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November 17, 2015

Advocating for more fathers to be named on their children's birth certificates

Jeff Hopkins testifies before the legislative committee.

We are all about helping every child have a better relationship with his or her father. But too many children in South Carolina don't even have a father officially named on their birth certificates.

The Center's own Jeff Hopkins made a presentation on a way to address that problem to the Legislature's Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children Public Hearing on Nov. 17.

Currently, when paternity is established by a court order, the father's name is not automatically added to a birth certificate. In 2014, 24,908 paternities were established in DSS cases by court order. Very few of these were ever submitted to DHEC to have the father's name added to the birth certificate. Over the years, thousands of children have had paternity established, but still have incorrect and incomplete birth certificates.

So according to the public record that follows each of them through their lives, these children have no father.

Here are some of the benefits of having a birth certificate with the father's name listed:

  • First and foremost, a child benefits enormously from knowing who his or her father is, even if the father is not currently actively involved in the child's life.
  • The South Carolina Department of Corrections requires a long-form birth certificate with the father's name in order for the child to visit his or her father in a corrections facility.
  • It is easier for the child to receive Social Security benefits if the father passes away.
  • It is easier for the child to enroll in school.
  • DHEC has accurate records.

The way things stand, when fathers establish paternity, they have to take the court order to DHEC and pay an additional fee to have their names added to their child's birth certificate. Because of this extra step and fee, many fathers never get around to doing this.

If the name could automatically be added to the birth certificate, the child, the family and society at large would benefit.


Gale DuBose and Jeff Hopkins confer during the hearing.