Single fathers raising children have told a parliamentary committee they face several challenges, including allegations of sexual misconduct, bias against them from the judiciary in gaining custody, and being prevented from accessing public social assistance programmes.
The Single Fathers Association of TT (SFATT) is also lobbying for paternity tests to be done to determine in some cases whether men are the biological fathers, as many have found out years later that the child or children they were paying child maintenance or spent time in jail for were not theirs.
Appearing yesterday before the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity, chaired by Community Development, Culture and the Arts Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, directors of the SFATT shared their concerns and recommendations on how to improve their circumstances.
On seeking social assistance grants from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Affairs, Wendell Grant said many single fathers seldom get the material assistance they need, as they are told it is only for single mothers.
On allegations of sexual misconduct, he related his own experience while raising his three children. He gained custody of them when the eldest was six years old. Three years later, he said, the police had his three children examined by a doctor because of a report by their mother that he was sexually molesting them.
Their mother, he said, had journeyed from north Trinidad to Barrackpore with a blanket soaked in blood which she gave to the police as evidence.
When the police found nothing wrong, he said, “They returned my children.”
The blanket was sent for analysis, he said, “only to discover it was goat’s blood.” The woman was not taken to task.
President of the association Rhondall Feeles said, “Custodial fathers, particularly of daughters, face a number of false allegations.”
When the children are taken away until proven otherwise, he said, much damage is done to them as they shift from one foster carer to another before they are returned to their fathers.
“There is no redress for the false allegations made against them, mainly by mothers opening the cases using false allegations when daughters are involved.”