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‘Personalized’ Birth Certificates Will Fund Child Abuse Programs

Times Staff Writer

Native Californians will now be able to obtain a “personalized” decorative birth certificate from the state in a new effort to raise money for child abuse programs, the Deukmejian Administration announced Wednesday.

The fancy, multicolored birth certificates will sell for $30 apiece, with half the proceeds going to the California Children’s Trust Fund. State officials said they expect to raise about $375,000 a year for the trust fund, which subsidizes a variety of child abuse programs.

“The ultimate beneficiaries of the program are needy children,” said Bob Taylor, associate secretary of the state Health and Welfare Agency, in announcing the start of the program.

The idea for the California “Heirloom Birth Certificate” was borrowed from Oregon, which has been offering such designer certificates for several years. It also is similar to California’s popular personalized license plate program, which raises about $20 million a year for environmental projects.

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The birth certificate, measuring 11 by 14 inches, includes the name of the person, his or her parents and the date and county of birth. It bears a gold state seal and drawings of five state symbols, including the California golden poppy and the extinct California grizzly bear.

The state is marketing the certificate as a gift item, particularly for parents and grandparents.

“We are all unique individuals,” says a state brochure advertising the program. “Each with our own identity. And each with a birth certificate that commemorates the celebration of life. Which is one of the reasons California is offering a personalized legal birth certificate.”

Anyone can order a certificate commemorating the birth of another person, since birth certificates are a matter of public record in California. The certificate is valid as legal identification but does not contain such information as the time of birth or the baby’s weight.

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The certificates will not be available for anyone born before 1905, because the state did not keep birth records before that time. They can be ordered from the Department of Health Services, Office of the State Registrar, in Sacramento.

Sen. Don Rogers (R-Bakersfield), who carried legislation creating the program, was the state’s first customer. He bought nine birth certificates, most of them for his children and family members.

“In some cases, I guess, rank does have its privileges,” Rogers joked at a press conference to announce the new designer certificates.

But the senator, an unabashed booster of the program, noted that he could not obtain one for himself because he was not born in California. “I can’t even get one of these,” Rogers said. “I would love to have one but I can’t because I was born in Louisiana.”

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