About Chelyen Davis:
Chelyen Davis is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
Hospitals ask: Who’s the daddy?
The Virginia Department of Social Services has recognized Culpeper Regional Hospital as one of the top hospitals in the state at getting unmarried fathers to voluntarily admit paternity of their newborn children.
The parents of three-fourths of the children born out-of-wedlock at Culpeper Regional have filled out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form before the mother and child leave the hospital. Culpeper ranked ninth among 63 hospitals in the state. Wythe County Community Hospital was first with an 82 percent completion rate.
Mary Washington Hospital ranked 34th with a completion rate of 67 percent. Stafford Hospital ranked 43rd with a 61 percent completion rate. The state average was 65 percent.
Virginia asks hospitals to talk to the parents about paternity after an unmarried woman gives birth. A state contractor visits hospitals to train workers in the process, and the state pays hospitals $20 for each paternity acknowledged. The state says that acknowledgement of paternity protects the rights of the child, including the right to any inheritance, the right to Social Security benefits and health insurance, and access to the father’s health history. Perhaps most importantly, it makes it easier to collect child support.
“We save thousands of dollars not having to go prove who the father was,” said Nick Young, director of child support enforcement for Virginia. “We think it’s good for society, good for health reasons, good for the children to have two names on that birth certificate.”
The number of children born to unmarried parents is growing, according to the state. Of the 90,000 children born in Virginia in 2009, about a third were born to unmarried parents.
(The website for the state’s Paternity Establishment Program can be found here. It contains a link to the ranking of Virginia hospitals.)