One of the hardest topics for our birth parent counselors to bring up with birth mothers is the question of the birth father. Many of our birth moms currently have difficult relationships with the birth father and would do just about anything to keep from talking about him or getting him involved in the adoption process.
If they don’t know very much about him, they might be embarrassed to tell us how casual the relationship was, no matter how many times we explain that we’re not here to judge. If the relationship is tumultuous, they may be mad at themselves for having had sex with him – birth moms can be very hard on themselves! We have also worked with many survivors of sexual assault, who are worried that we won’t believe them or who feel ashamed about what happened, even though we firmly believe that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. And finally, we’ve worked on our fair share of cases where the birth father was mean, uncaring, or just generally difficult, cases in which the birth mom often assumed that the adoption process would go more smoothly if he just stayed out of it. (P.S. We’ve also worked with some wonderful birth fathers – that’s just not the subject of this post!)
If you are or have been worried about talking to your adoption agency about your baby’s birth father, you’re not alone. Most of the birth mothers with whom we work are not in a committed relationship with their baby’s birth father, so if that’s your situation, please don’t be embarrassed. Every individual person and relationship is unique and complicated, and no good counselor or social worker will ever presume to know how you should have handled your specific situation. Difficult though it may be to talk about him, the fact is that if no one makes what the court calls a “good faith effort” to find the baby’s birth father, he can come forward later and take legal action to disrupt the adoption. Since any ethical agency should be committed to never letting that happen, they have to take every step they possibly can to try to find the birth father – but they should also be committed to working with you to do that in whatever way is most comfortable and least upsetting.
If you are not comfortable or don’t feel safe contacting the birth father yourself, an ethical agency will work very closely and carefully with you to make sure you stay safe and out of danger. Birth fathers who are abusive and/or are sexual assailants usually don’t want to be found because they know their actions are wrong and they fear being charged with a crime, so even when an agency makes the “good faith effort” required by law, they often find a way to stay out of sight. And even if your baby’s birth father is not abusive but you know he is going to make things difficult for you, we promise – and any other ethical agency will promise – to stand by you and do whatever we can to make the process bearable while also following the law.
Were you worried about talking to your adoption agency about your child’s birth father? How did it turn out?