Government takes legislative measures to protect Nation’s children

St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Health, Social and Community Development and Gender Affairs, the Hon. Marcella Liburd addressing the United Nations. (UN Photo)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 19TH 2012 (CUOPM) – Legislation aimed at promoting children’s welfare and best interests, and facilitates their development by helping to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for their maintenance and care will be given a second reading when the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly meets Wednesday.

Minister of Health, Community and Social Development, the Hon. Marcella Liburd will move the second reading of “The Maintenance of Children, Bill, 2012.

Part I of the legislation which deals with Preliminary issues interprets a “child” to means (a) a person under the age of 14 years (b) a person 14 years or older whose special circumstances are such that he or she is unable to reasonably provide for his or her daily requirements. Special circumstances means the person has (i) a serious illness; or (ii) a physical or mental disability; (c) a person 14 years or older but under the age of 25 years who is receiving instruction at an educational establishment or under-going training for a trade, profession or vocation, whether or not he is also, or will also be, in gainful employment.

According to the draft legislation, the purpose of the Act is to promote children’s welfare and best interests, and facilitate their development, by helping to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for their maintenance and care; and recognise certain rights of children.

Subsection 1 of the Act defines and regulates parents’ and guardians’ duties, powers, rights, and responsibilities to maintain their children; and the powers of the Court in relation to the maintenance and care of children.

It acknowledges that there must be shared family responsibilities for the care of a child and an equal duty must be placed on each parent to care for the child; provides for equal treatment of children without discrimination based on marital status of the parents or the status of the child at birth; encourages agreed arrangements for, and provides for the resolution of disputes about, the care of children.

The Act also implements in St. Kitts and Nevis the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women relating to the maintenance of children.

Students at the St. Paul’s Primary School (Photo by Erasmus Williams)

It acknowledges that it is a general duty of the Government to safeguard and promote the welfare of children; and to mediate in any situation where the rights of a child are infringed upon and especially with regard to the protection of a child, a child’s health and education.

The Maintenance of Children Bill also promotes the welfare and best interests of the child, which includes the child’s right to care, support and development and also the right to be respected, must be the first and paramount consideration in the administration and application of this Act.

Part II of the Bill makes it clear that each parent of a child has the obligation to provide reasonably for the child’s maintenance, whether or not the child is in that parent’s custody.

It states that a person who has the custody or guardianship of a child or a person who stands in loco parentis to a child or a person who has accepted a child as “a child of the family” has the obligation to provide reasonably for the maintenance of that child.

It provides for the Court, on application in the prescribed form by a parent or by a child over the age of fourteen years on his own behalf or by a person on behalf of a child, to make a Maintenance Order requiring a parent, or any other person having an obligation under subsection 4(2) to maintain any child.

A Maintenance Order by the Court may provide that the respondent shall, for the benefit of a child, pay to a specified person periodic payments for a specified term; giving the force of law to an agreement whereby the respondent shall, for the benefit of a specified child, make to a specified person periodic payments for a specified term; for the payment of expenses in respect of a child’s birth and the prenatal care of the child’s mother to be made by the father and that the respondent or applicant provide non-monetary maintenance and care of the child.

In addition, a Maintenance Order may require the respondent to pay a specified lump sum to a specified person for the benefit of a specified child including a lump sum in respect of the expenses reasonably incurred in respect of that child before the Maintenance Order was made.

The Court may specify in a Maintenance Order that the payment of child support be made to a specified person; or be made through the Court.

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