Birth certificates - advice

This advice provides additional information about birth certificates for child protection clients.

Introduction

It is important all children have a birth certificate that a child, parent or a person with parental responsibility, can access when needed.  

A birth certificate is a proof of identity document and is required for official purposes such as: enrolling a child in childcare or school; applying for a government payment such as youth allowance; and obtaining a passport. It is the first step in establishing identity and is part of a child’s history. For some children in out-of-home care, a birth certificate may form part of their connection to their birth family and cultural identity and can tell them things they may not know, for example where they were born.    

Most Victorian children are issued with a birth certificate after their birth is registered by their parents. Following a child’s birth, the hospital, medical facility or midwife gives parents a Birth Registration Statement. Parents then use the Birth Registration Statement to register their child's birth and apply for a birth certificate. 

Sometimes a birth certificate can get lost and it is necessary for a parent, or a person with parental responsibility, to apply for a new one on behalf of the child.   

Birth certificates, for people born in Victoria, are issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria. All states and territories in Australia have a Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The issuing of birth certificates, and other functions carried out by these bodies, are state responsibilities and legislation varies across jurisdictions. For a child born interstate or overseas, all applications and enquiries must be directed to the relevant interstate or overseas Registry.

See Applying for a birth certificate - procedure for tasks that must be undertaken.

Practice guidance

It is in a child’s best interests for their birth to be registered and for their parent, or the person who has parental responsibility for them, to have a readily accessible copy of the child’s birth certificate, for practical reasons and as part of promoting a child’s developing sense of identity.  

For children who are cared for by their parents or for whom the permanency objective in their case plan is family reunification, enquiring if a child has a birth certificate and, where this is not the case, supporting a parent to apply for one, should be routine child protection practice. These discussions should commence as soon as protective concerns are substantiated. A clear record needs to be made on CRIS to indicate whether the child has a birth certificate and if this has been sighted. This will allow future practitioners to be aware of what work, if any, needs to be done with the family to ensure a child has a birth certificate. 

Child protection should hold an original copy of a birth certificate for every child in out-of-home care for whom the Secretary has sole parental responsibility. This includes children on care by Secretary orders and long-term care orders. In most cases this will require child protection to apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria for a new certificate. Applications should be made as soon as possible after an order is granted.

Where child protection has applied for a birth certificate on behalf of a child, the birth certificate should be retained with the child’s paper file, with a scanned copy also attached to CRIS as part of a case note.

If discussions with a child’s parents, or the process of applying for a birth certificate on behalf of the child, reveals that the child’s birth has not been registered, child protection must ensure this occurs as soon as possible.   

Considerations for good practice

Early discussions with parents  

Following a decision to substantiate protective concerns, practitioners should ask the child’s parents if they have a readily accessible birth certificate for their child, and where possible, sight the certificate directly. Where practicable, this should occur as soon as possible to help identify early which families may require assistance to obtain birth certificates and assist future practitioners to know if this work needs to be completed. 

Where the permanency objective in the child’s case plan is family preservation or family reunification the child’s parents should be encouraged, and supported, to apply for the child’s birth certificate if they do not already have one. Where a parent requires assistance and there is no other appropriate service involved to support them to make an application, the child protection practitioner should assist them to do so.   

Apply for a birth certificate immediately after a child is placed on an order that confers sole parental responsibility to the Secretary

Where a new application for a birth certificate is required, it is important this occur as soon as possible. For example, applying for a birth certificate just before a child is due to start school could delay the child’s enrolment. Applications take time to be processed and, in a small number of cases, making an application may lead to discovering that a child was born interstate or overseas, or that the child’s birth has not been registered. Applications in these circumstances will require extra work and time.

A child’s birth certificate belongs to them

A child’s birth certificate belongs to the child and, where appropriate, should follow them. For example, if child protection obtains a birth certificate on behalf of a child and that child returns to the care of a parent, the child’s birth certificate should be provided to their parent. Where a child moves to a permanent care order, child protection should provide the birth certificate to the child’s permanent carers.

It is important young people who transition from the care of the Secretary to independent living have an original copy of their birth certificate. If child protection does not hold an original copy on the child’s paper file, the child protection practitioner or contracted case manager should ensure an application for an original certificate is made prior to the child leaving care. The certificate must be provided to the child upon, or in the lead up to, the expiry of the protection order as part of their leaving care plan.  

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