Monroe on the Run, part I

Seventeen-year-old Monroe left his Amish settlement late Thursday evening.

We received a call from his cousin, "Two of my cousins just left. Can you give them a place to stay for just one night?"

My husband and I drove to the meeting place and brought Monroe and his sister to our home. They immediately needed English clothing, toiletries, shoes, showers, and Monroe wanted to cut his required Amish haircut. Equally necessary was getting each their birth certificate and social security number so they could establish themselves and move on in a non-Amish society.

I've already shared with you about Sarah (see "Saving Sarah"). Taking her 17-year-old brother to obtain these legal documents proved more challenging . . . and frustrating!

After the county health department searched in vital statistics to prove there was no birth on record for Monroe, we received a "denial" letter stating no birth certificate. We were instructed to take that letter to the probate court to apply for his first-ever birth certificate. A month later I followed-up with the probate court to discover the document was mailed to the health department. Back to the health department to pay for and pick up Monroe's birth certificate. Good. Done.

Next, was a trip to the Social Security Administration office to apply for his first-ever number. "You must have a photo ID," the agent told us.

"We can't get one without a social security number."

"We can't complete the forms without a photo ID."

"We can try to get a state ID but your office must print a denial letter stating there isn't a social security number on Monroe."

"And why is his birth certificate considered a delayed one?"

"Because he just applied to receive one. His mother had a home birth and didn't complete the form for a certificate nor social security number."

"I can't use this birth certificate."

"Why? It's certified. See the seal?"

"I need the letter from the health department stating Monroe never had a birth certificate until he applied for one."

"The probate court has that letter."

"Why don't you have it?"

"I guess," trying to suppress my sarcasm, "the judge kept the health department's letter."

"Well, I need a letter stating the health department had no birth on record."

"Can I call the health department now and have them fax it to you."

"We don't accept faxes."

"I'll call the health department and see about picking it up." At this point it was noon and we'd stumbled in the governmental obstacle course for more than an hour.

"You have to get that letter from probate court," said the lady at the health department.

I phoned probate court, "Can you make a copy of Monroe's birth certificate letter from the health department?" Meanwhile, the waiting social security agent began helping another citizen.

"Sure, I'll fax it right now."

"The social security administration won't accept your fax."

"Then you must pick it up in person . . . we close today at 4 pm."

After hanging up, I took another number and we waited our turn again. "Can I speak to a supervisor?" A young lady arrived and escorted us to a different window. We sat at her window listening as she explained the delayed birth certificate problem and also the photo ID hang-up.

"If you'd just let the probate court fax the needed letter, it'll expedite this application," I pleaded. She finally coughed it up. I phoned my new best friends at the probate court with the fax number, and soon the supervisor at the social security administration office received the delinquent letter.

"Now," she said to us, "We still need to address Monroe's photo ID problem."

"Well, he can't get a photo ID without a social security number," I tried to calmly explain . . . again. "Can you print a letterhead statement that he's never applied for nor received his number; we'll take it to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) with his birth certificate and proof of residency in lieu of the social." I hoped these documents would suffice there, and Monroe could apply for his state ID.

At the BMV, Monroe said to the lady behind the counter, "I want to get an Ohio State ID."

"Are you 18 years old?"


"We can't do it unless you have your parents' signature."

"His parents are Amish. They don't approve of him leaving so they won't cooperate in signing a form to help him get an ID," I explained to her.

The BMV agent called over her supervisor. They talked then suggested Monroe apply for a driver's license learner's permit, which has a photo. They explained that it's a legal ID; he could use it in lieu of the state ID, and the SS office could it to get Monroe a number. "Just go take the written test for a temporary license," they instructed us.

Monroe and I headed next door. "I want to take the test for a learner's permit," he said to the lady behind the counter.

"Do you have a birth certificate and social security number?"

And this is the same government that's running our health care . . . God help us!

See ya next week.  ~ Brenda

(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.


  1. Very typical government red tape. So sorry that the ex-Amish have to hop through all of these hoops - hope it doesn't stop them from becoming English!

    1. Well, that is why I grateful I don't work full-time outta the house; it gives me schedule flexibility to spend ALL DAY helping the ex-Amish adapt to life on the "outside." I know YOU understand Lisa but, I encourage others reading this post to also read "I'll take one" posted a few weeks ago.

  2. Government red tape. Farmer experience it everywhere we turn. One hand does not know what the other is doing.

  3. All Anabaptist groups do not practice shunning. But people think the Mennonite and Brethren groups are part of the Amish. Not so. Amish actually splintered off of the Mennonite.

    1. Yes, Sharon, I realize our good American farmers experience it as well - at least they speak fluent English and understand words like "felony" and "identity theft."
      Yes, I repeat on this blog that my experiences are with Swartzentruber Order of Amish - the strictest, most punitive and insular sect.
      Agreed; Mennonite & Brethren groups are NOT part of Amish. They'd be considered, by Amish, as higher - or progressive or liberal groups. Jakob Ammann called for a "renewal" in the Mennonite Church and his followers became known as Amish.
      Thanks for your thoughtful - and always welcome - comments.

  4. I know I shouldn't have, but I laughed through the whole article. No, if you are in the middle of it, it's definitely not funny. In the moment, all of the runaround is absolutely frustrating. However, I was laughing because I can honestly say, been there, done that, more than once, so I can appreciate your narrative, Brenda.
    I was a translator for a woman from Guatemala who found herself in a similar situation, as far as needing social security and ID. And, yes, same runaround. Go here, go there, you need this, you need that, sorry can't help without it, yahdah, yahdah, yahdah. The problem was, just like with Monroe, you couldn't complete step one without this document or that, and you couldn't get this document without that. So frustrating.
    What strikes me in Monroe's case, is that you would think by now, these agencies would get a clue that these are not isolated cases. You would think by now they'd have a protocol in place to make it run smoother. Proactive vs reactive. I mean, really? Poor Monroe! The whole thing about taking the driver permit test for an ID was ludicrous!How did they expect an Amish youth to pass a driver permit test??? Hopefully they will get their act together and develop some kind of protocol to make the system to acquire these documents more realistic and achievable. Good grief!
    By the way, I've also have run into this elsewhere. When my daughters moved to Puerto Rico 9 years ago, we ran into the same type of system. It was like comedy capers with the go here, go there, oh, you need this, take another number, etc. So, Brenda, I totally understand. Thanks for turning it into a humorous narrative even though I know when you are going through it, not so humorous, ain't so? As always, may God bless you in your work and give you the grace and wisdom you need day to day.

    1. Yea, well, sometimes ya gotta laugh at such lunacy; humor keeps us sane, right? Glad you enjoyed the post.
      I'll post more interesting pictures and "first" experiences in Monroe, part II.

  5. Should just say he's an illegal alien and that probably would've gotten him signed up to vote also!!

  6. Brenda, God bless you. friend! :) I am glad that these sweet gals and guys have you to help them run the gauntlet. Thanks for offering up a glimpse of what they go through.

    1. Anonymous, after Monroe received his driver's license, some months afterward, he did register to vote.

      Dena, as always thanks for your support and for learning truth about the Amish and those who leave. I think this may be why my authoring is on the back burner; DOING things for these guys & gals and writing the blog - which now has over 27,000 readers worldwide - takes a ton of time and commitment!

  7. Many thanks to you for helping Monroe through all the red tape! It is indeed a challenge; what happens when the person leaving is over 18? This situation is happening outside the Amish; there is a case in texas where 19 year old is trying to get driver license soc sec card and ID... parents never filed birth cert due to home birth, and never applied for soc sec# and they homeschooled her. She has three older siblings and 5 younger ones; all home birthed, all homeschooled, no birth cert or soc eec #.