A day after International Men’s Day, fathers are crying out that they are being denied access to quality time with their children.
And they are pointing an accusing finger at the Child Care Board (CCB), saying the government agency was not doing its due diligence.
But at least one government official is promising an investigation.
Eric Springer is a father of three. He told Barbados TODAY he was not being given enough time with his daughter, eight, and he was simply “fed up with the system” because no one seemed to care.
“When I say the system, I am speaking in terms of the Child Care Board, the legal system that is supposed to be protecting children,” said Springer.
“My eight-year-old daughter is not being able to see me the way she wants to see me,” he complained.
Making it clear that he was not being political, Springer said while Government has started its restructuring process since coming into office at the end of May, more attention should be given to ensuring that the Child Care Board was “doing what it is designed to do”.
“One of the main things I would love them to seriously look at is the child care system and how it is being handled here in Barbados,” he suggested.
The 43-year-old, who said he was speaking on behalf of men who were scared to speak out, stressed that he was not in support of anyone who did not support their children.
“The women are out there fighting for their rights, you have the LGBT fighting for their rights . . . . Now a man fighting for his rights you are saying to me I shouldn’t fight for my rights?” he queried.
Like other fathers who spoke with Barbados TODAY recently, Springer said he decided to come to this newspaper after he “went through hell” in a recent custody case to see his daughter, a fate he said he suffered some years ago with the mother of his now teenage son.
He said he would prefer to have his daughter spend a weekend with him instead of him going by the grandmother to see her for “only 15 minutes”.
“Unless Government really get on track and look at what is going on in the system itself, unless the Child Care Board has a proper mandate to deal with these situations we could talk from now until next year,” he quipped.
“Any progress that is made it has to be made through the system, which is the Child Care Board. If it does not meet its mandate it needs to change its name,” added Springer.
Stating that the child was the one ending up suffering at the end of day, Springer said in addition to getting financial supprt the child still needed a father figure.
“Society already getting break down because you breaking down the family. The men that really want to support their children and bring them up properly can’t get to. So there you go, society [is being broken] down
. . . Then we are going to sit down and ask how society get here? Society get here because the system is creating it,” he explained.
Edward John, a father of two, told Barbados TODAY that shortly after he was granted access to spend time with his daughter, he was served with a notice of trespass.
“This is three years I haven’t seen my daughter. Three years, but every month, mind you, I am paying the court maintenance,” he said.
He argued that there were no follow-ups when fathers are granted access to see their children and he wanted that situation to change.
“That is why the situation is the way it is. There is no follow-up. And men are stereotyped as they go in front the court – all men are negligent. It is a crisis that men are facing in this country today, and one that needs to be addressed,” said John.
“I had hell to see my daughter. The court gave me this access but I get hell, oh hell,” he complained.
He said he was given the opportunity to see his daughter every weekend when he was off, but this would be done “under a cloud of supervision”, which he found uncomfortable.
“I am following the court’s orders, but no father is there to just pay money you got to bond with your children too,” he said, adding that paying child support was never an issue for him as he used to pay before he was taken to court.
“Going forward I would like to see men not staying in the shadows, pacified on pertinent issues that need addressing. I would like that when [men] go into the court, the court has a machinery working along them addressing the orders of the court to ensure that these orders are being kept.
“I would also like that men be given equal rights to their children because a father is just as important to a child as the mother. There is a balance and that balance must be kept. I would like that the issues that men are confronted with are dealt with speedily,” John recommended.
Robert Weir, the father of an eight-year-old son, told Barbados TODAY of his challenges when it came to the custody of his son.
He said he has been caring for him since day one even after the relationship with the child’s mother soured within two years of his birth.
He said it was after the relationship ended that the mother decided to take him to court and they were granted joint custody. Under the terms of the court order, he is granted access to his child every weekend. He was also mandated to pay child support every month and pay half of every purchase for the child.
“Even though she has him during the week she was still making noise for my weekends,” he complained.
Weir complained that he was especially not pleased with the current living conditions of the child, and despite being in a “back-and-forth” with the Child Care Board for the past three years, the agency has not been able to take any steps to put his mind at ease.
“I produced some pictures to the Child Care Board of my son and I was asked who did this . . . . They sent me then to [parent education charity] PAREDOS,” he said, adding that he was later told it was not a case for PAREDOS but for the CCB.
“This is my son telling me ‘Daddy, don’t send me back there’. He doesn’t want to go back to his mother, but I can’t hold on to him,” he said, as he pointed to pictures of what he claimed was his child in poor conditions.
Weir said he simply wanted the complaints of fathers taken more seriously by those in authority.
“I want to see fathers having a more of an equal right to their children. Men out there have been stigmatized for many years. The court system believes that a man can only supply money to support their kids – ‘a man can’t cook a meal, a man can’t bathe a child, a man could only provide maintenance’. I can’t condone what is going on,” he said.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde told Barbados TODAY she was not yet made aware of any specific case or the severity of the issue. But she said whenever a court ruling was being breached it should be followed up by the parent being victimized and then “by both sets of agencies – the court and the Child Care Board”.
“If there is a breach of the decision of the court then yes, the Child Care Board has to play a role, but I believe the persons need to go back to court to have the matter reinforced and of course followed through,” she said.
“I know there are a lot of issues and people are angry and it is so unfortunate that the children have to be at the forefront of all the confusion and then it creates so much disharmony within families and among the same children who are so vulnerable,” said Forde, who promised to speak with the chair and director of the board of the CCB on the matter.
Saying that she was disappointed in men and women who do not maintain their children, Forde warned against any parent resorting to violence if they were being denied the right to see or spend time with their children. She insisted that the child was the main one to suffer.
“Why must this child go through all the turmoil, all the torment and conflict, when all the child needs is mommy and daddy to love them?” queried Forde.
“I encourage all men to maintain your children the best way you can and to all mothers, be a little more considerate and understanding in some cases . . . I urge mothers and grandfathers to come out and play your part as well,” the Minister declared.