photo c/o www.desireehartsock.com
The approach of Father’s Day has got us thinking about how little the adoption community talks about birth fathers and their rights.
Birth fathers’ underrepresentation in portrayals of adoption (except every once in a while as the “evil” man who takes a baby away from adoptive parents) means that many people don’t realize that birth fathers have a say in the adoption process. As a birth father, you have the right to be part of the decision making and to play a role in your child’s life if you want to.
If You Want to Parent
By law, any adoption agency working with a birth mother must make every effort to locate and notify the birth father about the adoption plan. Even if the birth mother has already given temporary custody of the child to an adoption agency or family, no legal adoption can happen until you, the birth father, have been notified. Each state has a different notification process; in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, you have 30-60 days after you find out to decide whether you would prefer to parent or to move forward with the adoption.
If You Choose Adoption
Like your child’s birth mother, you have the right to choose and meet your baby’s adoptive family and to remain involved in their life through open adoption. Many birth fathers with open adoptions find themselves feeling tentative about asking for their yearly meetings or updates, especially if they are no longer involved with their child’s birth mother. Remember, your relationship status does not change your right to be part of your child’s life. You can ask for updates and meetings whether or not your child’s birth mother is around or involved.
If You Are Incarcerated
A birth father who wants to parent but is incarcerated may be able to work with his local department of social services to determine how to make that possible once he is released. If your release date is not coming up soon, then it may be difficult for you to make a plan to take the place of adoption. Obviously, you cannot force your child’s birth mother to parent, but we have worked with birth fathers who had family members willing to be part of a parenting plan until their release. And even if you are not able to provide an alternative plan and the adoption goes forward despite your objection, you can still be a part of your child’s life after the fact through open adoption. (For information on asking for openness in a closed adoption, go here or here).
The bottom line as that whether you and your child’s birth mother choose parenting or adoption, you can remain involved.
Darrick Rizzo is a birth father who has written a lot about the adoption of his son; he currently has a post up at America Adopts about how difficult Father’s Day is for him. There aren’t very many birth father voices in the media, so consider taking look at his article, and let us know what you think. You can also add your voice to the birth father discussion by leaving a comment below.