By Bill Hendrick
Sandy Springs is home to the hospital where more babies are born each year than anywhere else in the United States, but not one of those babies has a birth certificate listing Sandy Springs as the place of birth.
Instead, all 40,000 babies born at Northside Hospital since Sandy Springs was incorporated in 2005 have Atlanta as their official birth place.
Until now, parents haven’t even been given a choice; their children officially were born Atlantans.
Nicholas Cain was born at Northside four months ago, and his parents, Bob and Gemma, are livid about his Atlanta birth certificate.
Nicholas’ brother, Oliver, who will be 3 this summer, also has a birth certificate listing Atlanta, even though he also was born in Sandy Springs at Northside.
Bob, an engineer, and Gemma, an emergency room nurse, want their sons’ official documents to read “Sandy Springs” — in part because people who apply for passports are sworn to tell the truth. And they want their sons to have passports because they plan to travel.
They’re concerned that unless the city of birth on the passports matches the birth certificates, the boys could face trouble in overseas travel.
So the Cains are trying to get Northside Hospital to make amends and send in new forms to the state vital statistics office to get birth certificates showing their place of birth as Sandy Springs.
The hospital said it has asked the state vital records office to change Nicholas’ birth certificate and will do the same for Oliver. But Cain, 33, said he keeps “getting blown off” by the state agency, part of the Public Health Division of the Department of Human Resources, and repeatedly is told he’ll have to pay for any changes, even though he had to fork over money for “the one with the wrong city on it,” plus copies.
Northside spokesman Russ Davis said the Cains are the first couple ever to ask for Sandy Springs addresses for their newborns at the hospital.
From now on, Davis said, parents will have the option of choosing Sandy Springs or Atlanta for birth certificates, “but we’re not going to do this retroactively.”
“As far as we’re concerned, the issue has been resolved,” he said. “He can get a new birth certificate for his son, and we would reimburse him the fee.”
Still, the default official birth place for Northside remains Atlanta.
Davis said Northside personnel help parents fill in the paperwork, and unless “they request Sandy Springs, it will continue to say Atlanta.”
He said the legal address of the hospital is Atlanta, even though it’s in Sandy Springs.
“We don’t want to have to change,” he said. “It would be extremely costly. The majority of our (baby) deliveries are from outside the Sandy Springs city limits anyway.”
Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos thinks all people and businesses in Sandy Springs should list the 3½-year-old city as their official place of domicile, but they aren’t required to.
“However, a place of birth on a certificate is a legal matter and not a matter of whimsy or marketing,” said Galambos, who fought for three decades to have Sandy Springs incorporated.
“I rejoice whenever a business or individual lists the address as Sandy Springs,” she said.
The mayor added: “There is no legal requirement as to how folks list their address for marketing purposes. The post office has designated 30328, 30350 and 30342 as Sandy Springs addresses, but it will deliver to Timbuktu 30328 if this is what is on the address. Only the ZIP code needs to be correct.”
The Cains, however, are worried that they or their sons could run into trouble if the boys’ birth records say they were born in Atlanta. She was born in England, and the Cains plan to visit relatives there.
“I just want the birth certificates to be precise,” Bob Cain said. “Our address is Sandy Springs. Our driver’s licenses say Sandy Springs. But my sons’ birth certificates read Atlanta. And conflicting information could cause problems, because one of the security questions when you travel is ‘What is your place of birth?’ ”
City Attorney Wendell Willard said: “He’s got an argument there. That may raise a flag somewhere down the road.”
Cain said it should be a “no-brainer because Northside is clearly within the city limits of Sandy Springs, (which) is the eighth-largest city in Georgia with a population of 98,000.” He’s simply trying to head off hassles.
“I don’t want to come off as some loony just trying to stir up trouble, but I made my best attempt to prevent the wrong city from ending up on both of our sons’ birth certificates,” Cain said.
When Oliver was born, the form had a blank for birth place, allowing him to fill in Sandy Springs, but the birth certificate came back as Atlanta.
“The hospital staff had overridden my entry of Sandy Springs with Atlanta,” Cain said.
When Nicholas was born, the form had changed to remove the parental option, leaving it up to the hospital.
“Northside shouldn’t get to choose what city children are born in,” Cain said. “The name of the city where a person is born is a unique identifier, like your mother’s maiden name. It just looks like you’re falsifying facts if you put Sandy Springs on the passport application and the birth certificate says Atlanta. It’s just false.”
Willard said Sandy Springs contends that “everybody needs to change their address. The law says people are to provide accurate information on birth and death certificates. And when they show the place of birth as Atlanta and not Sandy Springs, I submit that that is inaccurate.”
He added: “Northside wants to use Atlanta for marketing purposes. But Sandy Springs provides police and fire protection. And they work around all that congestion around Pill Hill.”
Cain said he understands that Northside might fear having to submit paperwork and pay for thousands of children to get new Sandy Springs birth certificates. “But regardless, this is still their problem to correct.”