A paternity test story shared by Stephen W. Hayes, an American Academy of Adoption Attorneys’ member, who has handled more than 3,000 domestic and international adoptions.
In a recent case, a birthmother had an adoption plan in place and selected the prospective adoptive family. The child was placed with that family while waiting for termination of parental rights, but they became very concerned when a potential biological father showed up, indicating that he might want to obtain custody of the child. Not only would that potentially disrupt the adoption, but they were worried about the child’s welfare since the alleged father had also been convicted on felony charges. The case was further complicated because the alleged father was a member of a Native American tribe covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Hayes recommended a simple solution – a paternity test - to determine if the man was the biological father of the child. This court-defensible chain of custody DNA paternity test found that he was not actually the biological father of the child as he claimed to be.
Then, another man known as the only other alleged father willingly terminated his parental rights, and all parties involved (birthmother, adoptive family, and attorney) were able to proceed with peace of mind.
Adoption, whether domestic or international, can challenge even the most prepared person. Until the day the judge declares you as the forever family, you may become familiar with the emotional roller coaster that is part of this wonderful yet challenging experience of adoption. More and more adoptive families and their representatives are seeing the benefits of using DNA testing at various times during the adoption process. Knowing the biological identity of the child that you are adopting through proper relinquishment can alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty.
Any family going into adoption is well aware of the risk of the process being contested or disrupted. Testing a putative father, whether done with a chain of custody DNA paternity test producing a legally defensible document, or done with a “knowledge only” test kit in the privacy of your home or attorney’s office, will give everyone involved the assurance that this child was relinquished willingly, with the birthparents’ expressed intent of giving him or her a better life.
Hayes uses paternity testing quite a bit for this purpose. “Sometimes, quite frankly, as positive as a birthmother is about the results, she is often mistaken,” Hayes says. “Mothers sometimes base an alleged father on the baby’s looks.”
Another adoption story ended tragically for the adoptive family because a DNA paternity test was not taken as a precautionary step. A child was placed in the foster care of the aunt and uncle of the man identified as the child’s father. After two years as the foster parents of a child they thought was their nephew’s, they decided to adopt her. At that time, the alleged father began to doubt his biological relationship to the child, so he and the child underwent a DNA paternity test. The paternity test excluded him as the child’s biological father. The true biological father was subsequently found, and this man decided he wanted to parent his child. The court took the toddler from the only home she ever knew and placed her with her biological father. This is an example of how a simple paternity test, done early, could have prevented all this heartache.
In some instances, the putative father just wants verification of his biological bond with a child. This is when a DNA paternity test, done in the privacy of the attorney’s office before or after the termination of parental rights hearing, can be used. The results are not legally binding because the samples are not collected through chain of custody. In fact, the results do not even contain names beyond “Alleged Father” and “Child.” However, as long as the correct people are sampled and an AABB-accredited laboratory runs the test, the results are accurate.
This knowledge may make a difference in the relationship the adoptive family forms with the biological father. In open adoptions, everyone can agree upon the amount of contact involved or information given–and not just from the birthmother’s side. If nothing else, the family will have access to the birthfather’s medical history, both past and future. The advances in medical science are showing us how important genetics really is to our health. Don’t we all want to arm ourselves with as much information as possible to keep our children healthy?
Anyone who has adopted a child from Guatemala knows a DNA maternity test is required by the U.S. Embassy to prevent child trafficking. The United States is compliant with the Hague Convention and tighter restrictions provide for stronger safeguards to protect our international children. Following Guatemala, other nations are using DNA testing as well to confirm that the adoptable children were relinquished by their birthparents and not obtained illegally. With the drive towards transparency in international adoptions, DNA testing will be called upon much more often.
Carolyn Arnett, an American Academy of Adoption Attorneys’ member from Louisville, Kentucky, has been practicing adoption law exclusively for 15 years and previously owned an adoption agency. She is a big proponent of DNA testing. “DNA testing is a powerful tool for all parties involved in the adoption,” Arnett says. “It can assist in the process of legal terminations, serve to protect the children’s and adoptive families’ future interests, or simply provide peace of mind for those involved. DNA tests have more uses in adoption cases than what one may initially realize.”
DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is the world’s largest private DNA testing laboratory. Since 1995, DDC has performed hundreds of thousands of genetic tests for clients around the world. DDC offers DNA biological relationship testing to birth and adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and others involved in domestic and international adoptions. DDC is a proud member of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. For more information, please visit www.dnacenter.com or call 1-800-681-7505.