IN 2012, 75.5 per cent of birth certificate applications for newborns had their fathers' particulars on them. That proportion is significantly higher than the 50.4 per cent recorded in 1995, according to data provided by the Registrar General's Department (RGD) that show a downward trend in the number of births being registered over the 17-year period as a result of Jamaica's declining fertility rate.
According to the data, of the 39,348 births registered last year, a total of 29,703 certificates had the fathers' names, compared to 1995 when only 30,014 of the 59,567 certificates had paternal information.
The figures show gradual declines between 1995 and 1999, moving from 50.4 per cent to 46.2 per cent — the latter being the lowest percentage recorded over the 18 years.
By the year 2000, the percentage jumped to 52.4 per cent, and steadily moved up to 54.7 per cent in 2004, but dipped by three percentage points to 50.7 per cent in 2005.
However, the percentage started moving up again in 2006, reaching 53.7 per cent and by 2007 shot up to 66.1 per cent — the largest increase to occur in a single year over the period.
The statistics reveal that since then, there have been gradual increases, from 67.8 per cent in 2008, to 70.6 per cent in 2009. The proportion again moved up in 2010 to 71.4 per cent and again in 2011 to 74.4 per cent,
The 130-year-old RGD is the only local agency responsible for civil registration — births, deaths and marriages.
Over the years, concerns have been raised about the high incidence of missing paternal information from birth records, and suggestions have been put forward to make the inclusion of such information mandatory.
But in the absence of legislation, the RGD has implemented several programmes to encourage fathers to sign up, one of the most effective being the bedside registration programme that began in 2007.
"The RGD has registration assistants (staff) stationed at 29 hospitals and birthing centres located islandwide. Mothers are encouraged to have the fathers present at the time of registration. If they are not present, arrangements are made to have them complete a form E within six weeks from the time of birth," said Hazel Cunningham, communications officer at the RGD.
'Form E', she explained, is a "form of declaration of the mother and of the person acknowledging himself to be the father of the child of a single woman", and falls under Section 19 (b) Registration of Births and Deaths Act.
Additionally, she said, RGD officers regularly visit pre-natal clinics as part of the department's community outreach programme.
"People are informed about the importance of adding the father's particulars and the consequences the child faces when this is not done," she told the Jamaica Observer.
The agency's yearly June campaigns are built around Father's Day, and encourage fathers to add their names to certificates that have already been issued.
"This year we had a "Status" drive at all 10 locations islandwide. We had some sponsors who assisted by providing us with some gifts which were presented to the fathers," said Cunningham.
"The status drive [ran from] June 10 - 28. However, due to the overwhelming response we extended the drive to July 12 (and)," she explained, noting that a "status is done if six weeks have passed and the father does not add his particulars to the child's record."