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Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Staff Training Video

DCL-99-12

Published: February 12, 1999
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Paternity Establishment
Types:
Policy, Dear Colleague Letters (DCL), Training
Tags:
Toolkit & Training

To All State IV-D Directors

RE: Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Staff Training Video

Dear Colleague:

We are very pleased to provide your State with a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Staff Training Video. We are sending a Beta SP Master copy and two VHS copies, under separate cover, to your designated Paternity Liaison. In response to the Office of Child Support Enforcement's assessment of State child support enforcement agencies' technical assistance and training needs, States indicated a need for a video they could use to train staff who provided paternity acknowledgment services. This video has been designed for State use in training hospital, vital statistics and other staff who offer parents the opportunity to acknowledge paternity. We would like to extend very special thanks to State and Federal members of the Paternity Work Group who helped us develop the contents of this video. The video was produced for the Office of Child Support Enforcement by Fast Forward Productions under Contract #ACF-98-0092.

Given that States have flexibility under Federal law and regulations regarding certain provisions of their paternity acknowledgment program, we suggest that you either add a "tag line" at the end of the videotape to cover State specific information and/or provide written materials to supplement the video training. State specific supplemental information should cover areas such as:

  • The designated agencies in your State where voluntary paternity can be established
  • Parental rights and responsibilities
  • State Paternity Acknowledgment Form Requirements (e.g. data required, whether it needs to be notarized or witnessed, where copies should be sent, timeframes)
  • Visitation and custody provisions
  • Rescission policy (60 day time limit)
  • Minor parents provision
  • Provision if mother is married to someone other than the father

If your State needs assistance in making your video State specific, or has any technical questions as to how this can be done, please contact Steve Minichiello, Executive Producer, Fast Forward Productions at (508) 529-6408 or email him at stevemin@ziplink.net.

We hope that this video will be helpful in your State's continuing efforts to train staff who offer parents the opportunity to acknowledge paternity. Effective paternity establishment programs are a critical component in helping all our nation's children receive the financial and emotional support they deserve.

Sincerely,

David Gray Ross
Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement

cc: State Paternity Liaison
ACF HUB Directors and Regional Administrators
CSE Regional Program Managers

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Staff Training Videotape Script

Michelle

Good morning Nancy, I know it's your first day on the job, so I'd like to get you up to speed. Are you ready for a quick overview of Paternity Acknowledgment Programs?

Nancy

Sure, thanks for taking the time to get me orientated. I have a list of questions to ask too.

Michelle

Well, the first thing you need to know is that Federal law requires every state to have a voluntary acknowledgment program in place.

Nancy

Alright, got that.

Michelle

...and the purpose of the voluntary acknowledgment program is to make it easy for unmarried parents to establish legal paternity for their child without going to court. Unmarried parents can establish paternity at the hospital, the vital records agency and other locations designated by the state such as:

1. WIC Offices

2. Head Start Offices

3. Local Health Care Clinics

and

4. Private Doctors' Offices

Nancy

Got it....I have a few questions, if you don't mind?

Michelle:

OK

Nancy:

Just how many children are born to unmarried parents?

Michelle

Well, in 1996, about 1.2 million babies born in the United States were born to unmarried parents.

Nancy

So, how does the voluntary acknowledgment program work?

Michelle

Under federal law, every state is required to develop a program for parents to voluntarily establish paternity. Unwed parents may establish paternity for their child at the hospital, vital records office or at another location offering this service.

States have to allow parents to establish paternity at least up until the child's 18th birthday.

To help parents with the process, states have to provide oral and written information explaining parents' rights and responsibilities, their alternatives to acknowledging paternity and the legal consequences.

States also have to develop a paternity acknowledgment form and they have to train birthing facilities and other agencies offering paternity acknowledgment services.

Nancy

That sounds great but why is paternity establishment so important?

Michelle

Good question. It's important for a number of different reasons. Paternity establishment provides a legal father for the child and is the critical first step in obtaining child support. If paternity isn't legally established, the child may not receive financial support from both parents. But when paternity is established, a child can get economic benefits such as social security, veterans benefits, health insurance and inheritance rights. The child also benefits by having the advantage of knowing both parents and a sense of family heritage. In addition, the child will have information about the father's family medical history that could be necessary in the future. The father also has a lot to gain by legally establishing paternity. For example, the father can ask for visitation and custody. And it's an easy way for him to have his name on the child's birth certificate.

Nancy

This sounds like a great program but I guess I still have a lot to learn. Can you tell me some more..

Michelle

Well, as you know, all new parents fill out birth certificate forms. All unmarried new moms, as well as dads, if present, must be given information about establishing paternity. In fact, unmarried parents must be given both oral and written information about paternity before they sign an acknowledgment form. Oral information can be presented in the form of audio or videotapes. The parents are then asked if they want to complete a paternity acknowledgment form. The form must be signed by the mother and father, and either witnessed or notarized, depending on state law, before the father can be considered the legal father.

If the parents don't fill out the form in the hospital, they can do it later but it is easier to do it in the hospital.

Nancy

So my job is going to be?. . .

Michelle

Well, your job is to give unmarried parents information about the paternity program and to send the forms to the right places after they are completed.

Nancy

OK, so what else do I need to know about paternity?

Michelle

First, let's talk about the paternity form. Every state has their own paternity acknowledgment form but there is certain information that is required by federal law.

Nancy

Right, here's a whole stack of them.

Nancy

Let's see, there's a section about the child. Then there are sections about the mom and dad.

Michelle

Right. The forms will ask for information about the child, mother and father. It will ask for the birthplace of the child. For the child, mother and father, you will need to get their current full name and date of birth; and you'll need to ask the mother and father for their address and social security numbers.

The form will also ask for other information but that will vary from state to state.

For the form to be legal, both parents have to sign. You'll notice a statement for the parents to read that says that they understand the form is voluntary and they understand their rights and responsibilities. Lastly, there is a line for a witness or notary to sign. Check with your state law to see which applies to you.

Nancy

So what happens to the forms? You said that part of my job is to get them to the right place.

Michelle

Right. If, both parents want to establish paternity. They need to provide all the required information, including their social security numbers. It's best if you complete the form because you have less of a chance of making an error. Once it is completed, have both parents sign. They sign to indicate that they have read and understood the legal consequences. Someone will have to witness or notarize the signatures.

Nancy

And then the dad's information can go on the birth certificate?

Michelle

Right. Completing the form is the easiest way to put the dad's information on the birth certificate when the parents are unmarried. Make sure you tell them that.

Nancy

OK, got it. What's next?

Michelle

Then you send the completed form to the appropriate location so that it can be recorded and filed. In some states it is a vital statistics office in others it's a paternity program office. Check with your supervisor or your training materials to see where you should send the form. But don't forget - many states have a time limit on how long you can hold it before sending it to be filed.

Nancy

That all makes sense. But what happens if the parents aren't sure who the father is? I've heard that happens some times.

Michelle

If the mom or the dad is not sure that he's the father, they shouldn't sign the paternity acknowledgment form. You should refer the parent to the brochures or other informational materials to find out where to call to get more information or to request blood or genetic testing.

Nancy

You know, this paternity program stuff sounds great. I'm going to make sure every single unmarried couple...

Michelle (laughing)

Wait a minute - you need to remember that the paternity program is voluntary. Your job is to let parents know about the option and provide them with the information they need to make their own decision.

Nancy

But why wouldn't they want to voluntarily establish paternity?

Michelle

Well, most parents probably will, when they understand how important it is. But sometimes a mother is worried about domestic violence or has some other reason that makes her hesitant about signing.

Nancy

So how does this work with real parents?

Michelle

Well first of all, it's important to be relaxed, you'd be surprised how a smile can put people at ease. The hospital provides information about paternity establishment either in a pre-admission packet or it's given to parents in the hospital. Your job is to answer any questions the parents have about that information. For instance, a common question is do they have to sign right away. Remember having a baby is a pretty overwhelming situation so even simple tasks can seem difficult. Let them know that in order for the dad's information to go on the original birth certificate, they'll need to complete the paternity form before the birth certificate leaves the hospital. And the hospital can only keep the birth record for a short period of time. Since they're both there, it's definitely best to do it now. Also, let them know that they can add the father's name later, but they'd have to go to another location and probably pay a fee to do it.

Michelle

So you can see, it just makes sense to do it in the hospital. You can leave the form with the parents, they may want a little privacy to discuss things. That's fine, but make sure you tell them not to sign anything until you're there. The birth certificate clerk or notary has to watch each parent sign the form. Now lets go over some of the most common questions you'll be asked. What happens if either one of the parents changes their mind? Well, either the mother or father can ask to rescind the form but there's a time limit, 60 days. After that, paternity is established legally and only in rare instances can a parent challenge the form.

Nancy:

What if the father is married to someone else?

Michelle:

If he's married to someone else, that's no problem. He can sign the form now. No legal action is necessary

Michelle

Remember Nancy, be sure not to push them. Some people need a little more time to talk this over. Here's another scenario for you:

If a Mom didn't complete the form in the hospital, she now has to go to an agency or other location to find out about paternity establishment.

The clerk will explain how important it is to fill out the forms carefully and accurately. You'll need to check with your supervisor or your manual for the specific instructions for completing the form. The clerk also has to explain that both the Mom and the Dad have to sign the form. In this case, the Mom came alone and probably wanted to know if she could just give the worker the dad's name. The answer to that is NO. Both have to sign the paternity acknowledgment form but not necessarily at the same time and their signatures must be either witnessed or notarized.

Nancy:

OK, Now let me throw you a more difficult question.

What if the Mom is still married to someone else..... Can her boyfriend still sign the form?

Michelle:

This is one of the more complicated situations for parents and it's not uncommon. States vary on how to handle this issue so you should check with your supervisor or the manual to see what the policy is. And while we are at it ... another issue that parents might have a question about is whether minors can sign the form. Again, check to see whether they can sign in your state. Being prepared is the best way to be comfortable talking to parents!

Michelle:

So, what do you think so far

Nancy

This is great! I was feeling kind of anxious about approaching the parents. But talking to you makes it seem much easier. Thanks.

Michelle

You'll be fine as long as you remember a few basic rules:

1.9Give all unmarried parents information explaining the rights and responsibilities, alternatives to and legal consequences of establishing paternity - remember the information must be provided both orally and in writing.

Complete the paternity acknowledgment form carefully and accurately.

BOTH parents must sign the form and it must either be notarized or witnessed for it to legally establish paternity

Don't worry, you'll catch on fast. We're glad to have you aboard!

Nancy

Well, thanks, it's great to be here. I didn't realize I could help make such a difference in a child's life.