Undocumented children and youth are unable to access basic services including education, healthcare, and social assistance, and are significantly more susceptible to abuse and exploitation. In the Dominican Republic, nearly 20 percent of children under age 5 do not have a birth certificate, and more than one-third of youth do not have their mandatory cedula by the time they reach age 18. A lack of documentation thus contributes to the intergenerational transmission of poverty and denies basic human rights to thousands of children, youth, and adults.
Securing a birth certificate and other identity documents is critical if children and youth are to realize their full potential. DREAM works to ensure that a lack of documentation does not close the doors to a better future. Upon enrollment in any DREAM program, children and youth without birth certificates automatically become participants in the LUCEROS (Luchando por Derechos Humanos) program. Dedicated staff works with families to collect necessary paperwork, providing step-by-step guidance through the process of declaring their child. In addition to resolving cases, DREAM focuses on prevention by facilitating educational workshops about the importance of birth certificates and the need to declare children on-time. DREAM also advocates protecting the right to an identity and a nationality for Dominican children of Haitian descent, whose access to documentation is particularly susceptible to discriminatory practices.
The reach of the LUCEROS program extends beyond DREAM programs. In 2012, in collaboration with Peace Corps and the Declaro Mis Derechos initiative, DREAM trained 30 community members to become part of a national network of documentation advocates. After completing a 20-hour technical course, these community advocates serve as local resources to identify documentation cases, help families through the declaration process, and create community awareness about the issue. Network members include local community leaders and representatives from leading institutions including Caritas-Puerto Plata, Health Horizons International, Integración Juvenil, Centro de Promoción y Solidaridad Humana (CEPROSH), and Dove Missions.
Reduce the prevalence of undocumented children and youth and promote the respect of the right to a name and identity by helping families secure birth certificates for their children.
- Secure birth certificates and identity documentation for at-risk youth living in vulnerable conditions.
- Build awareness about the importance of the right to a name and identity and empower the community to take action.
- Expand program impact through a network of community leaders trained to solve documentation cases along the North Coast.
Read the 2011 birth certificate report from Columbia University graduate students that launched our formal documentation program: A Dream Deferred: Birth Registration and Access to Education in the Dominican Republic.