It is often the case that birth fathers seemed to be overlooked in the adoption process. It is commonly assumed that they rarely are impacted or want much to do with the process. However, indeed they are impacted and do want to be included!
When deciding to put their baby up for adoption, many birth mothers fail to provide the name of the birth father and/or even tell the birth father of the plan. The birth father is often looked as a legal issue – adoptive parents, adoption agencies, and birth mothers are relieved when a birth father is "no where to be found" or left out of the equation. This, however, is not a reason to be relieved. There are many cases where a birth father finds out about the adoption long after the child has been placed – and legal action is pursued.
"The cases of Baby Jessica and Baby Richard-each involved a birth father who learned only after the fact that his child had been placed for adoption, and who went to court to claim custody. Any responsible adoption lawyer will emphasize the birthfather's role during his very first interview with adoptive parents,"says Washington, D.C., adoption attorney Mark McDermott.
"I refer to that as the number one way to avoid contested adoptions, by treating the birth father as a real issue on day one," he says. McDermott noted that many birth mothers simply assume that things will be easier if he remains unnamed. The birth mother may not even be aware that the birth father has legal rights. She also may have personal reasons for counting him out.
"Although the birthmother cannot be forced to name the birthfather – an adoptive family can refuse to work with her if the father is unnamed. For a couple longing for a baby, passing up a chance at parenthood may seem too much to ask. But the alternative-a post-placement revocation-is far worse.
"Just ask Andrew and Barbara Ship, a Rockville, Maryland, couple whose first son, Aaron, was removed from their home after one month when his birth father returned to claim custody. Andrew and Barbara had attended, and wept at, the baby's birth in Pennsylvania. They had brought him home to his nursery and conducted a "bris," the Jewish circumcision ceremony, with 100 relatives and friends in attendance. Yet when Aaron's biological father surfaced to say that he wanted the child back, a Pennsylvania adoption attorney informed the Ships that they had little legal standing. The agency that had arranged the placement had misled them: Aaron's birth father had never relinquished his parental rights.
'I think we have to become more birth father friendly,' says Mary Weidenborner, of Spence-Chapin, a Manhattan-based adoption agency. She cites the need to recruit more male social workers, invite birth fathers to conferences, and tailor more literature to biological fathers. It can take a lot of courage, Weidenborner noted, for a birth father to walk through the doors of an adoption agency. But, she adds, 'I think there's much less guilt or shame when the birthfather feels that he came in with his eyes wide open and was able to make a plan that he thinks was good for the child.' "