September 11, 2011
On Friday we went to the County Courthouse for a hearing to establish Ladybug’s legal birth date. It was actually Family Court, the “happy court” we were told, but it still felt serious.
After passing through medical detectors and armed guards we were directed to “our” court room which was small, worn and official looking. There was nothing there that said “happy”, at least in my estimation. The focus of the room was the over sized judge's bench flanked by the US and OH flags. I started to wonder who would sit there but my answer came just a moment later. The magistrate who would hear our petition turned out to be a young woman, perhaps in her thirties, who gave off a big-time “mom” vibe. (I would lay money that she drove to work in a minivan.) Yea for us! Immediately I felt she would be empathetic.
We decided I would be the one to give testimony (which really means when our lawyer asked me and my husband which of us should testify I’m pretty sure my husband put one finger to his nose and pointed another at me and said “not me”...or something to that effect...sigh...yes, perhaps this was for the best.)
I swore my oath to tell the truth and my lawyer prompted me to tell our story. I explained that Ladybug was found on August **th and how the police immediately brought her to the orphanage at 9am that morning. I told them how an American missionary family was walking up the orphanage drive just as the police car was leaving. I explained that this family cared for her over the next six months and they kept a journal of her time there. I read excerpts from the journal that described Ladybug as a newborn with a fresh umbilical cord. I explained how the foster mother had 9 biological children and would be capable of knowing the difference between a newborn and a one month old. And I explained how unlikely it would be for a Chinese birth family to keep a child with a severe cleft for a month before abandoning the child.
Then I said;
“My daughter has lost everything related to her birth; her first family, her country, her language, her food, her customs, her history. Her real date of birth is the last thing she has that ties her there. That day is hers and it is the one thing I can help her to keep.”
“And I know one month doesn’t seem like a huge difference but I would challenge any mother, if your child’s birth certificate contained an error amounting to just one day off, wouldn’t you try to have it corrected?”
I saw the judge nod her head in agreement and I knew she got it.
And so our petition was granted The Ladybug got to keep her real birthday.
But it turns out the judge was not only swayed by our emotional pleas.
We had unique evidence to support our case and more importantly we had not used her wrong birth date on any US documents. All of her school and medical records have the right date AND we very intentionally have not applied for a SS# or passport or even claimed her on our tax returns to make sure the wrong birth date didn’t get into “the system”. And, it turns out THAT was likely the reason she approved our request.
Both the judge and our attorney gave us stern warnings about the possibility of problems later on with Homeland Security and other government agencies stemming from the differing birth dates. The judge began her warning with saying "Since 9/11...." (long long sigh)
Of course we were already aware of this, (and frustrated beyond all get out that this sort of crap goes on), but we had decided early on that it was important enough to risk the consequences. In the worst case we figure we travel internationally enough that any problems will be unearthed while Ladybug is still a child which will give us time to work them out. The last thing we wanted was to dump this issue on her when she is an adult.
And while I'm glad the right thing was done in our case it scares the pudding out of me that correcting an error has to be a court proceeding and come with a risk of future problems with Homeland Security.
It's a pretty good indication that things are out of control when it's this hard to do the right thing...and a pretty simple thing at that.