Excluding birthfathers from the adoption process subjects adoptive parents to serious legal and emotional risks. Adoption attorneys have stated that many contested adoptions result from birth fathers feeling angry at being treated as if they didn't exist. Thus, professionals advise that one best avoids disrupted adoptions by treating birth fathers with respect from the outset.I can vouch for this.
In 1992, my girlfriend became pregnant. Initially shocked and confused, we weren't sure what to do. Realizing neither one of us made much money and that we were not marriage material, we decided on adoption. Because the birthmother wanted to conceal the pregnancy from her parents, she moved across country where she secured a full-time teaching job with good maternity benefits. Before she left, I told her I would respect her privacy, but would like to be included in the adoption process. She agreed. She declined my offers of support money, saying she had enough funds to relocate and a good job to go to. She would call me with updates. Our dating relationship was over.
During the months that followed, I envisioned receiving a letter stating I had been named as the father of a child relinquished for adoption, that the adoption agency wanted my input about the type of couple I would like my child to be placed with, and perhaps my release of relevant medical information.
It never happened. By the due date for the birth, the mother had not called me for a month. When three more weeks went by without word, I feared abortion or baby selling. When another week went by and I could not locate the birthmother, I knew something was amiss.
Frantic and fearful, I borrowed two thousand dollars from friends and family to pay for investigators and long distance phone calls and began searching. Two months later, a lawyer located the adoption file and mailed me the documents. When I read the petition--the unknown father has voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother. I was befuddled. When I saw the publication notice stating that the unknown father had been sued, I became angry. When I saw a father information sheet left almost blank, and a court order stating that the parental rights of the unknown father were forever terminated, I was furious.
What had transpired was obvious. My ex-girlfriend had gone to an adoption agency claiming she did not know who the father was. Making no practical inquiry, the agency presented the scant evidence to a judge who, seeing no problem with it, placed my son with adoptive parents who thought it worth the gamble.
I borrowed ten thousand more dollars from my family to pay for a lawyer, who filed a motion for a new trial, demanding my son be given to me. The agency and the adoptive parents refused, questioning my motivations. Did I really care about the child? Or was I feeling rejected by the mother, or spiteful at being left out?
The answer was all of the above. I had always cared about my son and his future. That was why I had wanted a say in the adoption--because I cared. But I was also angry. Very angry. Being lied about made me angry. Being left out made me angry. Being discarded for the interests of others made me angry. Fit parent and ignoring the parental rights of others were, to me, mutually exclusive. In short, I did not feel my son was born in sin. But I felt he was living amongst it. What happened from then on only served, in my mind, to prove it.
The adoptive parents and the adoption agency filed briefs, alleging that I was mentally ill and, though I was now known, had abandoned the child and birthmother. They hired investigators to interview my friends, employers, co-workers, and acquaintances. At least twenty depositions ensued. I was deposed for twenty-four hours over four days, during which I was grilled on the use of diapers, the prices of baby clothes and formula, my past addresses for ten years, every job I had ever had, the dates I had had sex with the birthmother, my phone records, past girlfriends, past lawsuits, and more. They sought my medical records for the last eight years, and all psychological records for my life, though I could easily prove I had no record of drug abuse, physical violence, mental illness, criminal activity, or sexual predation. It struck me that an ounce of investigation before the placement would have avoided the ton of investigation now.
Nine months into the process, the court appointed an ad litem for my son. The ad litem conceded that my due process had been violated, but that my son should stay with the adoptive parents because so much time had passed, and because I could not support him. In other words, I was supposed to see the light, and recognize that the child's interests demanded he stay with the adoptive parents, that I could not possibly raise my son all by myself, and that the adoptive parents were innocent victims.