Dominican Republic (MNN) — Invisible: something most kids do not want to feel. Jeff VanDerMolen, Regional Director of Kids Alive in Latin American, says many children in the Dominican Republic legally do not exist.
"We're finding that many children have never been registered. Their births were not registered. Essentially they're invisible children, from a legal standing within the country."
Kids Alive is finding it more common for parents not to register their children when they are born. Many children are born at home, and those who are far away from the central registration location may not get registered.
Also, "This is multi-generational: parents who are not registered are not registering their kids."
Without registration, kids are not allowed to progress beyond 8th grade, jobs are difficult to find, and they cannot open a bank account or get their drivers license. "All of these things are not available to these kids because they do not have a legal standing with the government…a national identity card," explains VanDerMolen.
Getting registered after birth is not an easy ordeal. "It takes great efforts. It is something the government is trying to address, but not really making progress on that, up to this point," says VanDerMolen.
"In many cases we have to investigate: where the parents registered, where the child came from, who is somebody who can attest to that child, who can make a representation to the government office that this child is in fact from this area, born to these parents, and of this family," VanDerMolen explains.
Having to go through this process with families has presented Kids Alive with many opportunities to minister. "As we walk through this with a child and with a family, we become in high contact with that family, in relationship with them. We are helping to solve a pretty significant issue with them; the relationship that's developed allows us to share Christ with them," VanDerMolen says.
"There's an openness in the DR to talk about Biblical things, to talk about faith, to talk about Jesus Christ," VanDerMolen adds.
You can be a role model in a child's life and help him or her become visible once again. How? "Through child sponsorship, a short-term missions experience, or working with Kids Alive as a missionary."
Pray that more children become registered. Pray that Kids Alive will more opportunities to share the Gospel.