Are Putative Father Registries Basically Sex Registries

There’s an ongoing discussion here about putative father registries–you can see it in the last two post and the extensive comments.    There’s one point that was raised (I’m sorry that right at the moment I cannot give proper credit to the person who raised it–my internet access is a little too clunky) that I wanted to pull out for a post as I think it warrants fuller discussion.

[I’m writing this after drafting this post.   I now realize this is going to take more than one post.  In this post I will set up the problem (subject of course to your objections that I’m not being fair, etc.) and in the next I’ll get to the sex registry part.]

Let me start with a description of what we’re talking about.   I’m actually going to begin by reminding you all what the problem is that lead to the putative father registries.   This is partly because for all the discussion of the comments and for all the objections (many of them good ones) being raised, I don’t see much attention being paid to the actual underlying problem.  Surely if you really want to get rid of the registries you either need to 1) address the problem in some other way and/or 2) say we just need to live with the problem and/or 3) deny that there is a problem at all.

So here is the problem.   Sometimes unmarried men and women engage in sexual intercourse and unplanned pregnancy results.  And sometimes the woman decides she wants to carry the child to term but doesn’t want to raise the child.  Instead, she wants to place it for adoption.

If the man who is genetically related to the child is around and engaged in the whole process, then I think most of us will agree that he gets a chance to assert his own desire to raise the child before the adoption can be completed.   (Even I will agree to this, at least for the moment, and I’m the one whose most hardcore on this point.)

But sometimes the man is not around.  He is just gone.   So can the adoption proceed without his participation?

If the answer is “no,” then what becomes of the child?  The genetic mother doesn’t want to raise it.   The genetic father isn’t around to raise it.   And the adoption cannot go forward, so while the child can probably live with the adoptive parents, there’s no permanence to that relationship.   And many people (trained people, I mean) will tell you that the fact of impermanence is itself a problem for the child.    In other words, it is the child here who will pay the cost of this policy choice.    And for what (and whose?) benefit?   It’s unclear to me.  Is it the benefit of the man who didn’t stick around?

Anyway, we (as a society) don’t want to say “no” to that question–for the reasons I’ve just outlined.  (You are, of course, free to disagree with the judgment made.)   We want the adoption to be able to go forward.   But this raises a new concern:   Think only about those cases in which the genetic father isn’t around.   Now in some of those cases (and I’d venture to say the majority, but this is a side point) it’s because he didn’t care enough about the possibility that there was a child to stick around and figure that there was one or because he knew there was a child and didn’t care.   I won’t worry too much about those cases.   (You are free to tell me I should worry about those cases, of course, but be sure to explain to me why.)

However, in some cases he isn’t around because the genetic mother has frustrated his efforts to be involved.  She might have moved to a different place, she might have cut off sources of information.  It doesn’t really matter but the bottom line is that he wanted to be involved and has been frozen out.   Maybe we should care about this guy?   At the very least, it seems to me that many of my readers ought to care about him.   And even I care a good deal more about him than I care about the guy who chose not to be around.

I know this has been a very long explanation but we have reached our goal.  This is the problem that the registries are meant to address:  the guys who want to be involved and are frozen out.  The idea of registration is that it gives them a way to let us know they is interested that is entirely outside of the woman’s control.   And once they register, then we can easily give them a say in the event of an adoption–the potential adoptive parents just go to the registry and if there is a name there, then the man named has to get notice, etc.

Now, I know the question I proposed to address in this post is whether these registries amount to sex registries and I haven’t gotten to that yet.   It will have to be next time.

It does seem to me clear that a putative father registry necessarily contains information about who had sex with who and when they did so.    Is it reasonable for the government to collect this kind of information?   I think that might depend on what the government is using it for, and that’s why I’ve gone on at length about what the purpose of the registries is.   As with so many other things, there are doubtless costs and benefits to the registries and the question is which way the balance tips.   More on that next time.

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91 responses to “Are Putative Father Registries Basically Sex Registries

  1. You wrote: “Now in some of those cases (and I’d venture to say the majority, but this is a side point) it’s because he didn’t care enough about the possibility that there was a child to stick around and figure that there was one or because he knew there was a child and didn’t care. I won’t worry too much about those cases.”

    But these are two different things. Proceeding on one’s way after a random sexual encounter, is an entirely different case than proceeding on one’s way and disappearing upon finding out about a pregnancy. They shouldn’t be equated.

    • They at least seem related to me. Generally a man who cares about the possibility of a child being conceived would find out if there was a pregnancy and stick around if there was while a man who didn’t care might not bother to find out about the pregnancy and, if he did find out, wouldn’t stick around.

      I think what you are suggesting is that there are men who might think they don’t care and so wouldn’t stick around to find out about the pregnancy but, if they happened to hear about it, might decide that they care about the child. I think you are probably right that this category of guy exists. I suppose the question is what form of treatment he deserves. Would you suggest that the woman be obliged to tell him she’s pregnant? I’m not sure I’m happy about that. I think I might be willing to say it’s on him to stay in the picture enough to find out about the pregnancy. I’m still thinking, though.

      • This is not what I am suggesting.
        I wonder Julie, if having been involved in the world of ART and lesbian parenthood for so long, you have grown out of touch with heterosexual norms. It is not normal behavior to “stick around” someone you do not have a relationship with, (or have ended a relationship). A man who did so might be perceived as disturbed or even threatening by the woman.
        Yes, a man depends on a woman to contact him and let him know if he is a father-to-be. If she does not, that is her fault, not his, and should not be held against him. This is one way that men and women are situated differently due to biology. that’s not law, it’s mother nature.

        • If the man is not using protection, he ought to track the consequences.

          This was recently talked about on popular law prof blog. I think the term used was “don’t be a splooge stooge.”

          It’s a male responsibility to track sperm and keep control of it.

          • not once it’s in someone else’s body

            • Here I would disagree. Once the sperm is in her body, he has lost control of his sperm, and he has the responsibility if he’s interested in claiming control over any products of conception.

              She has no obligation, unless she has a personal relationship with him and obligations arise from that relationship. And, even in the case of a close personal relationship, the other person could void any moral obligation through his behaviour. (If he beat her, for example, she has no responsibility to stay in contact.)

              • If you have a child you have a responsibility to the child to ensure that you do everything you can to make sure they have access to their other parent. That you cooperate with their other parent that you help your child to have everything they deserve up to and including chasing the other parent down for support.

                • I don’t think that because a woman gives birth it obligates her to raise a child or take on the identity and responsibility of a parent.

                  I believe it is her right to decide if she wants to be a parent, and do not think anyone should have the power to force her into that role.

                  • Um but if she reproduced she has no choice she is permanently related to and responsible for whatever happens to her child. Its not about force its about that is who she is

                  • thats why abortion exists.

                  • actually Tess, as i think about it, if the father raises the child, the mother may be liable to pay child support (just as he would, if their roles were reversed). this creates an incentive for the mother to commit fraud regarding the father’s identity and/or whereabouts.

                    of course the mother may then also be expected by family and friends- and the child- to maintain a relationship, and be faulted if she does not. But that part is none of the laws business.

                    I would be cool with some type of law that exempted a mother who had signed off on adoption which was then contested by the father, that she does not have to pay child support, so as not to incentivize fraud.

                  • To Ki

                    “I would be cool with some type of law that exempted a mother who had signed off on adoption which was then contested by the father, that she does not have to pay child support, so as not to incentivize fraud.”

                    But then you have a dependent minor who is entitled to less than other dependent minors – most will have the right to support from both parents whether the parents feel like it or not but some will have right to the support of only one parent. All to serve what purpose? To take the incentive out of doing something illegal? Must we put some dependent minors at a disadvantage to prevent their parents from doing something that is already against the law? People are always going to try to break the law and some will successfully get away with it and that sucks for the victims of that crime – but way to lower the effing bar, lets compromise the rights of a whole bunch of people and allow some parents totally off the hook. At least when there are some parents out there breaking the law the action is clearly against the law and the victims are clearly victimized and have a right to some justice even if they never receive that justice they are clearly owed justice.

                  • its not fair but i think sometimes certain things have to be compromised if the price is too high. its better than if the mother would otherwise lie about the fathers identity

          • I agree with you. Perhaps this is one of those things that “goes against human nature” (and I’ve decided I need to do a post on “human nature” and what it means when we invoke that) but I think society is all about improving on human nature. Human nature is to just take what you want, I suspect. But we teach children to share and take turns. It’s civilizing even if it isn’t in the nature. In the same way, surely we could teach men to take some responsibility even if it isn’t in their nature to do so. Or at the very least we could try to teach men. Beyond that, when a man actually does what I just said–takes some responsibility–I think we ought to treat him well–which means giving him a way to take responsibility even if the woman doesn’t want him to.

            • That is very evolved of you. Is there a catch? And I’d like to say at the outset that we not use nature as the basis for any arguments, its a trap.

        • I realize that the way I phrased this may have come off rather offensive. What I mean is that being so accustomed to ART as an act geared towards conception, you might have substituted sex for ART. but sex is generally and act geared towards getting off, not towards conception. you might assume that heterosexuals having sex should react the same way that folks doing ART react instead of just plain sex.

          • I don’t want to speak for anyone else. You might consider that you’re placing a specific burden on the woman that may be seen as not necessarily consistent with a feminist understanding of sexual relationships.

            • Why a burden? the woman holds all the cards in this situation.

            • OK what is a feminist understanding of sexual relationships Tess? That it is not done for fun? Just for reproduction? That would be the opposite of feminist. Whatever the opposite of feminist is. I’m an equalist.

            • I’d suggest that a feminist understanding of the situation would be that she is not obliged to tell anyone what is happening to her body. If she decides to get an abortion, it is her decision and she is not obligated to tell anyone.

              If men want to track the pregnancies of women, they best not lose control of their sperm.

              It is the state’s obligation to tell the man in the case of an adoption.

              Morally, the woman has no obligation unless that obligation arises out of her personal relationship. And that obligation may be voided depending on behaviour in that relationship. (ie- if he’s dangerous or threatening, QED no moral obligation.) The fact of obligation depends on the quality of the relationship.

              A feminist position would posit that the mere fact of her pregnancy does not obligate a woman to a special responsibility inform random one-night stand guy of anything. It’s not an “I poked it I own it” situation.

              • a hundred percent Tess. We are talking about the adoption of a born child here, not about abortion. No one needs to supply anyone else information about the state of their own body.
                Therefore, a man can certainly not be obligated to somehow know information that a woman is not obligated to tell him….

      • What about my guys who were drafted and went to Vietnam and Korea?

        • Today I’m having lunch with my friend who was the second person I reunited. Her father loves her so so much. He never had any other children. They’ve been in reunion for years now. She still bears the name of her step father who appeared on her birth record. Her father was at war. Her father was stolen from her by her mother.

        • That’s exactly the kind of situation the registries are for. You think you might have a kid on the way out there? Sign up.

          • He had no idea she was pregnant. I mean not that they had not had sex but she had ample opportunity to tell him before he shipped out and she chose not to because she was not that into him. She met and married another man who agreed to raise her child by the lover that she had before him. You might be surprised how many men hook up with pregnant girls and are willing to raise their children its kind of jaw dropping actually from that human nature perspective. Now I suppose we all think its lovely and noble but what about the guy whose job it actually is to be raising that kid? The kid is not getting all they truly deserve and they lost half their family. So my friends mother was not forthright in telling him she was pregnant because she had other plans and that is not fare. She could have written to tell him they had a common circle of neighborhood friends. He came back and got the word on the street that her daughter was likely his and he tried but they rejected him, and his child’s birth record had the other man’s name on it. His family was upset but said her mother’s husband was the father she knew and he probably should not disrupt her life. She was better off without him. Now I don’t know how much help a registry would be to a man who believes the woman he slept with is not pregnant. Should he file even though she says nothing about being pregnant? He got a dear John letter while he was in Vietnam, it said she was marrying someone else but not that she was pregnant. This friend is not the only Vietnam era kid I’ve helped that was either stepped on or adopted. It’s kind of chronic for the 1960’s and 1970’s also recordkeeping was looser and holding out was enough that a kid could wind up with the last name of a common law boyfriend despite having their father on their birth records.

            I actually met with that friend because her Father has a friend now who needs help. Her father is a good man loves her very much her son spent the last two weeks with him. He has been more of a Father per your definition in the past 10 years since she was 30+ than most men are in a whole lifetime. It is never too late to take responsibility for your actions and try to do right by your kids.

      • Julie if your son got a girl pregnant and you were about to loose your grandchild I hardly think you’d say “oh well, not my grandchild he never bought the girl pickles and ice cream while she was pregnant”.

        • I think if my son got a woman pregnant I would want him to be responsible about it. I’d hope it was in the context of some sort of relationship in which he could play a role. I’d be really mad at him if he totally bailed. If she wanted to raise the child I’d feel he was obliged to at least help pay the costs. And if she wanted to place the child for adoption I’d hardly think he had a right to object if he had done nothing. But of course, I’m guessing.

          • Well you’d be sad though right? Sad at the thought of loosing your grandchild even if he had not done anything early on. You would view the child as your grandchild wouldn’t you even if he were a total deadbeat (which of course he won’t be but let’s pretend he was a train wreck) Out of control son irresponsible you find out that he has a kid and the adoption is a done deal. Do you think of that child as your absent grandchild? If they called in 18 years hoping that you and he would be happy to hear from them would you be? Would that child feel like family even though he had not yet played a roll in their life? What if he wanted to then? I’d like to think the fact you love him would make you interested in welcoming that child as an extension of him but you might say I’m sorry but you are not my grandchild?

          • i smell a double standard. if she chooses to keep the baby he as a moral (if mot legal) o bligation to help but if she chooses to give the child away he has np right to do anythng,?

          • whats more, lets say your son did not contest the adoption, because he was just a kid himself. and lets say you were in a position to help raise the kid, but didn’t because you believed that he had no right to intervene and wasn’t really a father. once your son got a bit holder, he may hold it against your forever. good thing this is just a hypothetical.

      • I may add that we all know there is a strong difference emotionally regarding a hypothetical possibilty of a pregnancy somewhere somehow, than concrete knowledge of a specific child going to be born.
        In fact, the whole gamete donor industry depends in this difference- it depends on donors not feeling connected to the pregnancy. otherwise very few people would sign up.
        It’s a double standard to condemn this lack of connection for some people, and promote it for others.

  2. just to clarify; the difference is that one is hypothetical, and one is real. you’re equating the man’s response to a hypothetical possibility of pregnancy down the road, to an actual real pregnancy.
    aside from being terribly invasive of privacy, which is a separate issue.
    whats more, we cant be creating laws that run so contrary to social behavior. the law becomes irrelevant to society as TAO’s link so clearly shows. (this is the same complaint I have at your active disregard of genetics as a basis for parenthood).

  3. as for the,underlying problem, what if the man can not be found, im ok with a man who can not be,found,not being accorded any rights. the question is, who is supposed to find him and how to prevent fraud

  4. Julie, if the registry is to protect the father’s right to notice because:

    a) the mother does not want to name the father for any other reason than fear for her well being (which a judge should be the one to rule on not the adoption agency because that is a conflict of interest).

    and/or

    b) the agency who is in business solely because adoptions go through doesn’t really want the father to be named, because that threatens their bottom line (and you know those agencies exist).

    then how about…

    The law punishes with jail time either party who is proven guilty of trying to subvert the fathers right to notice – a criminal offense that will be prosecuted?

    Perhaps the easier way is to go back to the old fashioned way of publishing notice in the newspapers – but clearly defined where, and how, that notice must be published – not buried and on-line as well. Adoptions still go ahead using this method in states without a putative fathers registry, and have for decades. It may delay the actual adoption hearing but it does happen.

    Honestly, I had no clue as a child that there was a legal process to be adopted – delaying the actual hearing is not going to impact the babe one wit. If the adults in the room don’t want to risk bonding then they are free to use cradle care in the mean time, or walk away from that match and wait until they find a match where both parents are on board. That child will be adopted as soon as they are legally free for adoption – it’s not like they have to hunt for people who want to adopt.

    Nor have you addressed how a national registry can be expected to protect anything other than a fathers right to notice, when states have onerous laws like Utah has, where he still would have zero chance of being successful contesting the adoption. The right to notice then would simply be used as a way to soothe consciences that the father had rights – but not really and everyone would clearly understand that and business would go on as normal…

    • very well said

    • hey i wrote a response but it didn’t show up. so here goes- TAO you made a parenthetical point that a judge should be the one to determine if a woman need not notify the father due to safety reasons.
      I am not willing to force women to place their safety into anyone else’s hands. Putting it to legal procedure is already a compromise of safety.
      Some women may use this as a leeway to commit fraud but the other way is just not excusable.

    • I might be okay with sanctions against agencies who deliberately subvert the genetic father’s access to information or whatever, subject to protections where there are about abuse issues in the underlying relationships. Are you suggesting this in lieu of the registries? This seems a much more heavy handed way to go about things.

      It’s also striking to me that several people (I’m not necessarily saying you) seem much more willing to impose all sorts of obligations on the woman than this one small obligation on the man. I get the concerns about how registries really function, but if you imagine they actually worked, is it so much to ask men to register their interest in being a parent?

      I’m interested that you raise the advertising options. I think most who are law trained would see the registry as a stronger form of notice than the ads. And the ads raise a new set of privacy concerns. You’re proposing an ad that says “Anyone who had six with Jane on or about January 1 should now come forward” right? Great for Jane’s privacy.

      It’s just curious to me that people seem to want a way for the man to be completely passive–to do absolutely nothing–and gain full rights. This means full rights for all the men who really do not want anything to do with the child. The registries separate out those who have enough interest to lift a finger from those who do not, which to my mind is a strength. But I suppose this is because we really do disagree about the extent to which rights should flow from genetics alone.

      • Julie – the cases that are contested are primarily, if not all, by fathers with the mothers who deliberately took actions to freeze them out. I have zero sympathy for women who do that, and why I suggested what I did. If agencies get more than a verbal warning, and mothers aren’t legally allowed to do that then, and real punishment is the result – I’m good with that because they won’t be so quick to consider unethical behaviors.

        I don’t have an issue with registries per se – what I have an issue with is that a national registry can, and will be used, as means to say “he had a chance”, even though that “chance” is useless without jumping through all the state rules that also are required, and without other changes it simply is a tactic to make people feel better. You never did address that aspect either time I have brought it forward. Without a constitutional amendment, how can a federal law dictate the laws in an individual state, so that the registry is the only step the father needs to take?

        • Perhaps we can agree that the registries are only useful and defensible if they offer a real and meaningful opportunity to the man who is frozen out? And that they have to be effectively publicized so that people know they exist and what they are for. I think you and I also agree that there are problem cases. And unlike someone else (I forget who?) that it isn’t enough to just put the burden on the woman to identify the man.

          I’m uneasy with the criminal punishment for the woman you propose, but it isn’t because I have sympathy for the people in cases like Achane.

          • I’m fine with a registry that is solely used as a putative fathers registry, that stands above and protects his rights and negates any fancy footwork states say the father must also do to preserve his rights before birth.

            Mothers in Utah who commit fraud upon the father are not charged with fraud, nor can the mothers actions in committing the fraud impact the adoption. Win Win. The father is allowed to sue the mother for monetary compensation – not the agency, just the mother. When that type of law is on the books it is begging to be abused both by mothers, and by unscrupulous agencies, and unless that law has been changed in the last year or so, it is still on the books.

            When you are talking about a specific set of circumstances, criminal penalties that are enforced can be a very effective tool to convince people it isn’t worth the risk. Right now, to the best of my knowledge no one in the Achane case, have had any sanctions for their actions. Has the bar done anything against the lawyers? Are the agencies still licensed and processing adoptions making money? Were any fines levied? Were legal fees paid by the parties who lost? How many tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees does Achane still owe to Wiser and Wiser – because he had to fight a never ending legal battle for the right to parent his own daughter? At a certain point a line needs to be drawn. I was very specific to exclude mothers who are dealing with fear or safety issues.

            If someone took your child without permission would you want them charged with a crime?

  5. Dan in Tennessee

    There has been a lot of discussion about whether a putative father registry is a great waste of the state’s resources because the underlying presumptions are not based on human nature, i.e. would a reasonable man put his name on a list which is basically a casual sex registry (and I think it is that). There has also been discussion/suggestions that a public education campaign would go a long way to promote the registry.
    But if the underlying premise of the registry is false then wouldn’t a public education campaign just be a larger waste of state dollars? In other words, just because more people are aware of the registry does not make them any more likely to register.
    From the perspective of the state or a private petitioner, filing to terminate rights and/or filing for adoption, the registry seems like a necessary evil because in many instances it’s better than nothing. Hypothetical: the birth mother says “I don’t really know who the father was. I met this guy at a party; I don’t remember him; I think I told him my name, but I’m not really sure.” In that instance the Petitioner can at least say “we checked the putative father registry pursuant to the statute and we have nothing more to go on.” Without the registry, the inquiry ends with biological mother saying “I don’t know.” The registry is the mechanism for that man to get notice of a termination or an adoption. It’s a pretty poor mechanism but it’s the best we’ve got in that instance, which is common.

    • Dan there would be more incentive for her to identify him if zero adoptions occurred without proof positive identification of both parents

      • So you’re suggesting that her knowledge of the law of adoption would change her behavior at that party? She’d get (and remember) the guy’s last name? I think it is perhaps my turn to invoke human nature.

        • exactly julie- just as the woman isn’t thinking of what may or may not happen with regards to pregnancy, neither is the man. i don’t know why you judge the man more harshly than the woman in these circumstances, saying you don’t really care about his rights and interests.
          the registry won’t change anything if the woman truly doesn’t know who the man is. if thats the case most likely he doesn’t know who she is either. sucks for the kid but thats mother nature again.

          • It’s not that the man is judged more harshly — it’s that he’s not around, and that fact has the potential to damage the psychological development of an infant who needs to attach permanently to someone who will stick around.

            The healthy development of the infant is the most critical need. It outweighs everything else at that time, in my opinion.

            These registries could help men who do toss their sperm about and don’t use condoms. If he’s shipping out to war, and he’s slept with women whom he does not know, he can put his name on a registry and he would be contacted before any adoption.

            • i actually agree with you tess regarding the need for an immediate solution, i’m just commenting on the attitude and tone.

            • Right. This would be my argument. The child shouldn’t suffer because the guy is a total flake (or whatever we want to call it.) I think Marilyn in particular doesn’t see that the child does suffer if there’s no permanent parent, but I think that is pretty clearly established.

          • I don’t think I said (I haven’t meant to say) that I don’t care about the man’s rights and interests. INdeed, the reason I want the registries is so that there is something he can do to protect himself that doesn’t require the woman’s cooperation.

            The human nature point is more complicated and broader and I probably shouldn’t have offered such a snarky comment. I’m going to put up a post about human nature. It may be against human nature for a man to think about whether he might have created a child in the nine months after he had sex with a woman, but I think it’s a lot more reasonable to expect men to rise to that level of responsibility than it is to expect the people who meet at a party to exchange all the relevant information before they have sex. Some of what we do in society is demand that people rise above their basic nature, and this might be one of those places. In general, I think we might expect a bit more of people in this line–expect people to think about actually raising children, expect people to think about using birth control, expect people to think about taking responsibility–even though it might be that none of that is in our nature.

        • No I only mean lets say in donor conception where there is a step parent adoption required…what if it could not go through unless a man was named and all the proper investigations were done to protect the child? Then the kid would have that equal protection and be afforded the good cross and double checks that adoption does pretend at least to have. Also there simply could be no anonymity if you wanted the step parent to become an adoptive parent. This would be if you got rid of that dreadful marital presumption I wince and cringe at. Be any orientation you wish the presumption results in the same thing. By now you trust that I am earnest in my advocacy for equal marriage rights.

    • I think your hypothetical nicely sums up a circumstance where the registries might actually help. Now in some cases the guy from the party probably won’t register–even assuming he knows about the registry–because he doesn’t WANT to be involved in the child-rearing if there is a child. But there must be some guys who would like to be parents–who would step up. And I’d like to give them a way to do that without leaving all the children conceived with men who don’t want to step up in some sort of permanent limbo like foster care.

      • What limbo? They are being taken care of! What is limbo about it? If the foster parents were allowed to continue to raise the same child if it was working out then what is limbo like about it? How is it limbo? That the people raising them are not on a birth certificate? What benefit will the child get out of the official adoption? How will the people caring for them change? If I’m in foster care and I have two foster parents that would like to adopt me but they have to stay as my foster parents how does that harm me? I get to keep my identity and still get cared for by two really nice people. But I get to keep my legal connection to my family and my foster family. How is that limbo?

        • The children are likely to be placed with temporary foster parents.

          • What is so wrong with foster care the child does not loose their identity. Why not make foster care parents be able to continue raising the child instead of having to make them be adopted?

            • foster care and adopters sign up for two different things. foster parents sign up to be the states babysitters. adopters sign up to raise the child as their own. occasionally the two groups overlap

              • Yeah but adoption is a little too much like buying a child since the child has to take on a new identity assigned to them by people who just paid $45K for them.

                Honestly the state pays foster parents to care for children. You have this group of people that want to take over the state’s financial burden so why should it cost anyone a damn dime to adopt. Nobody should be paying one red cent to a facilitator to get a child not to an attorney either. Not one penny. They are taking over the expense of raising a child that is plenty of expense and that money is not money to get the child.

                It seems like for the money they pay they might expect permanence or expect to name the child these things violate the person’s rights so get rid of those aspects of adoption that make it like they are buying rights to a person.

            • If they don’t have legal custody they can lose the child at any time. Foster parents go into the situation prepared for that eventuality.

              Some people are scared to try to adopt out of the foster system because of this reason– they are worried they will fall in love and lose the child. They don’t want to expose themselves to that emotional pain.

              • yes. and often foster parents don’t want to adopt either. some are retirees who aren’t even eligible for adoption.

              • Well what we need is the care giving without the identity changing and without the record revisions and without the loss of rights as kin to the relatives of the adopted person. Parents should not have the right to erase their child’s existence from the record books and pretend like their offspring never existed. Give them the right to seek help and have someone raise their child for them but not give them the right to pretend that child is their own child complete with modified birth records and new names. Don’t give parents the right to disinherit their children just because they are incapable of raising them.
                Foster parents have authority to act on behalf of the children they care for without changing their names and without having revised birth records so these things that are really violations of the adopted person’s rights and the rights of their relatives are not absolutely necessary in order to raise them, enroll them in school, soccer practice etc.

                It seems the whole reason for the violations of their human rights would be as a service to people that want to pretend that the child is their offspring. Because they are afraid of getting attached and the child still thinking of their other parents as parents.

                So I am unable to say that these registries are good or bad since I’m starting to think that its not really a parents place to put their kid on the auction block when all they really need is someone to help raise the child for them. If adoption changed so that there were no more revised records to seal and also so that their legal relationships to relatives were still completely intact then I’d still say that registries or no registries, the child’s rights would be protected because if ever the father did surface the child’s right to recognition as his child would be undamaged. And the law could add him to the birth record as father and they could work it out with the adoptive family so that he could provide support and have visitation or something possibly even yes, take over because if he was able to raise his child then there would be no need for the child to be adopted. Yes disruption should be considered but the right to receive care from your own family whenever possible should be the right that governs. Not the right to keep the child either by the adoptive parent or by the father or mother. The right to anything should be the child’s.

                We should all have the right to an adoptive family if our own family is not capable of raising us. We should have the right to keep our identities and records under all circumstances whether adopted or not. We should have the right to be returned to our parents if they are ever capable of raising us. It’s too bad if that breaks people’s hearts we are talking about people not puppies. There are people willing to take that risk of loosing the child to the parents or there would not be foster parents so clearly there is no shortage of people willing to help while leaving the child’s rights intact.

                • i dont think foster parents hve the right to any of those things. The state agency does. but i could be wrong.

                • Why should this hypothetical troubled family have any monetary and social claims on another private family group?

                  When designing pubic policy, it seems to me that one must be realistic about the motivations of people, particularly when asking people to do something free of charge.

                  Why should any unrelated family devote monetary and social resources to some random troubled family group? I don’t understand why you think private families would be interested in doing this for free. I also don’t understand why you think families would be interested in doing this for the long term.

                  Do you really think individual families have a right to the social and economic resources of other private families? Troubled family groups have no legal or social entitlement to the time and resources of another unrelated private family.

                  I agree that the State should assist families to help them get on their feet. I’m socialist enough that I think this is a right of social citizenship. But that right to state assistance does not translate into a right to free monetary and social assistance of an entirely unrelated family.

                  • Tess I’m only suggesting that we have adoption as it is without the adopted person ceasing to be a member of his or her family without all the record changes without getting cut out of inheritance etc. Like you adopt the person you adopt no changing their identity.

              • Think outside the box for a second. Couldn’t the child be in their custody legally without severing the legal kinship between the child and their family? Is it really necessary to do that in order to raise the child to adulthood? Each child will have different circumstances – some will need short term care others will need long term care and the custody orders could reflect that. Let’s say the father is incarcerated for life and the mother is permanently disabled; that child is going to need to be raised to adulthood. That child would be a good match for people you describe that only can handle a long term situation. But they don’t need to alter the identity of the child they are raising to do it do they? It does not serve the child in anyway. I know plenty of people who were foster kids and none of them has ever said “you know what I wish? I wish that my foster parents were able to rename me and give me a new birth record that said I was their kid”. I’ll pay anyone a nickle if they can find an article anywhere at any point in time by an adopted person that says gee ‘I’m so glad my adopted parents names appear on my birth record, I really like the idea of getting a whole new identity upon adoption and I like having my kinship to my family legally severed and I don’t mind that I am not allowed to have accurate records’ or something like ‘I really feel I would have been ashamed and embarrassed to present a birth certificate that did not name my adoptive parents as my parents I really feel I would have been treated differently and badly so it was better to pretend that I was someone I’m not to save me the pain of feeling different.’ Even people that hate the thought of their original family and feel deeply and strongly about their adoptive family being their real true and only family think modifying their identities crosses the line.
                There are some adopted advocates (well one there is one) who are against all the reunion stuff I do or who are against it being presented as necessary to be happy and they still think that its wrong to alter records prevent access to original records.

                So if we change that then the registries won’t be an issue because fathers would remain fathers of their adopted kids

                • You can’t expect temporary foster parents to treat unrelated kids as family. People have family, and they have non-family. They have friends, and they have acquaintances. The obligations we feel towards family are greater then they are to non-family.

                  You are suggesting that these children will never be family, but will remain unrelated people in need, and permanent wards of the state. I suspect foster families will treat them as such, and not as family members. This doesn’t mean foster families won’t treat them kindly, but that’s very different from taking someone in as your own child.

                  • So your saying there just is no other alternative they won’t be treated as well if their names and birth records are not changed? Changing their names and birth records is the only way anyone will treat them well and take good care of them? So they owe it to the people that take care of them to forsake their own identity and their own families in order for someone else to be willing to raise them to adulthood? Are people that cruel that they would just not bother raising those kids?

                  • Yes I can expect anything I want if I am thinking outside the box and trying to see exactly what kind of situation would be fare to the adopted person and their relatives. The people who opt to take on another person’s child hold all the cards they have freedom of choice that the adopted person and their relatives (not their parents) don’t. If for instance it is that important for the child to have the same name as the parents, would it not be fairer to the child for the adopted parents to change their last name to the child’s? They have a choice in the matter and it is important to them to have the name match. I’m not the first to suggest that many well known adopted writers have said the same thing. Why can’t they keep their identity and other people change theirs to match? Or the adopted child could change their name to match the adopted parents when they turn 18 if they want.

                    Is it possible to have permanence without objectifying the adopted person and making them play a roll? Can’t they be who they are and still be worthy of care and love? Must they appear to be a product of the adopted parent’s relationship?

                  • I don’t think it’s a question of family names. The mother, the father, and the child could all choose a different last name together, or each of these three individuals could all have different legal last names. The name doesn’t change the relationship with the child and wouldn’t change the level of permanence or investment.

                    I don’t think it’s a matter of contact with blood relatives. There are open adoptions with lots of contact with blood relatives, for example. The existence of contact with other relatives is not the crux of the issue.

                    What is important is the legal and social status of that child. If the child is a permanent legal member of a specific family, then that child can be introduced to their extended family as a new member, and the child can count on all of the familial resources available — social, emotional, economic. The grandparents, for example, will have a new grandchild. Brothers and sisters will have new siblings.

                    However, if the child is introduced as a person in temporary foster care, then the rest of the family won’t view the child as family. The temporary foster family will consider the child to be a foster child in care, not a permanent member of the family.

                    I don’t mean they won’t treat the child kindly, and I don’t mean to speak for foster parents. I’m sure there are foster parents who love foster children. But the foster parents are not offering permanence to the child. And the state is not offering permanence to the parents.

  6. You know the more and more I think this over, about getting the parents permission to give their child up for adoption the more and more I realize that adoption, even with their consent is structured wrong. It really should not be allowed at all the way it is now.

    Parents have a permanent irrevocable connection to their offspring that simply cannot be duplicated by anyone else regardless how much love and care they give. Their offspring is connected to their family in a physical sense that matters to every member of the family and adoption in its current state pretends that the connection ends by refusing to legally acknowledge people as legal kin.

    The reality is that adoptive parents don’t replace the parents and adoptive family does not replace family. Genetics is not everything its true but they are real family and acting like the adoptive family replaces them is just a farce and a frustrating one at that. The families I reunite are not legally recognized as kin except in rare cases where their birth records are accurate but incomplete

    • But what if the child as an adult would prefer the family they grew up with be recognized as their legal relatives? You assume that such a great majority would rather be legally related to the genetic family that the law should change so children are not legally members of the family that raised them. You say it’s unfair that an adopted or donor conceived adult can’t take time off to care for a sick bio relative, go to a bio relative’s funeral, take a bio relative as a dependent, etc etc. Well, what if they want those rights for their adoptive family? The adoptive sibling they grew up with? The adoptive parents who took care of everything when they were a child? Perhaps the solution would be to expand who adults can consider their legal family, but there are those that see the family they grew up with as their “real” family and if it’s unfair to favor that view than it’s also unfair to favor the other view where only bio relatives are “real” family.

      • Of course they can be and would be their legal relatives as well. When you get married your in laws are legal relatives your husband is legal relative. When your parent is married their spouse is your legal relative and so are their relatives. When you adopt or foster these are legal relationships. I just don’t see the benefit in terminating or supplanting one type of relative for the other. There is no need to loose one in order to get the other. So you misunderstand me. The people who raise a child are obviously the ones with their sht together and they are the ones who will build the bond and permanent memories that are the stuff of real families. They really have nothing to worry about they have all the memories and they don’t have that cloud hanging over them of why they could not take care of the kid.

        Adoption in its current state is an all or nothing swap out. There must be parents who want it that way but I have yet to encounter any who just flat out never wanted to see their children again. Even those that would be like that, it is not their children’s fault they could not hack it why should their parent’s failure oust them out of their family like they were never even born? Why can’t it just be that these are their parents and they did not raise them? Why can’t it be recorded to look like what actually occurred instead of making it look like they were born to some other couple and then hiding the paperwork that says otherwise?

        Anyway I think what I’m advocating for is that everyone get to be a lifetime member of their own family and then a member of various other types of families over the course of their lives like step families or in laws or foster or adoptive or social or whatever but just never loosing that square one cornerstone of identity that sets us in relation to the rest of the world you know keeping everyone in the loop so they can make informed decisions about who they do and don’t want to french kiss.

        • Are you thinking of a shared legal custody? Or some other identifying connection that doesn’t carry legal rights?

          Legal custody clarifies things like who needs permission to move the child out of state or to a different city.

          Let’s say someone is transferred by work to another state. In a married couple, or divorced couple, shared custody rights are worked out. These situations are already very difficult. Bringing two other people into the situation would further complicate the situation. And the chances of 4 people living in the same place until the kid grows up is rare.

          • The foster system works where the state takes over financial responsibility for the child and instead of putting them in an orphanage places them in a private home but still funds their care. What if the adoptive parents took over as they do and got an adoption certificate as they do and had the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child to an extent but the child’s identity and legal kinship to their parents and family was untouched. The adopted parents would have an obligation to help maintain communication with the child’s family at minimum for health purposes and more if at all possible. The experience would essentially be the same for all involved only there never would be the issuance of a document saying that they were the child’s parents that would necessitate the sealing or concealing of the adopted person’s identity. There would be no barrier to a sibling or grandparent pulling their birth record finding they’d been adopted and contacting the adoptive family. There would be no lines of communication cut by the State.

            I’m only talking about being respectful of the adopted person and leaving them in the same situation record keeping wise as if they had never been adopted able to access vital records of their relatives. They’d certainly be able to access the vital records of their adopted relatives the way people can access records on step relatives. Being adopted should not remove you from your own family to add you to an adopted family. Nor do they need to change the child’s name. If they have no first name then fine, give them one but there is no need to change their last name if they know who the parents are. I think the parents should have to make themselves known.

    • Okay–here’s another place where we part company. It’s true, of course, that there is a permanent and unique connection between a child and her/his genetic parents–and that would be genetics. This exists even after the child is adopted.

      But this genetic connection doesn’t mean that the genetic parents have to be the legal parents. The genetic parents may not want to–may not be able to– function as legal parents. And I am concerned here with legal parentage.

      Someone has to make a host of decisions in raising a child. Schools, religion, healthcare, housing, you name it. I don’t see that the genetic parents are necessarily going to be uniquely qualified to do this. And there are (regrettably) many instances where they are indeed unwilling or unable to do this.

      Adoptive parents do not (and need not) replace genetic parents. But they can give the child loving and competent legal parents and children need legal parents.

      I think one of the strengths of open adoption is that allows the child to have relationships with the genetic parents even as it also allows the child to have loving legal parents.

      • Look the bottom line for me is that there are 500,000 people on adoption.com looking to put their families back together because they cannot access one another’s vital records because the information on the vital record is either missing or is not biologically accurate. It does not have to be that way. Other people could take over for the parents and raise the child without altering the identity, the records or the rights of the person being adopted. It could be done fairly. It could be done equitably. It could be done without objectifying minors. It could be done in a way that builds new adoptive families without permanently severing ties between an adoptive person and their relatives. There is a way to do this that is respectful where nobody would need someone like me to help them search for something they never should have lost.

        • There are surely ways to preserve the information about birth parents, to allow for a relationship between birth parents and the child and to allow for adoption. What relationships develop for any given child will vary.

  7. Dan in Tennessee

    I can’t tell whether you’re being serious or not, Marilynn. Are you seriously suggesting that the state abolish adoptions?

    • Yeah Dan I think I am. You don’t know me yet but I reunite separated families for free. Lots of them. Hundreds of families at this point. I started visiting this blog wanting to learn about the laws to end anonymity and get people access to their birth records but my views changed as I learned more and as I tried to eliminate areas where my views were inconsistent or were unfair. Mainly if I take a stance on something now I look at what would happen if I applied that rule broadly to everyone and if I wind up with an absurd situation I have to realize that I’m placing that small minority in an absurd situation by holding that view for them under certain circumstances.

      Adoption is great in theory because there will always be parents who fail to take care of their children and there will always be good people willing to raise kids in that situation. Court approved adoption is suppose investigate the circumstances that led to a minor needing to be adopted. If we don’t believe in buying and selling people we need to protect minors from unscrupulous bio parents who would sell, gift or trade their own children out of the family. We need to protect minors from being kidnapped and sold or traded or given as gifts. We need to protect people who are not parents from being tricked into taking responsibility for other people’s kids by making sure they know when they are raising someone else’s child making sure that it is all a willing conscious decision. All good stuff. The part I have a problem with is that parents should never be fully off the hook – they did reproduce and nobody owes it to them to pretend that it did not happen. The parent child relationship does not go away when it is hidden and neither do the other relationships with relatives; concealing that information and preventing relatives from accessing one another’s vital records is unnecessary and really unhealthy. Why does that have to be part of adoption? Why can’t a person keep their original identity and still be adopted? Think outside the box…does it have to be the way it is now? Do they have to be renamed and loose their identity or could they just as easily be issued an adoption certificate and not loose membership in their own family? Why loose the right to inherit? What did they do to deserve that? Can’t they still get to be the sister of their sister? Why not?

      I look at some people I help who were raised in foster families and when they get reunited with their relatives they have full legal recognition of that kinship. The ones who had guardians somehow managed to get enrolled in school and soccer practice, got to travel the world, got social security benefits and their guardians claimed them on their taxes and yet they never lost their identity or their legal kinship. That rocks. That is respectful. That is what is best for all people unfortunate enough not to be raised by their parents. Help them loose no more than they already have.

      So I’m not against adoption in theory but it sure needs an overhaul. Have I clarified? My views come from a really sincere desire to equalize the rights of everyone at birth because the people I’ve helped really got a raw deal from being donor offspring or stepped on or abandoned or being adopted etc.

  8. I do not think placing children in permanent foster care is a wise idea. There is a risk that children end up with not two families, but with zero family as they age out of foster care.

    • Dan in Tennessee

      I agree with you Tess. That would be a dire and obvious consequence.

    • Do you really think they have zero family?

    • Tess what do you mean by zero family? Their parent usually lost custody because of going to jail or drugs or something. They don’t need parents they just need someone to take care of them.

      • In terms of the university kid — my friend talked to him and he told her that he had no family. No one to help him, no one to stay with for a few weeks. His resources were zero. It is horrifying.

        The state pays tuition and housing during the school year, but during the summer he had no resources for the final month. He was homeless, hanging around campus and would often fall asleep either in campus buildings or outside on campus. Security warned him several times and was threatened to call the police and have him arrested. That was when my friend got involved, pulled strings, and managed to get him into campus housing a few weeks early.

  9. Why isn’t fostering more permanent? I mean to 18?

  10. I reunited a woman last weekend with her mom who had lost another three kids one to adoption and two to foster and the other three have been in reunion with their mother for 20 years and now the final daughter is back with them. They are a family they were just separated. I don’t know if the adopted and fostered kids keep up with their adopted family or not. I imagine they would keep up with them. Two were raised by adoptive parents from birth to age 20 when they found out they were adopted. They live near their mother now and she watches their kids while they work. The kids call her grandma they call her Mom. I’ll have to ask if they still talk to the adopted family.

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