A Father’s Right: National Putative Father Registry Bill

I know the timing on this is a bit strange — it being Mother’s Day weekend and all — but an article that appeared on Today’s Catholic Woman really caught my attention. “My Son the Matchmaker” is about a woman who got pregnant — then kept the baby’s father in the dark about his paternity.

The story has a happy ending — the couple winds up married and raising the child together. More often than not, such stories are not tied up so neatly. But it does raise an important issue: the right of a child to know both his mother and father.

Now, I understand why a woman in a crisis pregnancy might be tempted — after having sex with someone who seems to be an unsuitable father — to keep the truth from the man. However, this short-term decision can have lifelong consequences for the child, who needs a mother AND father to thrive.

NCFA recently published a notice about a piece of legislation that was recently introduced in the Senate: “Senator Landrieu (D, LA) Introduces Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act.”  This involves S939, a national putative (potential birth) father registry, which would facilitate securing the consent of birth fathers before the finalization of an adoption plan — something that is in the best interest of the child (who needs a permanent, stable family as quickly as possible) as well as potential adoptive parents (who are vulnerable if the adoption process is not conducted thoroughly and systematically).

Thank you, Senator Landrieu!


National Council for Adoption: “Stay at Home Gala”!

ncfa-logoBeginning today, NCFA is holding a special fundraiser called the “Stay at Home Gala.” This organization does so much to inform and support those involved in foster care and adoption, it’s important to remember them in these difficult economic times.

I’ve made my pledge … I expect my “We Know How to Party” pack any day, and hope we can have something here for a gala of our own. Maybe a prize going to the best adoption story!

In the meantime, why  not consider making a small donation as well?

Mandatory Release vs. Mutual Consent: New Report from NCA

Today I received a link to this recent report from the National Council for Adoption, refuting the findings of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute with regard to open records, in particular the notion that adult adopted persons should have automatic access to the identities of their birthparents. This is a difficult — and hotly debated — issue.  

I’ve touched upon the subject here and elsewhere in the past, and have no desire to rehash the arguments at this time (those who are unfamiliar with the arguments in favor of mandatory open records will find them summarized nicely in this report).  However, there was one point in the NCA report that I thought warranted special mention. In their response to the first “social argument” for mandatory open records, NCA observes:

“Contrary to the picture painted by EBDAI’s misrepresentation of data, the vast majority of birthparents (and adopted persons) support the release of identifying information to the children they placed for adoption based on the principles of mutual consent, not mandatory openness. In support of their argument that “the vast majority of birthparents … support the release of [identifying] information to the children they release for adoption,” the authors of For the Record state, “A 1991 study found that a substantial majority of birthmothers (88.5%) supported access by adult adopted persons to identifying information on their birthparents.”

The study cited is Sadchev’s Achieving Openness in Adoption…, and it does indeed state that 88.5% of the birthmothers surveyed supported the release of identifying information to adult adopted persons. However, the study also found that 75% of birthmothers who supported the release of identifying information prescribed “consent of the birthmother as [a] condition for permitting adoptees access to this information.”

In other words, three out of four birthmothers support the release not mandatory release, but by mutual consent. Furthermore, Sadchev finds, 77.9% of birthmothers, 88.8% of adoptive parents, and 75.5% of adopted persons would prefer sealed records or release by mutual consent to mandatory openness. (NCA report, pg 5)

To date only 10 states have mandatory open records, with 40 states having varying degrees of “openness” with regard to adoption records — some granting non-identifying medical information (some requiring a court order). If you would like to find out the rules in your state, click here. (I’m not sure how current this list is … If you know of something more current, please let me know.)

I’m going to be away from the computer for the next few days, so if your comments do not immediately post, please be patient. And as always, “calm and constructive” get a much better hearing than “snarky and insulting.”  If you want to rant, do it on your own blog. Thanks!

Special NCFA Report Recommends Teaching Adoption in Schools

With the rate of teenage pregnancy going up again for the first time in fifteen years, the recent release of this special report from the National Council for Adoption is especially timely. This NCFA report identifies a critical improvement needed in public school health and sex-ed classes: Educating teens about adoption as a positive outcome for crisis pregnancies.

Right now, just four states — Virginia, Utah, Michigan, and Louisiana — have legislation that mandates adoption awareness for public school “reproductive health/sexual education” programs (either mandated or voluntary). However, NCFA reports that studies have shown “four years after the birth of their children, those who had made adoption placements had higher levels of educational attainment, higher rates of employment, and lower rates of subsequent pregnancy relative to those who chose to parent” (NCFA “The Adoption Option,” pg 2).

Another good reason for the change: Studies have shown that “children born to teens are twice as likely to suffer abuse and neglect than those born to older mothers.”

The subject of sex education in schools is a controversial one. Ultimately it is parents’ responsibility — not the school’s — to teach their children about sexuality. Sadly, too many parents — in a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempt to protect their children — abdicate this responsibility. The reality is that if we are not proactive in educating our children, we will lose an important opportunity — and run the risk of having our children get an education of a different (and far more painful) kind.

We need to be teaching our children more than “don’t.”  And I’m not talking about saying “Don’t, but if you do … be safe.” Contraception is not the answer; a woman’s fertility is not a disease to be treated but a gift to be embraced and respected. Rather, we need to be giving our youth — girls and boys — a vision for God’s plan for the family, and for their own bodies. We need to give them a sense of self-respect, empowerment, and confidence in themselves. We need to teach them that sex is not a game, but a gift … to be opened only in the context of marriage.

The NCFA report acknowledges that when teens do not embrace this message, they need information of a different kind. They need to be taught that if they are big enough to engage in sex, they must be willing to accept the consequences of their actions by putting their child’s needs ahead of their own desires. In many cases, this would include adoption, so that the child is not forced to pay for his parents’ mistakes, either with his life (through abortion) or abuse or neglect.

If you are looking for resources to help you give your teenager a spiritually sound perspective on human sexuality, I’d like to suggest “Theology of the Body for Teens” (Brian Butler, and Jason and Crystalina Evert, Ascension Press).