Understanding how Cook County made Birth Certificates Digital
By: Shakora Malik
Registering a child for a new school or sports team, changing last names after a marriage, applying for a passport all require original, certified copies of legal documents. Often, the headache that comes along with obtaining the necessary documents can turn the entire process into a nightmare.
In many cases, the request for documents needs to be made in person. Those employed during regular working hours are forced to dash to the county office on a long lunch break, or in some cases even take time off from their jobs. Arriving at the office, they're then faced with forms that they would have preferred to fill out at their desk, but must now tackle hunched over with others seeking the same documents, often in a tiny and crowded room. In order to reduce fraud, which is estimated to involve real birth certificates 85% of the time, security surrounding vital documents has become far more rigorous, which means longer forms and more requirements.
Once the paperwork has been completed, it's into another line, which could take any amount of time, before the request can be presented to a county worker at the vital records agency. Occasionally, the needed document is able to be quickly retrieved and handed over to the requesting party. More often, however, the person requesting the record is forced to wait, sometimes more than a day, until they're able to pick up or receive the records in the mail.
The process can be exhausting, but it doesn't have to be. Access to birth records can be greatly simplified when county's use updated document management technology to improve their work flow. The entire process can be completed in about five minutes, with a happy customer leaving with birth certificate in hand.
The Cook County Clerk's office, which services Chicago and some suburbs, is a great example of a vital records office that has streamlined and simplified the document request process. Cook County birth certificates and death certificates can be obtained at the county clerk's office, and they typically service 500,000 customers annually. Customers can print a copy of a birth certificate (or other vital record document) request form from the Cook County Web site and fill it out at their leisure. Once they arrive at the office and present proper identification, a representative can immediately access the record from the Clerk's automated system. Identification must prove that a customer is requesting a record only for themselves or their child. Approximately 80 percent of qualified customers have their desired paperwork in their hand within five minutes of being greeted.
In an effort to further improve their system, Cook County has installed technology that digitally stores actual images of all vital records, including birth certificates and death certificates. So, customers can receive certified copy of a digitized image of the original document. In many cases, it even has the father's original signature. This step also serves to preserve the records more efficiently.
As more areas of the country begin to adopt the technology that Cook County currently uses to provide the public with birth and death certificates, the process of obtaining certified copies of vital records will continue to become easier.
Ms. Malik is a mother and vital records expert. She assists consumers that order birth certificates including Illinois birth certificates, and Cook County birth certificates.
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