Birth certificates - advice

This advice provides additional information about birth certificates for child protection clients.
Document ID number 2136, version 3, 23 March 2022.

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

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 becomes part of a child’s history. For some children in 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 otherwise know, such as 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 (BRS) to register their child's birth and apply for a birth certificate. If a child’s birth has not been registered, see procedure - Registering a child’s birth for tasks that must be undertaken. 

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.

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.  

Children living with or returning to live with their parents

For children who are cared for by their parents or for whom the permanency objective is family reunification, inquire if a child has a birth certificate and, where this is not the case, supporting or arranging support for a parent to apply for one, should be routine child protection practice. These discussions should commence as soon as protective concerns are substantiated in the course of developing the case plan, unless dealt with during the investigation.

A clear record needs to be made on CRIS to indicate whether the parent has a birth certificate for their child 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. 

Children in care

For children who enter care under a Children’s Court order (of any type) and remain in care for 21 days, Child Protection will apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM) within the following 30 days for a copy of the child’s birth certificate. The application is to be recorded in CRIS as a ‘Birth Certificate Application’ category case note.

When received, a scanned copy is to be attached to CRIS in the National ID section, and the original document is to be held in the child’s paper file.

Child Protection is to retain the birth certificate issued to the department by BDM even when the child returns to parental care or the case is closed. This will mean the certificate will remain available should the child re-enter care in future. The only exceptions are:

  • where a permanent care order has been made, when the birth certificate issued to Child Protection is to be given to the permanent care parent, or
  • where the child has remained in care until turning 18, when the birth certificate issued to Child Protection is to be given to the young person upon leaving care.

Who may apply on behalf of a child in care

BDM will accept applications from:

  • Child Protection or where they are involved, the Kinship Engagement Team, with approval of the case planner (in which case the birth certificate when received will be provided to the allocated child protection practitioner).
  • the Aboriginal Child in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) program, in relation to authorised under that program.

Providing carers with access to birth certificates

If a carer requires a copy of the child’s birth certificate to facilitate their day-to-day care of the child, Child Protection is to provide the agency a certified copy. The agency will provide this to the carer and retrieve it at the end of the placement. Where the agency is no longer providing a placement for the child, they are to return the copy to Child Protection.

Where no agency is involved, as occurs with some kinship placements, Child Protection should provide a copy to the carer and arrange for it to be returned at the end of the placement. The original certificate is to remain with Child Protection in the child’s paper file.

Where the child’s birth has not been registered

If discussion with a parent, 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 should support or arrange support for parents to register the child’s birth as soon as possible. For children in care, if the parents are unwilling or unable to do this, Child Protection must register the birth. See Registering a child’s birth - procedure.

Considerations for good practice

Early discussions with parents  

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. This should occur as early as possible in Child Protection’s contact with the family, where possible during the investigation. This will help identify early which families may require assistance to obtain a birth certificate, or support to register their child’s birth. Good record keeping will assist future practitioners to know this work has been done, and whether any aspect is yet to be completed. If this has not occurred during the investigation phase, and protective concerns are substantiated, this must happen early in protective intervention phase when developing the first case plan.   

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, or if they have lost their copy. 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. It is essential that every child have their birth registered and have a birth certificate.  

Child Protection should detail the steps taken to engage the parents to the BDM Registry in their application.  

Leaving care

It is important children in care to know about the identity documents held by Child Protection for them, including their birth certificate, to the extent appropriate to their age and stage of development. This will be especially relevant in the course of leaving care planning. The certificate held by Child Protection is provided to the young person upon the expiry of the protection order when they turn 18, as part of their leaving care.