Another day, another adoption case that finds a father fighting for his child (Bakersfield Californian, 12/27/10). I’ve written about a lot of these guys, so just add another verse to the same song. Recently there was the case of Benjamin Wyrembek in Ohio who, after three years of struggle finally had his child in his own home in his own custody. Those were three years of struggle against an adoptive couple and an adoption agency all of whom knew full well and from day one that he was asserting his parental rights. Still they did everything they could to take his son from him.
Mostly that meant filing every possible claim and motion in court to draw out the proceedings in hopes Wyrembek would lose patience or enough money to prevent him from carrying on the fight. Neither happened and justice for once prevailed. In Virginian John Wyatt’s case, that’s still an open question. That’s because the Utah courts haven’t yet decided just how far they’ll go in allowing the transparent theft of children to receive the state’s stamp of approval. Wyatt’s daughter, “Baby Emma,” was snatched almost literally from under his nose by a Utah adoption attorney and agency that had been called to Virginia precisely for that reason. The newborn was barely two days old when she was whisked in secret from Virginia to Utah. In vain did Wyatt rush to court for an order declaring him to be the father of Emma and establishing his parental rights. His daughter was gone; now he pins his hopes on that frailest of all reeds, the Utah court system. Before that there was Kevin O’Dea who also lost his child to the Utah system that ruled that, simply because the mother of his child called him the day she was to give birth and spoke the words, “I’m in Utah,” he was on notice that she intended to place the child for adoption. Disdain for fathers doesn’t get much clearer than that. O’Dea lost his child for good. Now comes Californian, Christian Diaz. He’s only 17 and clearly has little in the way of resources to fight the forces arrayed against him. But that doesn’t mean he’s not trying. Indeed, he’s right there in the lion’s den and no one yet knows who’ll remain standing at the end. Diaz, it seems had a relationship with a 16 year old girl. She became pregnant and from there we can pretty well write the script. It goes like this. She’s 16 and has no intention of devoting her young life to motherhood. Apparently abortion wasn’t an option for her, so she decided on adoption. She assumed that her boyfriend Christian would go along with the plan, and as long as she assumed that, all was well. But then Christian began reading from his own script. He decided he wanted to parent his son and that decision was not welcomed by his girlfriend. So their relationship went south. What that meant as a practical matter, the article doesn’t make clear, but my guess is that she realized that, if he got custody, she might have to pay support for a child she didn’t want. That would mean she’d have visitation rights and she’d end up in the worst of all situations – a non-custodial parent at the age of 16. What to do? Merely the obvious – follow the adoption attorney’s advice which would have been to do everything in her considerable power to deny him access to her or his child. Having done so she could then go to court and testify that Christian had failed to act like a responsible father and therefore should lose his parental rights. (It’s that old bugaboo of dads – nature, i.e. his DNA, gets him parental duties, but only nurture gets him rights.) And sure enough, that’s exactly what’s happening.
The former girlfriend declined to comment, but Diaz said she was five months pregnant when she told him she was expecting their baby. He and his mother began buying baby items and setting up a nursery room. But the relationship between the teens strained, and she cut off communication, Diaz said.
So when the young mother’s attorney points out that a father’s consent to adoption isn’t necessary if he’s failed to act like a father during pregnancy, he’s just stating California law as it is. Depending on the case, that can mean paying medical bills, paying insurance for the mother and child, setting aside money for the child’s expenses after birth, buying toys, clothes, etc. Christian Diaz says he did everything he could, but was thwarted by the mother.
According to court documents, Diaz attempted to see the baby at the hospital, even bringing a car seat in hopes of taking his baby home.
But the ex-girlfriend told him the baby would soon go to an adoptive couple without his consent. Diaz was then escorted out of the hospital once the 16-year-old claimed Diaz was not the baby’s father, court records show.
Diaz is doing what he can to prove he’s ready to be a father: He’s landed a job at a fast-food restaurant and enrolled in teen parenting classes at his school and Parkside Church. The nursery room he set up at his home remains ready.
“Other teen-age fathers don’t want to be in their baby’s life, but I do,” he said. “I don’t know of many other 17-year-old unmarried fathers who are not afraid of publicly saying, ‘Yes, that’s my son. I will take responsibility for raising him because I love him, and he belongs with me.'”
The judge in the case might want to ask him/herself why a young man would do all those things if he didn’t intend to be a father to his child. Why would he hire an attorney and do all those things? The mother claims he “had ample opportunity to take responsibility…but refused to act like a father.” Hmm. So why’s he doing so now? The answer, I suspect, is that she did everything she could to prevent him acting like a father because she had decided on adoption. Like most of these cases, this one points up some of the many problems of adoption as it’s currently practiced in this country. We do everything we can to “facilitate” adoptions and as a practical matter, that means cutting Dad out of the loop, which is what Christian Diaz is fighting. When we do that, as I’ve said too many times to count, we force adoption on a child who doesn’t need it and deprive of parents a child who does need to be adopted. It would be a farce if it weren’t so tragic. One of the preferred methods of cutting Dad out of the loop is by effectively placing his parental rights in Mom’s hands. Benjamin Wyrembek, John Wyatt and Kevin O’Dea could tell you all about that. When we condition fathers’ rights on his acting like a father, we turn his rights over to the goodwill (or lack thereof) of Mom. If she wants to conceal her pregnancy, he’s out of luck. If she wants to change addresses, move out of the city, county or state, he’s out of luck. If she wants to spurn his offers of assistance during pregnancy, he’s out of luck. And the list goes on. The simple fact is that we require none of that of a mother. Her biology alone confers parental rights on her; not so the dad. We can fix this easily by equalizing the rights of mothers and fathers. Until we do, the Christian Diazes of the world will have to do the best they can with whatever resources they bring to the fight against well-heeled adoption agency lawyers with money and plenty of anti-father law on their side. Christian Diaz, 17 years old, has my respect and very best wishes.