Do you need to change your child’s birth date? It may seem odd to give a child a new birthday, but it’s a good idea for some internationally adopted children.

In the 10 years I’ve practiced adoption law, I’ve been asked by parents of children from Nepal, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo for help in correcting their child’s birth date. As an adoptive parent myself, I sympathize with them. For many reasons, it’s important that your child’s legal birth date be similar to their chronological birth date. If a child is younger on paper than his true chronological age, he may have to wait to start school or college. The discrepancy can be also problematic for any activity organized by chronological age, including individual or team sports, obtaining a driver’s license, or getting a job. For medical matters, age is often a factor in dosages, vaccines, and other treatments.

Why are children’s birth dates inaccurate?

If a child has been abandoned, or found in the midst of a conflict zone, he or she may have been given an estimated birth date by orphanage staff or adoption officials. Sometimes more than one birth date may appear on a child’s official documents. Children are sometimes given birth dates that make them seem younger, in the hopes this will increase their likelihood of being adopted. In some countries, birth registration is not required, or birth records are missing, inadequate, or incorrect.

How can a parent correct a birth date?

An adoptive parent may apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a declaration for a new birth date. Other Canadian provinces have a similar process.

To obtain a declaration of a new birth date for an adopted child, a request must be set out in a petition to the Supreme Court of BC, with sworn written documents called affidavits as supporting evidence. I recommend the following evidence:

  1. A dentist’s opinion. A dentist should be able to provide a range of actual birth dates for the child, hopefully narrowed to a three or six month period. She can do this by considering the root formation of a child’s teeth as visible in an x-ray, and the presence and eruption of teeth above the gumline.
  2. A pediatrician’s opinion. An overall assessment of the child’s development, including her gross and fine motor skills, cognitive and emotional development, and a comparison to standard growth charts, is very helpful for the court. If the child is in school, the pediatrician can review the child’s report cards. If a speech development assessment has been completed, it should be provided to the pediatrician and possibly the court.
  3. Known information about the child’s birth. A summary of the information provided to the parents by the orphanage staff, adoption facilitators, and/or government officials about the child’s birth and the circumstances leading to the child’s availability for adoption should be set out in an affidavit.

There is also another process parents can investigate if they’d like, which involves making a citizenship application. That process is set out in the Immigration Canada policy manuals.

In 2013, I appeared in court regarding a petition filed on behalf of one of my clients. We presented a dentist’s determination that the child was born in a three-month period, and a pediatrician’s opinion that the child was born in a six-month period. The three months identified by the dentist were right in the middle of the six-month period identified by the pediatrician.

We asked the court to declare the child’s birth date to be a date right in the middle of the time period provided by the dentist. The judge agreed, and the child had a new birthday!