part in having a safe and enjoyable festival for all but especially, our children.
Happy Emancipation Celebrations and May God continue to bless us and keep us safe.