No ID, so no help for Longdenville single mother of 5

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PLEASE HELP US: Samantha Persad with four of her five children at her Railway Road, Longdenville, Chaguanas home. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Samantha Persad, 34, is the single mother of five children, all below ten. Four of their births are unregistered because Persad’s own birth was never registered.

Worse, because the Longdenville mother does not have a birth certificate or any official form of ID, she cannot access social welfare services or apply for maintenance.

She called Newsday in search of help and to appeal to the public.

Persad said her former partner of eight years is the father of her youngest three children – boys aged four, two and one. Their father left her a month ago.

She and her children live in a small plyboard house near Ravine Sable Road, Longdenville, for which she must pay $500 a month in rent. They have water in the kitchen sink and an electricity connection.

But there is no indoor toilet or shower, and the roof leaks whenever it rains. The family of five sleep on two beds, which get wet when the rain comes from a particular direction. When the breeze blows, it raises the galvanise roof.

Years ago, Persad was a domestic worker, but she is now unemployed. She said at her ex-partner’s insistence, she stopped working outside the home.

“I didn’t have a choice but to stay at home.

“He was a wild person. He never say he’d get a babysitter so I could get a job. He say, my job was stay home, see ’bout the children and that’s that.

“Basically, we living with food what people giving we. Neighbours does give we hampers sometimes.”

Persad’s eldest daughter, nine, lives with her father in Chaguanas. He takes care of her and she is in the second year of primary school “because of the same problem with the birth certificates,” Persad said. He also supports their second daughter by sending $150 a week.

The child visits him twice a month, Persad said. That daughter, eight, is autistic and cannot speak. When Newsday visited the house, she kept reaching for a kitchen knife from a rack, but Persad took it back, time after time. Later, the girl began hitting her head with a cellphone, until she was almost in tears.

Persad said it is very difficult having an autistic child.

“She always fussing, hitting up she head on the wall, throwing down sheself. Anything she see that she know could harm sheself, she will go for it. She doh stay with nobody, to say, if I get a job I could leave she. No, she doh stay with nobody.

“She would stay with her dad, but that’s it.”Persad’s first boy turns five next year and she wants to enrol him in school, but without a birth certificate, that is impossible. He was not able to access the government’s Early Childhood Care and Education centres for the same reason.

The father of the boys is questioning the parentage of the children.

Persad said, “He stating that as long as it is his, he will support them.”

She is hoping there is someone out there who could help her with the birth certificates “so I could go to Social Welfare and apply for assistance. In that way, I’d be able to send them to school and do what I have to do.”

Of her own upbringing, she said, “All my life it was a struggle. My dad and my mom break up when I was two years old, like my son.

“With that, yes, we went pre-school, but when we reach government school, my dad never used to get work at a point in time, so we had to go – as little children – by people house to clean for a little $20 or $30.

“In my life it was always a struggle. Working, going in the bush with my father to ketch crab in the rain, selling crab, cutting grass, any lil thing. I never get the chance to reach secondary school.

“Now my father died, I don’t have anybody to turn to.”

Persad’s father died in October 2020.

“As much as he could, as little as he could, he used to help me.”

She said, “My mother fighting cancer. She lives in Toco, but most time she does be flat on bed.”

Persad has one brother, who is battling his own problems.

Told that when people hear stories like hers, they might ask, “Why she had so much children?” Persad responded: “I thought me and this guy woulda last and we woulda reach somewhere in life…but we didn’t.

“I end up talking to him about me getting a night job to support the children too, but he never used to agree to nothing like that.

“Now what? I don’t even know where to go from here.

“I don’t know where he is so I could contact him. I just don’t know.”

She said she had tried to access family planning at a clinic, but that too required an ID card.

Persad used to get help from a church, but because she does not have help with the children, she does not go any more.

She said she has not reached out to her MP or local councillor, because she does not know who they are.

When Newsday contacted councillor for Longdenville/Talparo Ryan Rampersad, he said he will investigate the family’s situation, and asked for Persad’s contact information. He said the area is shared with another councillor from the Chaguanas borough but, regardless of the area, he would try to help them and put Persad on to her representative.

The house at Railway Road, Longdenville, Chaguanas, where Samantha Persad and her four children live. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Red tape at state agencies

The customer service desk at the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services confirmed that without a birth certificate and ID, it cannot help. A member of staff asked for Persad’s contact information and promised to liaise with her.

At the Ministry of Legal Affairs, a representative of the Registrar General’s Department said Persad must do a search of the ministry’s records to determine if there is any record of her birth. The cost of this search is $12.50, and if no records are found, she can apply for late registration.

The official said the applicant must be able to provide proof that they were born in TT.

If the applicant’s mother is not alive, a sibling, cousin, relative, family friend or neighbour can swear an affidavit that they know the family and certify the applicant was born in TT. The person swearing the affidavit must bear those costs.

She said, “That’s the starting point. Next, we assess what we have, and if the person meets the requirement to conduct a late registration.”

She said the ministry will investigate the applicant’s mother, whether siblings were registered and whether the applicant attended school. The next step is interviewing the applicant.

She stressed, “Every case is different.”

The cost of late birth registration at the ministry is $50 and the process can take a month, depending on the applicant. Once it is completed, a new birth certificate is issued.

The official said, “Children are a separate issue, because they need a birth paper to go to school. They can’t hold back the process of registering children because the mother doesn’t have papers. By law, children need to be registered.”

She said anyone with valid ID can apply to register the children on the mother’s behalf. It requires a letter from the hospital certifying where the children were born. On the other hand, if the children were born at home, the midwife would certify their births.

“The fee for the late registration of a child under one year old is $50, to be paid to the superintendent registrar, plus $25 to the registrar general, paid at the completion of the late registration. For a child over one year old, $75 to the superintendent registrar, and $25 to the registrar general.”

Anyone who wants to help Samantha Persad and her family can contact her at 274-2483.