Community advocate succeeds in changing birth certificate policy

on June 12 | in News/Updates | by | with No Comments

Late last year, Hussien Mohamed, the director of Sagal Radio, was approached by a community member. The man was deeply upset.

The man was a refugee from Somalia who had recently had a baby at the DeKalb Medical Center. When filling out the child’s birth certificate, DeKalb Medical Center staff would not let him name the child according to his cultural tradition.

“They wouldn’t let us keep the name of his heritage on his birth certificate. They wouldn’t let him keep the name of his grandfather,” the man said.

In many cultures throughout the world, a child’s name reflects the child’s ancestry. Mohamed’s full name, for example, is Hussien Hassan Mohamed Osman. The names record his lineage: his father was named Hassan, his grandfather Mohamed, his great-grandfather Osman.

Hussien resolved to help the man. He started by calling DeKalb and Gwinnett Medical Centers, then sent e-mail and made phone calls to county government offices regularly. Finally, he filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

However, it was through personal connections with county officials that Mohamed was able to address the problem. Gail Hoffman in the office of Health and Human Services, who Mohamed kept in contact with, brought the issue to the attention of Sidney Barrett in the Attorney General’s office.

Dekalb and Gwinnett Medical Centers, until recently, had a policy that children must take the same surname as their father, as is customary in the U.S. This has resulted in fractures forming within families whose members have had to take different names, or names that do not fit with their cultural tradition.

“To think about the time that it takes, and the hassle it takes to go in front of the judge. And it’s the time when you should be celebrating the child’s birth,” said Hussien. “It upset me because I have my own baby. He is 14 now. I named him Hassan as a gift to my father.”

Sidney Barrett made sure that the Office of Vital Records would send a bulletin to the medical centers saying that the parents have the right to determine their child’s surname on the birth certificate, according to their cultural traditions.

Thanks to Mohamed’s persistence, his efforts to advocate on behalf of his friend were successful. The policy in the medical centers was changed.

What’s more, it previously would cost up to $250 to go before a judge and ask to revise the name on the birth certificate. But Barrett sent Mohamed an address where parents can send a copy of the birth certificate if they wish to make changes, free of charge. That address is:

Changes Unit, Office of Vital Records

2600 Skyland Drive NE

Atlanta, GA 30319

Hussien says he was pleased with his experience working to solve a problem within the American system. He said he expects this sort of freedom in America, and that he thinks the policy change will benefit every American citizen.

 “My complaint will help the whole Georgia community whether they are US citizens or immigrants,” he said. “People will have the freedom to name their children any surname they want.  There will be no more different last names within the same family.”

Check out the Sagal Radio interview with Hussien Mohamed at http://www.sagalradio.com/, where you can also find the bulletin that was sent to DeKalb and Gwinnett Medical Centers by the Office of Vital Records.

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