In March 2004, I responded to The Need for State Birth Father Registries, Caldwell, M., reprinted on adoption.about.com on March 12, 2004. The author asserted that irresponsible fathers were the main problem threatening the best interests of children in adoption cases. I maintained that, because irresponsible fathers were regularly and rightly terminated, it was irresponsible mothers and their families who posed more of a problem in adoptions. I also asserted that, by not addressing this issue, the article wrongly furthered the publics prejudice against unwed fathers generally. Here is the latest example of what the pro-adoption community does not talk about.
Last month, in In re Adoption of Suvak, 2004-Ohio-536 (3rd Dist.) (February 9, 2004) an Ohio Appeals Court upheld a trial courts ruling that the adoption could not proceed without the putative fathers consent. The mother was sixteen years old, the father fifteen years old. On the day the father learned of the pregnancy, he and the mother went to the mothers home to tell the maternal grandparents that she was pregnant with the birthfathers child. The grandfather became enraged and told the father to leave the house, not to return, and to stay away from his daughter. The paternal grandparents, on the other hand, told the youngsters that they would support them in any way possible, encouraged the mother not to abort the child as the mother feared her dad would force her to do, and offered her a home should her parents kick her out. When the fathers parents tried to speak with the mothers parents, they were rebuked. The birthparents continued to see each other until the maternal grandfather called the police to force the mother to come home from visiting the father. The police relayed the maternal grandfathers threat to bring criminal charges against the father and issue a restraining order. Despite this, the paternal grandparents continually offered financial and emotional support to the mother. The mother and her family never accepted the financial offers.
During the pregnancy, the paternal grandparents asked the mother, through their sons attorney, if she would let them adopt the child if she did not want to keep him The father also registered with the Ohio Putative Father Registry. The fathers attorneys corresponded with the mothers attorneys and the maternal grandparents about the need for genetic testing, and expressed the paternal grandparents willingness to assist and be involved with the child. They also stated that the paternal grandparents wanted to help the mother through the rest of the pregnancy and childbirth in any way the mother would allow, including food, housing, clothes, and medical bills. The mothers family refused all offers.
The mother registered as a "confidential patient" at the hospital when she went into labor. After release from the hospital, the father was not told where the mother or the child were. The maternal grandparents refused a gift basket the fathers family sent to their home. The mother had given the week-old child to a couple in another county.
One week later, the father filed a parentage (paternity) action regarding the child. A week after that, the prospective adoptive parents filed a petition to adopt the child in a different court, alleging that the father was an abandoner. The trial court ruled that the father had not abandoned the mother because the mothers parents had substantially interfered with his support efforts. Thus, the adoption could not proceed without the fathers consent.
The Appellate Court agreed, reasoning that parents are "the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are equally charged with their care, nurture, welfare, and education and the care and management of their estates." R.C. 2111.08. Thus, a minor father who made little or no money could satisfy support requirements through his parents.
Once again, we see a father who did not cooperate. Or rather, another private adoption gone sour because the adoptive parents took a child into their home before the father was properly terminated. In fact, the child was not adoptable because the father had signed the registry, made reasonable efforts to support the child and mother, formally acknowledged paternity, filed a paternity action before the adoption petition existed, and timely objected to the adoption. What more is a fifteen-year-old, or any father, supposed to do? He also could offer the child caring grandparents. And this was not just the grandparents case. The father himself was responsible. How many fifteen year old males summon the courage to tell their own parents about a pregnancy, much less maturely address their girlfriends father in person about it---before DNA results are in?