The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 15, 2013

You're not my real dad: Birth paper mix-up result of software glitch

Justin Dennis

— Pennsylvania parents who recently brought home a new little bundle of joy might not be so joyous about their newborn’s birth certificate.

The state Department of Vital Statistics, which is transitioning to new records software, acknowledged a computer glitch that caused some of the certificates issued to be printed incorrectly. Specifically, the name of the father is wrong – completely wrong.

It’s an issue that Holli Senior, spokesperson for the department, claimed only affected a “small percentage” of certificates – about 500 in all.

According to Senior, when the data for the father’s first and last name fields were automatically pulled during the document parsing process, they were pulled from the incorrect fields, giving all the affected newborns an incorrect father.

“We were able to identify all affected individuals, and there was a letter that went out to those individuals that explained the error and requested that they return the incorrect birth certificate in a postage paid envelope that we enclosed, so that we can expedite the corrected birth certificate,” said Senior.

“There is a small chance that someone, in the interim, could choose to use them inappropriately,” she said. “(But) the information (that was) auto-pulled only contained a name – not date of birth or other details that might lead to fraud.”

Senior said the glitch only affected the printed certificates and said that all of the state’s electronic records are accurate.

Senior also said the software vendor has since corrected the error and the department does not expect any additional misprintings.

Currently, the department is working with the vendor to learn if the incorrect names were pulled from the same record or if they identify a real person.

Although both Altoona Regional and Somerset hospitals were unaware of the issue, Somerset has since alerted staff to aid those who have an erroneous certificate. Memorial Medical Center has already received calls from inquisitive parents.

“Our maternity staff is aware of the glitch,” said Amy Bradley, director of marketing at Memorial Medical Center. “Somebody from (the Department of Vital Statistics) did alert our maternity staff and they have had a few phone calls.”