The claim: Babies with a birth certificate and Social Security number are property of the state
Some social media users are circulating a conspiracy theory about birth certificates and Social Security numbers.
“Did you know that when you register YOUR baby with the state and are given a BIRTH CERTIFICATE/SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER in return, your baby becomes PROPERTY/WARD of that state?” reads part of a Dec. 9 Instagram post (direct link, archived link).
The post claims those records can lead to the government and child protective services taking away a baby if the mother is deemed negligent. It includes a video purportedly showing New Zealand police taking custody of a baby with a heart condition from parents who refused blood from vaccinated people for the baby’s surgery.
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The post generated over 1,600 likes in less than two weeks.
But the claim is baseless.
Multiple legal experts told USA TODAY that birth certificates and Social Security numbers do not make babies property of the state. And the process of taking custody of a child has nothing to do with these records, either.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Babies do not become property of state, experts say
There is no truth to the claim, Susan Cancelosi, an associate professor of law at Wayne State University, told USA TODAY in an email.
Birth certificates are basic government records that show an individual’s citizenship status, age and identity, according to the American Bar Association. Social Security numbers are used for tax reporting purposes and eligibility for government benefits, such as Medicare, Cancelosi said.
Neither birth certificates nor Social Security numbers have anything to do with the termination of parental rights, according to Cancelosi.
The post’s claim that birth certificates and Social Security numbers are related to the government taking custody of a child if a mother is negligent is also wrong.
Typically, child protective services will receive a report of abuse or neglect and investigate the situation to see if there’s any merit, Naomi Cahn, a law professor and co-director of the Family Law Center at the University of Virginia, told USA TODAY. Whether a child has a Social Security number or birth certificate is irrelevant to this process.
In cases where parents are abusive, the state can step in to protect the child, Robert Sedler, a retired law professor and attorney, told USA TODAY in an email. The goal is to return the child to the parents. If this is not possible or a child is abandoned, the state can step in and following legal proceedings, parental rights can be terminated. At that point the child is a ward of the state and can be put up for adoption, he said.
The New Zealand case highlighted in the post had nothing to do with whether the baby had a birth certificate. New Zealand doesn’t issue Social Security numbers, but IRD numbers, which are used for tax reporting purposes.
Health officials took temporary custody of the baby to give him a proper blood transfusion for his heart condition, according to BBC News. The baby’s parents remained his permanent guardians.
Lead Stories also debunked the claim.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that babies with a birth certificate and Social Security number are property of the state. Multiple legal experts told USA TODAY that birth certificates and Social Security numbers do not classify babies as property of the state. And the process of taking custody of a child has nothing to do with these two records.
Our fact-check sources:
- Naomi Cahn, Dec. 18, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Susan Cancelosi, Dec. 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Robert Sedler, Dec. 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Susan Carle, Dec. 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Lead Stories, Dec. 12, Fact Check: ‘Birth Certificate/Social Security Number’ DO NOT Turn Babies Into ‘Property/Ward’ Of ‘That State’
- American Bar Association, Nov. 20, 2018, Birth Certificates
- USA TODAY, Oct. 12, Fact check: False claim that undocumented immigrants get Social Security numbers at the border
- BBC News, Dec. 7, New Zealand places child in anti-vax blood case in custody
- Inland Revenue, accessed Dec. 16, IRD numbers for individuals
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