WMC ranks high in paternity ID

Posted: March 30, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — As the number of children born to unmarried parents continues to increase, establishing paternity is becoming more important.

This is an area in which Winchester Medical Center continues to excel, officials say.

For the third straight year — according to Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) data released Friday — the hospital is ranked as one of the state’s 10 best at establishing the paternity of newborns.

In 2012, WMC listed the father on 80.67 percent of births to unmarried parents, placing third out of 58 Virginia hospitals participating in the Paternity Establishment Program, which encourages unmarried parents to place the father’s name on the newborn’s birth certificate. In 2011, WMC ranked ninth.

Janet Nordling, director of Women and Children Services at WMC, said establishing paternity is important for children. “There are psychological benefits for the child to have a father established, regardless of the father’s long-term presence.”

And it has other benefits.

If something were to happen to the mother, the father would have a better chance to gain custody of the child if his name is on the birth certificate, and he can obtain visitation rights if the relationship falls apart, Nordling said.

The rankings, released Monday by the DSS, show that 2,333 births took place at WMC in 2012 — 38.5 percent (900) to unmarried parents. Of those unmarried parents, 726 established paternity — a 2 percentage point increase from 2010, when WMC finished 10th in the rankings.

In 2012, almost 36 percent of all births in Virginia were to unmarried parents, according to the DSS. Of those, paternity was established in 69.3 percent of the births — up from 67 percent in 2011.

The percentage of non-marital births was 9 percent in 1964 — the last year the percentage was in single digits — and has steadily risen to the present-day number.

Virginia officials have improved its rate of establishing paternity from 46 percent in 2001 to 69 percent in 2012, according to DSS statistics.

Nordling said WMC doesn’t do anything extraordinary to identify a father. The hospital has one position almost exclusively dedicated to explaining to unmarried parents the benefits of having the father’s name on the birth certificate, she said.

Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal — like WMC, a Valley Health facility — ranked first in 2010 and 2011, but fell to 10th last year, establishing paternity 77.3 percent of the time.

Twin County Hospital in Galax took the top spot, at 81.8 percent, in 2012.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com