St. Martin

Oct 25, 2012 11:55 PM by Maddie Garrett

What's in a Name? One Man's Struggle to Gain an Identity

Your identity not only defines who you are, but is necessary in every day life. But one man in St. Martinville was born without a legal name and the woman who took him in -- the woman he calls mom --- has tried for 19 years to give him an identity.

Nate Courville was born in 1994 at University Medical Center. His birth-mother was addicted to drugs and didn't want the baby, so another woman asked if she could adopt him and raise him as her own. But when she tried to legally adopt Nate she hit a major road block, the name on his birth certificate was left blank.

19 years ago, Denise Broussard wanted a baby. She had had two miscarriages and when she found out a woman didn't want her unborn son, Denise knew this was her chance for a child and a chance of life for the baby boy.

"I was like I can give him a good life, I didn't have money but I had love for him and it's something I don't ever regret," said Denise.

She got custody of Nate when was 14 hours old. His birth-mother had already left the hospital but she had signed the birth certificate. The only problem, she left the first name blank. The only identification was the last name, Dupuis, which Nate does not use. Dupuis is the last name of the biological mother's husband at the time Nate was born.

"Nobody seems to know how to help him get a name. I mean obviously he's here, I've had him for 19 years. I mean he's my son, I don't need a paper to tell me that. I just need to find a way to be able to give him a name so he can get a life," said Denise.

Nate said he can't move forward in life without a valid birth certificate. "See getting my birth certificate stopped me from getting my license. I was supposed to leave for the army this month and I couldn't go," he said.

Without a valid birth certificate, Nate can't get a driver's license or a good job. He completed the National Guard Youth Challenge with 4 out of 5 stars, but they won't let him join and serve. Denise was able to obtain a Social Security card for him under the name she gave him, Nathaniel Courville, so he was able to attend school and get baptized in the Catholic Church. However, the Social Security card doesn't match the birth certificate, which lists him as "unnamed Dupuis."

"One little piece of paper is holding me back. I don't know what else to do about it, it's really really frustrating," explained Nate.

Denise said she's tried everything. She could never adopt Nate because of his birth certificate, even though Nate's biological mother signed over custody when he was five years old. But his father by legal standards refuses to sign any papers, claiming he isn't Nate's real dad. Denise said he refuses a paternity test to prove this claim and wants nothing to do with Nate.

"The biological father never would, he kept saying it wasn't his kid," said Denise.

Attorneys have turned down their adoption cases and couldn't get his birth certificate resolved in court because of the biological father's last name on the certificate. The State wouldn't allow Nate to legally change his name or emancipate himself from his biological parents because of the invalid birth certificate. Densie said they've been through the legal system several times and have spent thousands of dollars on attorneys with no results.

"Somebody somewhere has to have an answer that can help me finalize this for this child. I don't know if it's an attorney, a politician, somebody somewhere has to have an answer," she said.

Nate said the most frustrating thing: "That it's mine and I can't get it you know."

Nate said he tries to stay positive, he's a volunteer firefighter and wants to join the Army. But after 19 years of an uphill climb, he doesn't know how much more he can take.

"I'm always a good person to be around, I'm always happy. But inside, I don't know how to say that, I'm kind of depressed all the time. I just don't let it show or I try not to at least," admitted Nate.

Because of confidentiality and HIPPA laws, neither UMC nor the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) could tell KATC anything about Nate's situation. However, after we started asking questions at DHH and Vital Records, the department offered to get in contact with Nate to help resolve his birth certificate. At first they told him to simply get it changed in court, but Thursday Denise told us they called back and are working on getting his birth certificate fixed.



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