Director of Human Services, Elizabeth Lewis, has cited death as the ultimate consequence of corporal punishment, in a discussion of the demise of four year old Millan Jn Baptiste, who is reported to have succumbed after being abused while in the care of his Father and Step Mother.
“We have done a lot of work in trying to get persons to understand that corporal punishment can end up in what we have seen today,” Lewis asserted in an interview with the Communications Unit of the Ministry of Health.
Lewis noted that people are wont to recall that they were spanked as children, and it did nothing to them.
However she argued that inflicting “that level” of harm on another human being is certainly not the way to change any behavior, adding that in some instances the behavior never changes and the corporal punishment escalates to the point of death.
The Director of Human Services disclosed that the death of Millan Jn Baptiste was “truly disturbing” for her personally, and for her Department.
But she said that the case was not unique to Saint Lucia.
“There are other Millans out there,” Lewis said.
Millan’s Mother had told the Times that the Department of Human Services had failed her and her son, as she had made many reports of the abuse.
However the Director of Human Services revealed that the Department received only one report to which it responded, and added that there was documentation on the case from a Medical Doctor who did not deem the matter to be that serious an issue.
“Pointing fingers at Human Services or pointing fingers at the Police or blaming persons, removing ourselves from responsibility is not going to help,” Lewis declared.
She explained that Social Workers work very hard, and felt that Millan Jn Baptiste’s death should cause the society to reflect on how to protect its children – whether it should be left to the social services, or merit a community response.
“Certainly when the parents fail somebody, somewhere must step in, and it does not always have to be the social services,” Lewis said, declaring that others including Clergymen and relatives such as Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents can help resolve such matters without the intervention of the Social Services.
She acknowledged that although people are angry over the death of the child, there was need to stop passing the buck and introspect on what could have been done individually by everyone, to ensure that Millan were alive today.