Recent incidents at airports suggest that carrying your child’s birth certificate, passport or other documents will help mitigate alarming, and often time-consuming, incidents in security.

By Debra Kamin
Nov. 16, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET

Shimea Hooks was so focused on her carry-on full of pumped breast milk that at first she didn’t understand what the agent from the Transportation Security Administration was saying.

Ms. Hooks, 32, was at the San Diego International Airport, about to fly alone for the first time with her son, Caleb, then 5 months old. At the security checkpoint, the agent looked at Ms. Hooks, who is Black, and then down at Caleb, who is half-Korean and looked nothing like her.

“Where’s his dad?” the agent asked.

Caleb has two moms — Ms. Hooks, who adopted him, and her wife, Corritta Lewis, who gave birth to him. At that point, the adoption paperwork had not been finalized, and Ms. Hooks realized she wasn’t carrying any legal documentation to prove her relationship to her son.

“I was a new mom and I had this Asian-looking baby with me,” said Ms. Hooks, who runs a family travel site alongside Ms. Lewis. She believes that she was flagged because she was a single parent traveling alone, and because her child is of a different race. “I was afraid they were going to take my son away from me.”

Parents traveling with children are often so focused on remembering the tickets and piles of gear like diapers and toys that they fail to pack one critical item: proof of their relationship to their children. It’s an oversight, family law attorneys say, that can lead to significant delays at airports and border crossings, particularly in cases of divorce or nontraditional family structures, or when children don’t share their parents’ last names.

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