More than 190 caregivers, parents, and teachers convened at St. George’s University’s Bourne Lecture Hall at the end of June for the inaugural Caregiver Conference on Early Child Development. REACH Grenada and the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) brought together experts in early childhood development and infant-parent mental health, to focus on the importance of early adaptive interactions that benefit both the child and caregiver. Also in attendance were representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern Caribbean division as well as the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children.
“Infant and parent mental health is synonymous with healthy social development,” said Dr. Richard Honigman, REACH Grenada’s Advisory Board Chair and a general pediatrician with over 30 years of experience. “Healthy social development is about how the child fits into the world around them, how they experience and interpret the world, and their place in the world. It embodies relationships with others, smoothing developmental progress and increasing ability to control behavior, express emotions, and the ability to explore.”
Dr. Edward Tronick, University Distinguished Professor at University of Massachusetts Boston and Harvard Medical School, delivered a keynote address on how infants make sense of their world.
“Infants are trying to make sense of all of their new experiences and their parents are critical in helping them do so.” Dr. Tronick stated. “When the child and the parent are successful in making sense of the world for the child, her or she feels secure and develops normally. When making meaning about the world is unsuccessful the child, like an adult, becomes confused, anxious, even fearful, and development is compromised.”
The Minister of Social Development, Hon. Delma Thomas, endorsed the initiative undertaken by the organizers reaffirming the Government’s commitment for strategic alliances geared at social development. “The support we get from organizations such as REACH Grenada, WINDREF, UNICEF and others are always timely,” she stated. “You can rest assured of our commitment to work as partners because we are working towards the same goal. It is therefore critical that as we go forward we continue to share ideas and improve the quality of care our nation’s children receive.”
Over the course of two days, other topics were discussed such as “The Developing Child in Relationships” as well as “How Messy Social Interactions Lead to Positive Infant and Child Development” and “Working with the Child/Family System.” UNICEF and the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children have expressed interest in assisting REACH Grenada and WINDREF to plan future conferences, with the hopes of eventually expanding to other nations.