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CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — They can’t take away the pain of childbirth, but U.S. Naval Hospital officials here are making birth registration less laborious.

Initiatives implemented over the past few months are changing how new parents report the birth of children overseas.

“Birth Registration by the Bedside” aims to cut the hassle, letting new parents complete all necessary required State Department documents to attain birth certificates and passports. A similar program, called a Birth Abroad Brief, also helps parents gather copies of the paperwork essential for birth registration. That brief is conducted the first and third Wednesdays of every month or by appointment.

“It’s one-stop shopping,” said Lt. Terri Adams, health services information officer for the U.S. Naval Hospital on Okinawa. “We can literally go to the mother’s bedside and finish all the paperwork. Before, it would take a minimum of four trips to the hospital.”

The initiative speeds up the birth registration process, which can be tiresome, Adams said. But the State Department requires a series of certificates and official documents to ensure babies are documented properly as U.S. citizens and given passports. Without those passports, babies born on Okinawa can’t leave Japan.

“The reason we set up our programs is because the process is so tedious,” Adams said. “The process can be simple, though; there’s no reason for it not to be.”

Adams added that Japanese and Tagalog translators are available.

Travel considerations are a particular concern given deployments and growing discussion of a possible war in Iraq. Missing documents, such as marriage certificates or divorce decrees, delay the return of a baby’s birth registration and passport.

“The main priority in my mind is operational readiness,” Adams said. “That starts with the home and the families. We want to make sure they’re happy so the servicemember can concentrate” on his or her job.

Preparing families can be particularly challenging if a spouse already is deployed, said Navy Seaman Rebecca Jones, a corpsmen assigned to the birth registration office.

“Deployed servicemembers might want to consider a power of attorney for their spouse to complete the paperwork without them,” Jones said. “But that can’t be a general power of attorney. It has to be a special power of attorney and the consulate usually wants every child’s name on there, including the new baby.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Meloney Cathcart and her husband, Jarrell, never realized how much paperwork was involved in registering their son Desten’s birth. Desten, born in mid-December, is their first child.

Cathcart signed up for the Birth Abroad Brief and quickly learned that while she was ready for Desten to be born, she wasn’t ready for what would follow.

As to documentation, “We had nothing,” Cathcart said. “We didn’t know what we had to have.”

But they were headed in the right direction after the briefing, she said. They knew what paperwork they needed to gather themselves, what the hospital would provide and when it could be filed.

After Desten was born, Cathcart said hospital officials visited her in her room, checked her paperwork and even offered to take Desten’s passport photo right then.

“We told her we had everything,” she said. “We just had to sign the passport forms in front of her and everything was done.”

But Adams warned, “Each situation is unique. There are different things to consider for civilians assigned to Okinawa, people who have had divorces and servicemembers married to local nationals. All cases aren’t the same.”

Adams urged anyone with questions, or wanting documents reviewed, to call 643-7516.


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