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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Monday, September 20, 2010

Response to 'Not My Normal Modus Operandi'

Do you read Valency? I do, and one of her recent posts knocked some things loose in my head for me. I started to write a response, but it quickly became too long, so I'm posting it here.

Valency wrote this in response to a reader's comments on her post : ...I am just so astounded that adoptive parents would even discuss how much their new acquisition “costs”, especially in an open setting like a blog, all laying out there for the whole world to read. And then to whine about how it is robbery and put them in an unfair moral dilemma????? Say what?

What follows is my response to Valency.
I think that some APs who do so have convinced themselves that they are entitled to parent. They resent their infertility. They feel frustrated, depressed, hopeless, impatient, and very sad. I know I did; I felt all of those things. Except entitled. I never felt that. I spent eight years in the crippling grip of infertility, and never once did I think that I 'deserved' a child or that someone 'owed' me a child or that another woman should just 'admit that she's unfit and give her kid up already' - sadly, all things I have heard (or read) PAPs say.

I haven’t yet been able to sort out how much of that attitude of entitlement is pure self-absorption and how much is cultivated by the adoption industry, whether intentionally or not. PAPs hear an awful lot from industry professionals about their (the PAPs) needs, desires, dreams, fitness to parent, choices, etc., and VIRTUALLY NOTHING about the needs, desires, dreams, fitness to parent, choices, etc. of first parents.

My daughter’s first mother was something of a mythical creature to me for a long time post-adoption, and I’m not a shallow pea-brain; I’m educated, insightful, and compassionate, but I was told zero about her except for some basic stats when we got The Call. We had waited years for The Call, and we were consumed by our joy and anticipation. It was shamefully easy NOT to think about first mother. The baby is here, the baby is real, the baby is ours! M (first mother) had never been made real to us. The role of first mother had never been made real. It had never been made to be more than a means to our end. (I feel sick re-reading that, but it’s true.) We were never directed or even encouraged to explore the adoptive experience from the first parent perspective.

In fact, the adoption professionals who spoke with us gave no indication that there was an “adoptive experience” at all for first parents. It was all about us and what paperwork we needed to complete and what appointments we needed to make and what monies were due when and to whom. Heaven knows, I was grateful for the support we got… we didn’t have a clue what we needed to do or how to navigate the logistics and legalities of adopting. But I noticed that my questions about first parents were dodged with “We’re handling everything with them” or “She’s fine.” I pressed, and I was redirected. I pushed, and I was reassured. “We’re handling everything with them.” “She’s fine.” And I accepted that they were and she was. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the first mother experience and wouldn’t presume to know what a first mother might need, so I trusted the professionals. I wanted to do the “right thing” for my new daughter’s first mother, and I got the message that the “right thing” was to let the pros handle it. So I took myself off the hook.

I learned a lot over the next 3 ½ years, and I plan to stay on the hook for the rest of my days. My son’s first mother was real to me before I met her. Real to me even before we got The Call. My earliest thoughts were more about her than the baby.
Why is she doing this?
Has she talked with other first mothers?
Has anyone explained to her how her feelings may change as time goes on?
Is she making this choice because she wants to or because she thinks she has to?

I questioned whether or not I even wanted to adopt a second time. The experience this time was all about a woman who had chosen not to parent – I wanted to spend time with her and explore the roots of her decision, her relationship with first father, her thoughts of the future, her family, her needs, her emotions, her questions, her options, her journey, her strength, her conviction, her time with her child – and not at all about us wanting a second child. Honestly, not at all.

So, where am I going with all of this? I’m not sure. These thoughts have been ricocheting around in my head for a while, and I was prompted by Valency’s recent post to type them out and hope to find clarity staring back at me.

It's not yet.

I can wait.

There are a few more things I want to say:
• Every adoption professional I have personally spoken to or worked with has seemed genuinely compassionate and ethical. I don’t believe that any of them are knowingly malevolent or unethical. I have heard of some, but never encountered any.
• I can’t call to mind any APs or PAPs who are intentionally offensive, insensitive, thieving, womb-robbers. None that I know personally. I have found some on the internet, so I know that some are. My point is that many of us aren't.
• I support adoption as an option for first mothers/fathers who do not want to parent. (And yes, they exist, and yes, it’s terribly sad, and no, I can’t imagine being an adoptee that learns that about their first parents.)
• I think it is immoral for any state to make it easier for someone to adopt a child than for first parents to raise a child.
• I think it’s crass and insensitive for PAPs to complain about the cost of adoption or to conduct personal fundraising campaigns to defray their adoption expenses. JMO.
• I am deeply grateful to my children’s first parents for teaching me. I love you.

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
My Google Profile+

Monday, September 13, 2010

On John Wyatt - Utah Birth Father Case

Julie at recently posted her thoughts about an adoption case heard in Utah Supreme Court. Julie's post about the case involving birth father John Wyatt generated a lot of discussion (that's an understatement), and I was one commenter among many. This case strikes me deeply, so I'm re-posting Julie's post and my response here.

Julie is an adoptive mother, and I'm grateful to her for taking the time to explore this case on her blog. Honest, heartfelt discussion and debate are prerequisites for any adoption reform, and I appreciate Julie's passion and compassion. The issues raised by this case transcend John Wyatt, his daughter, and her adoptive parents, and I hope you will share your thoughts.

Julie's post:
The case involving John Wyatt (a brth father)
If you live in Utah, you’ve probably heard this news story about an adoption contested by the birth father. I get really angry every time I see this birth father, John Wyatt, speak, or see his story in written form. Really angry.

Here’s the thing: Utah has really strict laws about rights of birth fathers, and their rights are pretty minimal here. Here’s a basic run down for those not involved in adoption:

Utah law says that any man in the country who has sex with a woman anywhere in the United States has the responsibility to follow up with that woman and determine if a pregnancy resulted from their little rendezvous. If the man does not do that, he automatically has no rights to the child after birth. If the man does find out that he fathered a child, it is then his responsibility to show interest in that child before it is born. Some ways he can do that are by financially supporting the mother (rent, groceries, medical bills, etc.), driving her to doctors appointments, and so on. If a man knows he impregnated a woman and shows no interest in the baby before it is born, Utah law gives him absolutely no rights to the baby after it is born and the mother signs paperwork terminating her own rights (which can be done as early as 24 hours after birth if she is not on narcotics). If a man knows he impregnated a woman, supported her during her pregnancy and wants to retain rights to the child after birth, he MUST file certain papers in court in a very specific manner of time.

The case I’m talking about here is all wavering on that birth father saying he submitted papers to the court in time, and the adoptive family attorney proving that he did not have the papers filed until something like 2 days after the deadline.

I do see how in very few percentage of cases, this law might be a bit difficult for birth fathers. But I’m talking 0.01% of all cases might have a birthfather with issues with Utah law, from everything we’ve seen and researched. From all the family situations and birth family situations I’ve seen over the past few years, the laws in Utah work. They have been a lifesaver to countless birthmothers, and I sure appreciate them as an adoptive mom.

Here’s a very tricky thing about adoption law: each state has their own adoption laws, and they are incredibly different. When we were pursuing our failed adoption in 2005 we lived in CA and the babies were born in PA. We could have chosen to use CA or PA law, and because the laws in PA were difficult to work with for our situation, we chose to use CA law. When Joshua was born in Utah we still lived in California, but because Utah adoption law kicks the pants off of any other state in the country, we chose to use Utah law. Generally speaking, the adoptive family can choose to use the laws of either the state they reside in, or the state the baby is born in. There are times when an adoptive family does not get to choose, but I believe this is pretty rare.

The problem with this current case: Virginia – where the baby was born -has awarded custody to the birth father, but the adoption of the baby was by a family who are Utah residents and worked under Utah law, who has given custody to the adoptive family.

Huge problem.

Nathan thinks there is no where for this case to go but the US Supreme Court, and I’m starting to agree with him; although I’m hoping and praying the birth father’s family runs out of money before they can go that far.

Why does seeing this birth father make me angry?

I can’t understand what it would be like to lose a baby when you think you have full legal rights to that baby. I would be tempted to fight and scream and kick for my baby, too.

BUT at what point do you just STOP fighting and admit that even if you were wronged (which I do not believe he was, but play along – what IF he was wronged) – this is a human. This is an 18 month old human being who has a FAMILY. A sweet little girl, who might be ripped out of the arms of the only family she has EVER known (and by that time it happens (please, don’t let it happen) will she be 2? 3? 5 years old?) and given to strangers when she already has a safe and loving home. Can you start to imagine the trauma? This isn’t an orphan, a kid in foster care, an abused or neglected child. This is a girl – a daughter – who has a loving mom and dad and safe home.

This girl is not a lost dog who was taken in and loved by a new family until hey! her first owner was found and now we can reunite them! NO. She is not a lump of goods, trade-able property.

This is a HUMAN. A delicate, innocent baby girl and if she is removed from the only home she has ever known I can not imagine how it will impact her life.

An upstanding birth father, who actually cared about his daughter would never want her to go through that. In my opinion, his is the highest form of selfishness, bordering on evil. He is treating this little girl like property. A lost dog. John Wyatt is showing the world he cares not about his daughter, but himself. A real parent places the BEST INTERESTS of the child above theirs at all times. He is showing he cares about himself, not about what would be best for his birth daughter.

What do I wish he would do? What do I hope I would be strong enough to do if I were in his shoes? John Wyatt needs to say “I still think I was wronged, but instead of ruining the life of my daughter forever, I will fight and work tirelessly forever to change the laws of each state, and the way that states coordinate interstate adoptions, so this never happens to another birth father again.”

Anything less than that will show him to be only cruel, evil, and selfish.

My response:
This story pushes all kinds of buttons, and like Christine, I’m challenged to put my thoughts into words that will not offend. (Deep breath) I am an adoptive mother. I could never live with myself knowing that either of my children’s first fathers was in this situation, especially over a paperwork deadline. I don’t know this guy from Adam, but I do know this: it’s not as easy as “If he really loved his daughter he would let her go and spare her this mess.” Yes, on paper it may seem clear that it is far better to leave her with her adoptive family… bonding, etc. But this is his child. This is his life. She is of his BODY!

Rational or irrational, I would fight to the death for my children, and I think he truly believes that she should be with him. Why should he be denied that right? Because he missed a deadline? For crying out loud, it’s not a term paper. This is a child he CREATED!

I may be slipping into deletion territory here, but this brings up a lot of emotions. I’m disappointed with the way people use child development to justify separating child and first family. (Not just here; the argument is used all over the place.) For example, many people say that a child this age has already bonded with her adoptive family, and separation at this point would be traumatic, etc. Yes, I’m sure it would. Not life-threatening, though. Not insurmountable or irreparable. No. Children this age lose parents to death, divorce, work-a-holism, addiction, and incarceration, and with the right support, the kids grow up emotionally and psychologically healthy. To say that returning the child to her father would ruin her for life is overly dramatic. It would be sad and difficult and confusing for a while, but it’s doubtful that she would suffer lifelong repercussions from it.

As I said, I would fight to the death to protect my children, and I REALLY sympathize with the adoptive parents in this case. But that doesn’t make the first father less important. He is not less than they; his motivation and rights and feelings are no less important or relevant than theirs; he should not be dismissed simply because he makes other people uncomfortable or uneasy or self-conscious. This isn’t merely a transaction for him. This is a horrific personal nightmare. It’s easy for us to devour the headlines with breakfast. He is living this.

My last thought is that I really, truly understand the adoptive parent position. I’ve had my breath knocked out of me by disappointment, “failed matches”, etc. I know the agony of wanting to parent, of feeling sure that you are meant to be a mom, the all-consuming ache of infertility… but dang! No one owes you their child. No state should make it easier for people to adopt a child than for the first parents to parent. That’s morally wrong, and it makes me sick to hear that some adoptive families seek finalization in Utah because it’s faster/easier/safer. It’s an uncivilized concept.

Thanks for letting me chime in.

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
My Google Profile+

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture in Adoptive and Bio Families

One of my favorite blogging moms, Patti at , wrote an interesting post about nature vs. nurture. I've thought a lot about it, and I want to post a response, but since I'm blogging at glacial speed these days, I hope you will click the link for her blog and read it.

I especially like this that Patti wrote: My motherhood adapts to Jeb's personality/needs/tendencies, it has not formed Jeb's personality/needs/tendencies. I have found that same thing.

Thanks, Patti!

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
My Google Profile+

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Adoption Book Review

Many thanks to Adoptions From the Heart adoption agency for this review of my book, What I Want my Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective:

A Must Read for Adoptive Parents

Bacchetta refuses to embrace (or allow her children to embrace) the victim mythology too common in our society. She insists that her children take responsibility for themselves, their decisions, and their lives. (“You’re not unique because you’re adopted. You’re unique because you’re you.”) Bacchetta manages to do this while still acknowledging that adoption has a life-changing impact on all involved — the child, birth/first parents, adoptive parents, extended family on both sides of the equation. It is rare to find a book that takes the specific and applies it to the general in such a way. A must read for adoptive parents.
— Adoptions From The Heart

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
My Google Profile+

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Adoptive Parent on YouTube

Thanks to Dennis (my husband/business partner/marketing wizard) I just launched a new . I'll do my best to keep it growing, and I hope you'll visit it from time to time.

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
My Google Profile+