The Social Development Department hosted a conscious co-parenting seminar this month aimed at emphasizing the link between positive co-parenting and safeguarding children from abuse and neglect. The event was part of activities recognizing Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in the Virgin Islands.

Laurel Freeman, Programme Director for Children and Family Support Services, stated that hosting the co-parenting seminar demonstrated the department’s “proactive commitment to promoting healthy family dynamics and safeguarding children’s well-being.”

Freeman stressed that providing parents with effective co-parenting strategies contributes to creating a safer, more supportive environment for children’s healthy development. “Abuse is not only physical but can be psychological or neglect,” she explained. “When parents don’t have a healthy relationship, the child oftentimes bears the brunt of that fallout.”

The core message emphasized by panelists was the critical importance of maintaining open and positive communication between parents, regardless of their relationship status. “The main focus should be the child,” Freeman stated, adding that the seminar also highlighted coping tools like family counseling to overcome co-parenting challenges.

The diverse panel featured local experts including a therapist, school counselor, police officer, family law attorney and personal testimonies from co-parents Ms. Jermaine Baltimore and Mr. Paul Thomas. Collectively, they underscored why fostering a supportive co-parenting dynamic is vital for child protection.

“It does not lend well for healthy, positive child development when children see their parents not having healthy communication,” Freeman reiterated. “Providing this open dialogue helps equip parents with skills to create an environment where their child can thrive.”

The Ministry of Health and Social Development aims to continually promote initiatives safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of children across the Virgin Islands. The co-parenting seminar represents one component of their comprehensive approach during this annual awareness period.