Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adoptive Parents Ordered to Surrender 3-Year-Old to Biological Father

I just read Adoptive Parents Ordered to Surrender 3-Year-Old to Biological Father by Honey Berk at Parent Dish, and I'm sputtering mad. (

In her opening line Berk writes, In what may turn out to be a nightmare-come-true for adoptive parents, an Indiana couple risks losing their son today to the child's biological father in Ohio, after fighting to adopt the boy for nearly three years. I don't know Berk or any details of her personal life, so I can't hazard a guess as to why she chose to write from that perspective rather than the bio dad's or a neutral position. Why didn't she write, "In what may turn out to be a dream-come-true for first fathers, an Ohio father may finally be able to raise his son, after fighting nearly three years to have his legal rights as a first father upheld." I don't know.

Whether intentionally or not, Berk's word choice demonstrates an anti-first parent bias - especially first father bias - that I believe lurks beneath the surface of adoption today. That's a topic I'll tackle another time. For now, I hope you will read Berk's article. I am interested in your reaction.

Here are a few details from the article that I found particularly upsetting:

Bio mom wasn't required by law to provide bio dad's contact information to the adoption agency. (Why not? His DNA matters as much as hers.)

Within 30 days of his son's birth, bio dad registered with the Putative Father Registry in Ohio, which was weeks before the adoptive parents filed for adoption. (So bio dad asserted his paternity before the adoptive parents filed for adoption.)

Seventeen months later bio dad was awarded custody in Ohio court. That decision has been upheld by the Ohio Court of Appeals and by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The voice of the law seems clear. Bio dad should get his son back - three years ago!

Parts of Berk's article made me physically ill. Those would be the quotes from the adoptive parents, e.g.,:
Quote #1 "He's never contacted us directly. He's never asked how the child is doing. He's never sent a birthday card." If I believed that someone essentially stole my child from me, I don't know that I'd contact them directly either. Perhaps he had legal counsel in that regard or was afraid of how easily he could be labeled a stalker, menace, obsessive, etc.

Quote #2 "What they'll say is they've litigated this from the beginning, that he filed a paternity action in the very beginning; that he's done everything he can do." And hasn't he? Hasn't he litigated it from the beginning? Didn't he file a paternity action in the very beginning? Hasn't he done everything he can legally do? Yes. YES! How can you feel good about keeping this man's child?

Quote #3 "We want him to have contacted Grayson and to have supported him, and our position is he has not done that." Excuse me? Really? So, if bio dad had contacted Grayson and 'supported' him (whatever that means), then what? You'd be happy to return his son to him? Doubt it! And besides, who are you to decide what hoops he or any other bio dad has to jump through to 'prove' his love for his son? The position of the Ohio courts is the one that matters in this case; not yours.

Quote #4 The adoptive mother is worried about how to tell her two other children. "There's absolutely no difference. He's our child, and he has been since the moment I held him." And this is where I cry, because Lady, I understand that feeling. I have felt that feeling. But feelings don't erase paternity. Feelings don't change wrong into right. I can not begin to imagine the pain of having to tell either of my kids that their sibling isn't going to be part of our family any more. The idea is devastating. But... you shouldn't have been allowed to raise him as your child to begin with. He was never relinquished for adoption by his biological father. And that sets up a situation where everyone loses.

Bio dad has lost the earliest years of his son's life.
The adoptive family is scheduled to lose the boy they have loved for three years as a son and a brother.
And Grayson loses everything. Absolutely everything. His parents, his siblings, his home, his world. He loses security, peace, belonging, and faith. Everything. Absolutely everything.

To those of you who think that Grayson should stay with his adoptive family, I agree that his loss will be tremendous and devastating. Enormous. Life-altering. But I have to ask, if someone took your infant child without your consent, how long would you fight to get him or her back? At what point would you say, "OK. It's enough. Just keep him. It's not worth the fight." Honestly?

Instead of bashing bio dad for wanting to raise his son (his son), why not bash the laws and regulations and protocols that make it ridiculously easy to delete bio dads from their children's lives? Why not work for adoption reform that values fathers as much as mothers?

Both my kids' birth mothers recognized the importance of fathers. Both realized that was something they couldn't give to their children, and that's why they asked my husband and me to adopt their babies.

How can anyone deny this bio dad the privilege of raising his own son?

What do you think?

Click here to purchase Sally's , What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective, in softcover, hardcover, or e-book formats.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article! Your POV is refreshing and I appreciate your recognition of the father's position in all of this. What a terrible, terrible tragedy for everyone involved, but mostly for Grayson. I pray for peace for everyone involved.

Adoptive Momma said...

So much went wrong here and unfortunately an innocent child is caught up in it and will be the one hurt the most.

The father has every right to his son, it's his son.

The adoptive parents have to make sure that everything is done correctly and to the fullest extent when parental rights are surrendered. If a father is not found, he has to be notified in some legal form of his child's potential adoptive placement.

The agency must make sure they follow the law and conduct their business appropriately and legally. They needed to be sure the bio father is located or exercise all methods to find him.

How did rights get terminated if he had registered as the father before the adoption even took place? Failure on the court system by not checking to see if he had a registered as the father?

A major breakdown in the process.

Situations like this are what focus a bad light on adoption. Adoption does not have to be an ugly process if done correctly with respect to all involved.

Just Me said...

As far as I'm concerned, those people had no right to even leave the state of Ohio with the child until all the proper paperwork was completed and THEY made sure everyone was being honest about the child's parentage. THEY had a responsibility to make sure the child truly did need a home with them and did not have any interested biological family interested in raising him. Why isn't this a case of federal kidnapping??? I mean, when I was adopted back in 1976 by a NJ couple (and I was born in SC), I was not allowed to be removed from the state of SC until the adoption was finalized. Granted, some things were done by the courts to speed up the process that I don't agree with BUT, my adoption was finalized three days after birth so that I could legally be taken out of state.

George R. McCasland said...

If a father were to take his infant child from the mother, and raised the child with another woman for 3 years, should the child be returned to the mother, or left with the only family the child has ever known?
If the father picked up the child from the mother, than abandon the child at a Hospital ER, as he LEGALLY CAN, under the Safe Haven laws, just as a mother can, should she be allowed to get the child back?

MrsRacerX said...

Fathers DO matter, and they DO have rights. Thank you for bringing this to light, as this proves a point too easily forgotten: when agencies fail to support the rights of both biological parents, they do harm to the CHILD. Sad lesson learned too late in this case, it seems. Pray for all to find peace in the aftermath.

Duchess said...

Thank you for writing this. AMEN.

michelle said...


ladytoni67 said...

I agree with everything that you wrote. I also can understand why people go overseas to adopt. This is what you hear for adoptive parents. I know this is rare. Many people are going to read this and say, let's adopt from China or Korea. JMO

Karin Katherine said...

I can tell you what I think and what I did. Without giving too much confidential info away I will say that we almost had our adoption fall apart over a birth father issue that "came up" (and I'll leave it at that). We were shocked, horrified and scared. But we decided then and there, if he didn't sign we wouldn't fight him. We wouldn't fight him if he truly wanted to raise his child. We wouldn't put our daughter (of 8 weeks) through a separation at age 2 (after years of legal battling).

It was gut wrenching and some people were SHOCKED I would "give up" so easily. That we could "walk away" from our daughter.

But I was trying to love her selflessly. Which is what we ask birth parents to do, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child that has been in your care for 3 years. Think the authors words were quite kind given the extrordinary pain involved in a adoption reversal. Honestly I think the author of this article is extrodinarily unempathetic to the pain of the adoptive parents.

Anonymous said...

The couple did not adopt him. They TRIED to adopt him. It was not finalized and it did not work out in their favor. Child are created so an infertile couple can fell like a family if that child has a fit family that wants to raise him or her. Natural families have rights that are difficult to terminate and it is too bad if prospective adoptive families don't like it. We have rights to our own children, they don't go to the highest bidder. I'm glad that the little boy is home.