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How to Find a Birth Record in California?
What Are Birth Records in California?
California birth records are official documents containing information regarding births that occur in California. Birth records are vital records, and most of them are available to the public. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all births should be registered regardless of if a child is alive or dead at the time of delivery. A birth record contains different information on the child and parents and may either be used for administrative, legal, or statistical purposes. In California, the information that may be entered into birth records include:
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Name of child (in full)
- Sex of child
- Type of birth
- Date and place of registration and birth registration number
- Parents’ names
- Mother's marital status
The State of California had no law requiring the registration of births until 1915. Birth registration is a strong pillar of public health, and keeping records of live births influences health policies and helps in the allocation of resources. Californians need their certified birth records to obtain social security cards, driver licenses, and passports.
How to Find and Request Birth Records Online in California
Individuals cannot obtain birth records online in California directly from the California Department of Public Health. The Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR) does not accept online birth record requests or provide an online means of looking up the same. However, some third-party vital record providers take and process online orders of birth records in the state. The CDPH-VR website provides further information on this. Individuals who intend to request birth records online must be willing to pay the processing fees and shipping costs, which may vary.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How to Get Birth Records in California
Interested individuals may obtain birth records in California in person or order via mail from different repositories. The California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR) keeps a record of every birth that has taken place in the state since July 1905. Additionally, many other institutions, such as county offices and health departments, maintain records of births that occur in their jurisdictions. These agencies typically make available public birth records information to the general public upon request, although at a fee. Requesters may visit County Recorder Offices to get records of births that occurred before July 1905. In California, birth records are available at the county health departments for two years after the events.
In-Person Birth Record Request in California
To obtain copies of birth records in person in California, interested individuals should call the Offices of the Registrars or Recorders in the counties where the births recorded occurred before visiting them. The CDPH provides Registrars and Recorders contact information in all California counties and cities. The County Registrars’ offices maintain records of births for two years from the day they occurred and make them available upon request. To obtain copies of California birth records in person, interested parties may visit the office of the state's Department of Public Health at:
California Department of Public Health
Vital Records - MS 5103
1501 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814
In-Mail Birth Record Request in California
To obtain California birth records via mail, interested individuals should forward their completed Application for Certified Copy of Birth Record Forms to the California Department of Public Health. They may also ask for county-specific application forms if available and send requests by mail to the County Recorders and Registrars Offices. Requesters must enclose copies of their valid government-issued IDs and proofs of payment with their mail applications.
Where Can I Find Birth Records in California?
The California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR) is home to records of births that occur within the boundaries of the state. County Recorder Offices also keep records of births that occur in their counties and process record requests quicker than the CDPH-VR. Interested persons may obtain California birth records from the CDPH-VR and the County Offices at the following addresses:
- Make in-person requests at the County Recorder Offices or the CDPH office at:
California Department of Public Health
Vital Records - MS 5103
1501 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814
- Send mail applications to the County Recorder Offices or the CDPH office at:
California Department of Public Health
Vital Records - MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Individuals can also query the California Superior Court for adopted children's original birth certificates by filing petitions with the clerk's office under the California Health and Safety Code 102705. They may file such petitions with Superior Courts in the counties where the adoptions were concluded or where the requesters reside. The courts have the sole discretion regarding the disclosure of such birth records. Therefore, requesting parties must strive to prove reasonable grounds for granting such orders. Once requesters receive orders from the Superior Courts to obtain adoptees' birth records, they can submit them to the address of the California Department of Public Health listed above.
How to Get Birth Records From a Hospital in California
Births of children born in California hospitals are automatically registered with the California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR). Therefore, birth records are not available from hospitals. The CDPH-VR advises against sending checks or money to a hospital or any hospital employee to obtain copies of California birth records.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Birth Certificate in California?
Under California law, only certain persons can obtain authorized certified copies of birth records. Individuals who are not eligible to receive authorized copies of birth records may, however, order informational copies of such records. Informational copies of birth records typically contain the same information as certified ones, but certain items may be removed from the former and cannot be used to obtain identification. The phrase, "Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity" is always engraved on the informational copies of California birth records.
According to California law, persons who can request and obtain authorized certified copies of birth records include:
- The person listed on the record (registrant), or a parent or legal guardian of the registrant
- A member of a law enforcement agency or a representative of another governmental agency, as provided by law, who is conducting official business. Any company representing a government agency must provide authorization from such an agency
- A party entitled to receive the record as a result of a court order, or an attorney or a licensed adoption agency seeking the birth record in a bid to comply with the requirements of Section 3140 or 7603 of the California Family Code. Anyone requesting a certified copy under a power of attorney must include a copy of power of attorney with the application form
- A child, grandparent, grandchild, brother or sister, spouse, or domestic partner of the registrant
- Any employee or agent of a funeral establishment who acts within the course and scope of their employment and who orders certified copies of a death certificate on behalf of an individual specified in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 7100 of the Health and Safety Code
For in-person requests of authorized certified copies of birth records, eligible individuals must include sworn statements under penalty of perjury in their applications. A requester’s valid government-issued ID is required for a request made in person. If the application is by mail, the requesting individual must be able to prove that they are authorized to obtain such records. Hence, they must equally enclose in their requests a notarized statement sworn under penalty of perjury.
The social and medical information on California birth records are confidential, and access to them is limited to specific persons. Such information is primarily for research and health purposes. Individuals who are eligible to obtain confidential California birth records include:
- The person named on the birth certificate (record owner)
- Persons who have asked to adopt the record owner whose name is on the certificate of live birth
- The parent who endorsed the birth certificate
- The mother of the person named on the certificate, if no parent signed
How Much Does a Birth Certificate Cost in California?
The cost of ordering certified copies of a birth certificate in California is $25. The fee is payable to the California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR) if requested from the statewide depository. Record fees for applications made to County Recorder Offices are payable by means provided by the counties. However, the CDPH advises persons interested in obtaining California birth records never to send cash by mail. The recommended means of payment are check and money order. Requesters may also pay with money orders issued by the United States Postal Services. Requests sent without the appropriate fee will be rejected and returned to the requesters.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Birth Certificate in California?
Certified copies of birth certificates in California are available after the original certificates have been registered, typically within a month after birth. The estimated processing time for birth certificates of events that occurred between 1905 to date at the CDPH-VR is a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 business days. The processing time may sometimes increase as the number of requests goes up. However, the County Recorder Offices process birth certificate requests in a shorter time than the CPDH-VR.
How to Expunge Your Birth Records in California?
Expungement of records is the process of sealing or destroying certain documents or information from state or federal repositories. There is currently no known provision for expunging birth records in California.
How to Seal Your Birth Records in California?
Sealing of birth records is common with adoption. Sealed birth records still exist but may only be accessible with court orders. Upon concluding an adoption, the original birth certificate of the adoptee is sealed and then replaced with an amended birth certificate. Adoption records in California are sealed once the adoption process is finalized because it is a closed adoption state. In a closed adoption, the identities of an adoptee's birth parents are kept confidential.
Adoptees have two birth certificates: the original given at birth and another issued once an adoption is concluded. The vital information on both is, however, not different. The original copy of the birth certificate is usually placed in the adoption records and sealed permanently. The primary aim of sealing birth records after adoptions is to protect adoptees from the societal stigma associated with being adopted. Sealed birth records in California are kept confidential by the State Registrar of Vital Records. The California Department of Social Services handles adoption paper works in the state. The following steps summarise the process of sealing birth records in California:
- The court report of adoption is forwarded to the CDPH-VR, and the Department prepares a new certificate.
- The CDPH-VR seals both the original record and the court report of adoption once it prepares the new certificate after the adoption process.
- The CDPH-VR keeps the sealed birth records and may only release them upon order of the Superior Court of the county of residence of the adoptee, or the Superior Court of the county that granted the adoption order.
How to Unseal Your Birth Records in California?
Generally, there are two types of information in a sealed California birth record. These are identifying and non-identifying information. Individuals who can access the identifying information in a sealed birth record are the adoptee, who must be at least 21 years old; the adoptive parent of an adoptee who is older than 21 years; and the birth parent of an adult adoptee. Similarly, an adoptee who is older than 18 years old and the adoptive parent of an adoptee under age 18 can access the non-identifying information in a sealed birth record. The need for information regarding the birth family will always arise even after finalizing an adoption. Adoptees may need to seek some identifying information about their biological families in a bid to interact with them. They may also need to access information from sealed birth records to update their medical histories.
Identifying information are details whose disclosure from sealed birth records may lead adoptees to identify their birth parents, biological relatives, and their true origins. The non-identifying information in a sealed California birth record may include:
- The place and date of the adoptee’s birth
- The religion, race, and medical history of the adoptee’s biological parents
- Information on adoptee’s siblings
- Physical description of adoptee’s birth parents
- Birth dates of adoptee’s biological parents
- The reason for putting up an adoptee for adoption
Adoptees older than 21 years may request to view the identities of their biological parents and most recent addresses, provided the parents gave written consent for disclosure. Similarly, birth parents may request the release of adoptees' addresses and names if they (adoptees) are at least 21 years old and have given consent (in writing) for their names and addresses disclosure.
All sealed birth records in California can only be unsealed by order of the Superior Court of the county of residence of the adoptees or Superior Court of the county granting the orders of adoptions. The steps involved in unsealing birth records in California are:
- Authorized persons petition the Superior Court.
- The Superior Court verifies the petition to ascertain that the purpose of the application is for a just and compelling cause.
- The Superior Court grants such orders.
- The Clerk of the Superior Court sends a copy of the petition to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) or the California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH-VR).
- The CDSS or the CDPH-VR unseals the birth records and makes the information therein available to the petitioners.