Missing fathers, lost children
According to British pro-family think-tank the Family
Matters Institute, almost all juvenile offenders come from broken homes.
Youth delinquency is seen as a direct result of the collapse of the
family unit and the decline of marriage. The cost to the British
taxpayer has been calculated at tens of billions of pounds a year, with
the cost to young people � that of broken dreams and lost opportunities
Institute director Dr Clifford Hill was recently on a
panel of family experts addressing the House of Lords. He said: �without
the security from family relationships, children will lose their
identity, leading to personal instability and emotional problems�.
The Institute�s research concurs with findings here in
New Zealand, which show that children from broken homes face
significantly greater risk factors than children from stable two-parent
families. Commonsense also tells us that children do better if they have
the support of both a loving mother and father who are focussed on their
well-being and progress. In fact, in an ideal world, a basic right for
children would be to have a mum and dad who love them to bits.
Having children is one of the most important decisions
a couple can make. Becoming a parent is a huge, life-long
responsibility. Children raised well go on to make significant
contributions to family, work, community and society in general.
Children raised poorly, on the other hand, often not only fail to
achieve their own potential in life but � as the Family Matters
Institute calculated � will become an enormous drain on society.
It is for these reasons that I find the answers to
recent Parliamentary Questions � showing an increase in the number of
DPB mothers who refuse to name the father of their child � so
disturbing. The answers show that there are now 18,161 sole mothers on
the DPB who, because they refuse to name the father of their child, are
subjected to a Section 70A deduction � an increase of more than 2,000
this year alone. This means that one mother in six on the
taxpayer-funded DPB is now refusing to name the father of her child. As
a result, 34,685 New Zealand children have no father listed on their
birth certificate. This is a scandalous, State-sanctioned breach of what
should surely be regarded as a basic right of any child � to know the
identity of their father.
While some of these children will undoubtedly know who
their dads are, many others will not. Most will be like the woman who
recently shared her story of a long, protracted and so far depressingly
fruitless search for the identity of her father. She believes � as do I
� that knowing your father�s identity is as fundamentally important as
knowing your country of birth. In addition, old-fashioned commonsense
tells us that having accurate birth records is vital if a society is to
avoid intermarriage and all of the associated problems that can bring.
But, so far, the Government has paid only lip service
to sorting out this vexing issue. By increasing the Section 70A
deduction by the rate of inflation � only a few dollars a week � Labour
is effectively condoning increasing fatherlessness and putting more and
more children at risk. Further, by failing to require mothers on a State
benefit to name the fathers of their children, Labour is forcing
taxpayers to shoulder financial responsibilities that should rightly
belong to fathers. These unnamed father figures are a national disgrace.
While a small minority of women will have become pregnant by force � and
deserve all of our sympathy and understanding in being unwilling to name
the father � the majority of cases will not be in that situation.
In general, a father is not named on a child�s birth
certificate because parents are putting their own needs, wants and
desires ahead of the good of their child: either consent has been
refused, or the couple has entered into an agreement to avoid legal
child support liabilities. In cases where consent has been refused,
sometimes it is because the mother no longer wants the father around �
often despite his very real desire to actively be involved in supporting
and raising his child. More often than not, however, it is because the
father doesn�t want his �other� family to find out about the child.
In light of the unequivocal evidence that children
with fathers almost always do better than those without, it is vital
that this growing trend of State-sanctioned fatherlessness is stemmed.
That means sorting out the problems that are giving rise to this
unacceptable practice, and refining the laws that are discouraging
responsible attitudes towards child-rearing. It is long past time that
our child support laws underwent a complete overhaul. Since our current
unjust and unfair Kiwi-style system has lead to massive non-compliance
and collusion, we should surely be looking to emulate international
Firstly, shared parenting should be introduced as a
normal custodial arrangement, so that both a mother and a father are
jointly responsible for their child.
Secondly, child support should be paid directly to the
children and parent, rather than to the IRD.
And, thirdly, the family circumstances of all parties
should be considered when liabilities are being determined.
Naming the father of a child should become a
pre-requisite of DPB eligibility. In this day and age, where simple DNA
testing can be used to determine paternity, all children should � by law
� have their father�s name on their birth certificate.
It remains difficult to understand why � in a society
that successfully requires millions of dogs, cars and firearms to have
certificates with registered owners � we cannot ensure that the 34,685
children identified in the Parliamentary replies I have received have a
certificate with a registered father!
It is long past time for change.
Dr Muriel Newman
29 July 2004