No Child Left Behind: Issuing Birth Certificates to Vulnerable Indonesian Children

Government agencies and social workers join forces to provide birth certificates for children from vulnerable communities

UNICEF
Social worker Ana Yuliani (centre) assists a father to register his child in Tulungagung District, East Java Province.
UNICEF/2021
13 May 2022

With his only child grown up and approaching marrying age, Indonesian farmer Misdirianto longed for another child. His prayers were answered when a friend asked him to care for her 3-month-old baby girl, Alia. The child’s parents were separated, and the mother would soon leave to work in Hong Kong.

Misdirianto took the baby home to his village of Ketanon in Tulungagung, East Java. However, it did not occur to him to obtain legal documentation for his newly adopted daughter. When he tried to enrol her in preschool years later, he was required to present a birth certificate.

“They refused to issue the birth certificate because she is not my own flesh and blood,” Misdirianto explained. “I then sought help from a social worker. I told her, ‘please, my child is old enough to go to school. Help her become an Indonesian citizen.’”

Misdirianto helps Alia, now 8 years old, with her homework at home.
UNICEF/2021
Misdirianto helps Alia, now 8 years old, with her homework at home.

Children from vulnerable communities have more challenges obtaining birth certificates due to low awareness among parents and local authorities and a combination of factors that are exacerbated by poverty. Tulungagung is also a key origin area for Indonesian migrant workers, which has resulted in many children lacking birth certificates. Legal adoption is not yet the norm in small cities and villages and children are often given to relatives or villagers without proper documentation. You can take part in UNICEF’s work to support these children through this link.

Suyanto, the Head of Social Affairs in Tulungagung, said his office is now working with social workers to reach these vulnerable children and assist with birth registration. “The Integrated Service Unit for Child Social Protection (ULT PSAI) is coordinating with relevant institutions,” he said. “Our social workers educate and do outreach, particularly to vulnerable children.”

Social worker Ana Yuliani says parents need to be educated that adoption must be filed at the court to be legally binding. “This is also to avoid conflict (with the birth parents) later on in regard to inheritance, for example, or when the daughter gets married and requires a legal guardian,” said Ana, who assisted Misdirianto in obtaining necessary documents from Alia’s mother in Hong Kong.

Misdirianto has a video conversation with social worker Ana.
UNICEF/2021
Misdirianto has a video conversation with social worker Ana.

Flexibility, and a breakthrough for serving children

In Klaten, Central Java, social worker Anna Nur Fitriani dealt with a more complicated situation when assisting with the birth registration for a two-year-old girl, who was born in a Jakarta police prison where her mother was serving a prison sentence.

“The baby was sent to an orphanage in East Jakarta before her grandmother took her to live with her in Klaten,” said Anna. “She did not have a single supporting document from the parents.”

Social worker Anna Nur Fitriani undertakes extensive coordination and verification of documents with officials in other cities and provinces.
UNICEF/2021
Social worker Anna Nur Fitriani undertakes extensive coordination and verification of documents with officials in other cities and provinces.

The absence of the required document caused the Civil Registration Office to refuse the issuance of the birth certificate, making it impossible for her to enrol in school or access social protection and other services.

After almost two months of contacting all relevant parties, a social worker from the orphanage in East Jakarta finally sent Anna a photograph of the birth statement. The family card and the birth certificate were then issued. Will you support this important work?

Hidayani Nuryastuti, acting head of the Civil Registration Service Division at the Klaten Civil Registry Office, said the new regulations issued in 2021 by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Director General of Civil Registration and the Head of the Civil Registration Office have provided more flexibility with the birth registration process. “There are some breakthroughs and exceptions, such as for children born outside of a registered marriage,” she said.

Hidayani hopes these new directives will help ease the process of obtaining birth certificates and help achieve the national target of 100 per cent birth certificate ownership by 2024. The district currently has a 94 per cent ownership rate.

Alia shows her birth certificate, accompanied by her parents.
UNICEF/2021
Alia shows her birth certificate, accompanied by her parents.
Alia shows her birth certificate, accompanied by her parents.
UNICEF/2021

While the recent changes are welcome, more legal breakthroughs are needed to accommodate children from vulnerable communities whose situations are beyond the norms, such as Misdirianto and Alia.

Your gift today will help UNICEF support children like Misdirianto and Alia in other parts of Indonesia to achieve their basic rights. Your donation now will make a big impact.

Alia poses for a photo at her primary school.
UNICEF/2021
Alia poses for a photo at her primary school.

"I’m happy that she’s now officially an Indonesian citizen. It’s my hope that she can take her education as high as possible."

said Misdiarianto.