For Immediate Release: When parents fail to report children’s births, children struggle to prove their own existence
Canton, Ma., 01/31/2019—With the introduction of House Bill 1110, South Dakota has once again proven itself at the forefront of the country in ensuring that children have access to basic identification documents. South Dakota law currently requires parents to report births, but does not offer any penalty for failure to do so. HB 1110 would change this, helping ensure that children’s births are reported and birth certificates issued.
“We know first hand the problems that can happen when children do not have birth certificates,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “Children who reach adulthood without birth certificates or any identifying documents will face serious challenges.”
HB 1110 is motivated by reports of unreported births on a polygamist FLDS compound located in South Dakota. Coleman draws connections between these concerns and the gripping story of Alecia Pennington, who made waves in 2015 when she reported that her Texas parents had never obtained a birth certificate for her, leaving her unable to obtain a driver’s license or get a job. Pennington, like the children on the South Dakota compound, was not born at a hospital.
“By denying children access to identification documents, parents can control children long into adulthood,” said Coleman. “This is especially the case for children who are homeschooled, who may not have access to formal academic records. In some cases, particularly those where children grow up in controlling or cult-like environments, they may also not have medical records.”
South Dakota is one of only five states that requires homeschooling parents to provide a copy of their children’s birth certificates when they file paperwork to homeschool. “South Dakota’s homeschool birth certificate requirement makes the state a leader on this issue,” said Coleman. “It is far easier to obtain a delayed birth certificate for a young child than it is for an adult. By ensuring that all children who reach school age have birth certificates, South Dakota helps ensure that its young adults will not face the problems Pennington faced.” Creating a penalty for failing to report a child’s birth would do more to extend the state’s protection of its student’s identification documents.
Lawmakers have expressed concern about the FLDS compound in the past, raising questions about whether the children living there are legally enrolled as homeschooled students. CRHE encourages all homeschooling families to follow their state’s homeschool laws.
“We urge lawmakers to pass HB 1110,” said Coleman. “Every child should have access to their identification documents, as well as an education.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.