Flawed paternity system puts kids in poverty

I read with interest the article about child poverty in Central America. There was a series of articles in the Nación a few months ago regarding various contributing factors which I found very interesting.

For example, only 34 per cent of women in Costa Rica who have children out of wedlock actually pursue child support payments from the fathers. For cultural reasons and one policy of the government, 66 per cent of children born out of wedlock are highly likely to live in poverty.

What is the policy of the government that appears to affect the legal process of establishing paternity? The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social allows ONE test to establish paternity. If, for any reason the test does not establish the paternity of the suspected father, there is no option for a second test. Unless, of course, one has the money to pay for a DNA testing, which I can only imagine is both hard to find as an independent service and extremely expensive.

The truth is that we punish the children for the sins of the parents. There should be paternity testing until paternity is established. Period. It does take two people to make a baby, and both people need to be responsible for that. I don’t care about the moral issues regarding sexual behavior of parents, I care that these children do not live in poverty BECAUSE of someone’s idea of morality. What is immoral is to let children continue to live in a cycle of poverty because both parents are not held accountable.

Personally I believe that the Caja should take a very close look at a policy that continues to perpetuate the cycle of poverty in this country. Men should be held accountable, women need legal support to establish paternity and they also need to have access to the tools required, i.e. DNA testing. In the long run, to make absentee fathers responsible for the necessities of the children is the better way to deal with poverty. Let the men pay child support and take the burden off of the state and taxpayers to pay for children who do not have established paternity.

And on the same theme, mothers should be encouraged to establish paternity. In the end the cost of raising children born out of wedlock is a burden to everyone. The state offers many services to these children, which I do not disapprove. But the reality is that the fathers need to be paying some sort of child support so that the burden of caring for all these children falls where it belongs, with the people who experience “the joy of the moment” and not everyone in the society as a whole.

I believe with all my heart that the cultural problems that lead to a lack of establishing paternity can be addressed, but not without full cooperation of the state. It is far cheaper to offer legal support to women to establish paternity than it is for the state to have to be responsible for the children they bear and continue this cycle of poverty that is established in this culture.

Robbie Felix
Manuel Antonio

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