A Woodstock woman is sending a message to parents: make sure your children are registered for child benefits at birth.

Theresa Blackburn found out last October that her family missed out on more than $18,000 in benefits because only one of her three kids had been registered.

Blackburn only found this out after she registered for the new Canada child benefit introduced by the federal Liberal government.

"We thought, oh, we're owed since last year when this new [program] started," said Blackburn.

"They said no, only one child was ever registered, our oldest."

Blackburn's first child, who was born in Halifax, had been registered. Her two other children, born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., hadn't been.

Blackburn said she never received the forms at the hospital after giving birth.

In New Brunswick hospitals, new parents are given a registration-of-birth package, which includes the option to apply for Canada child benefits as well as for a social insurance number. If parents don't apply at the hospital, they can apply later by going to the Canada child benefit website.

Money would've been appreciated

Blackburn said the money would've helped her family a lot. 

"The first or second year [my daughter] was in hockey, we had to tell her she couldn't go to a tournament," she said.

"This is a couple hundred bucks a month that could've helped us then."

family

Only one of Theresa Blackburn and Stephen Chisholm was registered to receive benefits. Kristen (right) was, Kathryn and James weren't. (Submitted)

Blackburn said the federal government has reimbursed some of the money, but under tax law, the government can only reimburse payments for the previous 10 years.  

She took the matter to court to try to get all the missed payments back. While the judge was sympathetic, Blackburn said, there was nothing he could do.

"The judge was very adamant that 'you're right, it isn't fair,'" she said.

"He also said: 'Fairness, sadly, was not what was being heard. It was the tax law.'"

Trying to get message out

The judge advised Blackburn to contact her MP about possibly changing the law. She plans to do that but also wants to get the word out so that other parents aren't left in the same position.

"I'm writing some letters to newspapers, and I'm contacting media," said Blackburn.

She said the system could be made simpler, linking children who have been claimed on their parents income tax, which she had done for all three of her children, with the program.

"The government actually has to reach out to people," said Blackburn

"It's millions of dollars that could make a huge difference [for] families."

With files from Catherine Harrop