Birth Fathers

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In domestic newborn adoptions, the focus is generally on the birth mother as having the decision-making power over whether or not to make an adoption plan for her baby and which family to choose. However, birth fathers are just as important to the equation, even if they may not seem involved with the pregnancy or are no longer involved in a relationship with the birth mother.

For one thing, an adoption cannot take place against the will of either of the birth parents. If a birth mother tries to prevent the birth father from knowing about her pregnancy by arranging for an adoption behind his back, the adoptive parents should be extremely cautious. Such an adoption can very well be disrupted if the birth father finds out he has a child he didn’t know about. For this reason, common knowledge in adoption circles states this as a definite red flag when discerning if an adoption lead is a potential match.

In other cases, fathers do know about their child and simply are not on board with the adoption. In such a case, the birth parents may be in talks to try to reach an agreement while the adoptive family holds their breath awaiting a final decision. It is crucial not to assume that the birth mother’s desires automatically trump the desires of the birth father. The idea that a single father cannot be a good parent is very outdated and woefully unfair to many fathers doing all that they can to provide what their children need, even if the mother is out of the picture.

Some states have what is called a putative father registry, where men who have had sexual intercourse with a woman can register if they want to be proactive in knowing whether or not their relationship resulted in a pregnancy and their partner is trying to place their child into an adoptive home. Of course, if the mother simply doesn’t share news of the child’s existence with the father but does not try to make an adoption plan, the man has no way of knowing that he is a father.

Some states mandate that any pending adoption must first be preceded by an announcement in the newspaper, which is supposedly meant to provide notice to the birth father to come forward if he does not want the adoption to proceed. Often times, the ad runs for about six weeks, starting even before the baby’s birth. While birth mothers cannot relinquish their parental rights and agree to an adoption until after birth, birth fathers may do so even before their baby is born.

From the birth father’s perspective, neither of these options are examples of truly due diligence when it comes to something as life-changing as having a child “out there somewhere”. Not only does the birth father suffer if he misses the newspaper ad or is not aware of the putative father registry yet would very much be interested in parenting his child, but it also hurts his child, who may go through life assuming that his or her birth father was not interested in parenting. Of course, it can also be damaging to the newly formed adoptive family if the birth father does become aware of the adoption and then seeks to gain custody of the child. There have been times when the courts have found loopholes that separate adoptive families even years after having been together, so that the child would be raised by a blood relative. There are no winners in situations like these.

Unfortunately, as long as casual premarital sex continues to be the norm, there will be babies being conceived and born whose fathers know nothing about their existence. It remains to be a tough ethical dilemma for the adoptive family to decide whether or not it is worth the risk to adopt a child whose birth father is not aware or not fully on board with the adoption.

Credits: Karolina Maria

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