I’ve written a lot about the Benjamin Wyrembek case lately. I think it needed to be done because there were so many articles being written about it that failed to grasp the obvious moral and (as it turned out) legal point – it’s not OK to kidnap a father’s child and call it adoption. The instant the adoptive couple learned that the child they were attempting to adopt had a fit father who wanted custody of his son, they should have handed him over and sought another child to adopt.
There are plenty. In fact, worldwide there are millions of children in orphanages who receive far less than the minimum of care. If adopting a child from a foreign country doesn’t appeal to you, there are, at any given time, over 400,000 children in foster care in this country whose parents have had their rights terminated. That means that those children too need parents.
To all parents like the ones who tried to adopt Benjamin Wyrembek’s son, I say one simple thing: even if you don’t care about the parental rights of the dad, think about all those children in the United States and the rest of the world who desperately need parents.
In fact, read this short article (KION Right Now.com, 11/6/10). While you’re reading, understand something about foster care. A child placed in foster care has a home (in fact usually several homes), at most until he/she turns 18. At that point, foster care is no longer an option. At that point the young adult is on his/her own. At that point he/she truly has no one to turn to for guidance or a roof and a meal.
As one social worker quoted in the article said,
“Children who grow up in foster care and who leave foster care when they’re 18 without a family. The majority of them end up on the streets or in prison within the first four years of leaving the system,” said Social Worker Mary Greenham.
That doesn’t happen to all children in foster care of course. Some form more permanent bonds with families, but many do not. And those are kids for whom life can be a losing proposition.
That’s why parents like the ones who tried to adopt Benjamin Wyrembek’s son need to redirect their kind, loving motivations toward children who need it and away from those who don’t. For example,
Children like Lucien, a 3 year old who’s been abused, neglected and witnessed domestic violence.
But things started to change for him about a year ago. Natasha Taylor and her husband met him through child protective services and decided to adopt him.
“Give him a chance in life to be able to provide a safe home for him that he didn’t have and give him the love he needs to be successful in life,” said Taylor.
In front of a judge today, Taylor and her husband promised to love, support and respect lucien for the rest of their lives, but Lucien is just one child. There are so many more looking for a loving family.
“We at any time have 20 to 30 children that desperately need homes. We need people to commit to children and take them into their homes and say they’ll be their families forever,” said Greenham.
I would like the parents who tried to adopt Benjamin Wyrembek’s son to read every single word of that last quotation and explain why they spent three years and countless thousands of dollars trying to hang on to a child who didn’t need parents since he already had a dad.
I want them to read the words of one social worker in one CPS agency in one county in the country who says that, at all times they have 20-30 children who “desperately need homes.” I want them to explain why they spurned those children and thousands of others just so they could take Benjamin Wyrembek’s son.
And while they’re at it, I’d like state legislatures across the country to explain something similar – their infatuation with putative father registries. Although state laws creating putative father registries routinely recite that they’re doing so in order to give single fathers the opportunity to secure their parental rights, that is simple nonsense. I know it’s nonsense because single fathers already have that ability via that old, well-known expedient the paternity suit.
Paternity suits have been around a long time and they exist in order that a person – man or woman – may establish the paternity of a child. In short, men have already been able to legally establish their paternity, so adding a putative father registry doesn’t help any.
And PFRs aren’t meant to. What they’re meant to do is in fact the opposite. They’re meant to cut off the father’s rights in the event the mother places the child for adoption. If she does and the dad hasn’t filed the appropriate form in the appropriate time with the state’s registry, he isn’t entitled to notice of the adoption and his rights are terminated in his absence and without his knowledge.
Into the bargain, PFRs are closely guarded secrets. The State of Texas budgets no money to publicize its PFR or let dads know the consequences of not filing. The unsurprising result is that Texans overwhelmingly don’t even know their registry exists. An Ohio economist emailed me recently to say that, in the 13 year history of that state’s PFR, a grand total of 1,116 men have filed. In other words, Ohioans are as much in the dark about their registry as Texans are about theirs.
It just so happened that Benjamin Wyrembek was one of those 1,116. Otherwise, the attempt to take his son would have succeeded and he’d never even have known.
And that makes my final point – that putative father registries accomplish what was tried in the Wyrembek case. They force adoption on children with fit fathers while simultaneously depriving children like those described in the article linked to of parents they so “desperately need.”
The moral of the story is this: when we honor fathers’ rights to their own children, we not only benefit them, we benefit other unseen children as well.