baby

Calls for the NSW baby 'Blue Book' to recognise same-sex parent families.

When a child is born in New South Wales, parents are given a Blue Book to track the development and health of their child.

Much like other states and around the world, the personal health record is dragged around for years and could be said to be one of the first important documents for a newborn.

I recently spoke to a lesbian couple who were angry about the book. They told me it wasn’t gender neutral.

While on a lunch date with their 12-day-old baby, the mother said she didn’t like scribbling out father when answering questions in the book.

Only 12 days into a life with a newborn I think most parents feel vulnerable, but having to read official forms that don’t even recognise your role in your new family must be really frustrating.

Father Ashley Scott has a similar story. He tried booking-in his children at a local community centre where they did baby health checks.

“I was registering their details over the phone and they said: ‘You’re just going to have to be the mother, because our computer system is really old and doesn’t cope with situations like yours.’”

Ashley told them that he didn’t really want to be the mother.

“They said – ‘Well if you are the father your partner will have to be the mother. Because you’re the stay at home parent, you may as well be the mother.”

The 34-year-old raises his two daughters with 44-year-old partner James.

His children, Stella, 4, and Sophia, 1, were born through surrogacy overseas and on his return to Australia he has found “layers of confusion” when filling out official forms.

“Health care professional might be getting the wrong answers to the wrong questions,” he said.

The majority of gay couples with children are female same-sex couples. Image from iStock.

Ashley's suggestion is for health forms to be more clear. He says the Blue Book should identify 'parent 1' and 'parent 2' rather than mother or father and add 'genetic mother' if they need information on genetics. 

"I’m sure that people have bought it to the attention of health care workers, and that information you would hope would be fed back to the appropriate forces -  but maybe it’s not been listened to."

ADVERTISEMENT

But Ashley isn't angry. He's feels a sense of support in his community but he's worried about other same-sex families feeling isolated.

"My concern is more for the people that do nothing and say nothing [about not finding an option for them in the Blue Book] and take that as society not accepting their family," he said.

"I think the main problem with it [the Blue Book] is for people that are less confident with their family structure and are not out to health providers or to people in their community they are then going to feel more ashamed of being a single-sex family."

But the Blue Book isn't the only place it happens - Ashley had to speak to his GP about their forms too.

"It was the same thing at our local doctor when I first went there, a year ago.  Sophia was two months old, I was exhausted and I remember angrily scribbling out 'Mother' and writing 'Parent 1' and 'Parent 2'."

In 2011 there were 6,300 children living in same-sex couple families, up from 3,400 in 2001 and the majority were female same-sex couples.

Children of same-sex couples may have been born into a previous relationship or conceived with the help of reproductive technology, adopted, or fostered in a same-sex relationship, according to the ABS.

So that just shows the dynamics at play. I think we've moved on from the singular options of a mother and a father.

"Maybe the Blue Book is 20 years old and it wasn’t something that was on the radar as much as it is now," Ashley said.

But it's date of issue says 2015.

In response to this article, the writers of the Blue Book say they could make changes.

"Thanks for your query regarding terminology within the NSW Personal Health Record (Blue Book)."

“We review the Blue Book regularly and will absolutely consider making these amendments at our next review,” said a spokesperson for NSW Health.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???