Dad learns about putative father registries the hard way-by losing his son (Part II)

[Note: Reader Robert Franklin, a retired business attorney, is joining the blogging team at All of Robert’s posts are available here.–GS]

Boise, ID–In Part I, Robert discussed the case of Idaho father Tyson Sherwood. He wrote:

Tyson Sherwood was engaged to be married. His fiancée was pregnant and, for unknown reasons abruptly broke off the relationship and refused further contact with Sherwood. He called the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to find out what he could do to preserve his parental rights. Their answer:  “Nothing until the child is born.’ That turned out to be false.

What he could have done, indeed the one thing he HAD to do, was file a form with the state”s Putative Father Registry claiming paternity of the child. Care to guess which Idaho state agency is responsible for maintaining its Putative Father Registry? If you said the IDHW, go to the head of the class. Why the IDHW lied to Sherwood about a matter clearly within its knowledge is one of the many mysteries of this case.

What happened in this case is what happens in so many adoption cases; the mother decided she didn”t want to keep the child and she didn”t want the father to have him either. So she refused to tell the adoption agency Sherwood”s identity or whereabouts and, since he hadn”t filed with the Putative Father Registry, no notice of the adoption was given him. The child was adopted by parents unknown and Tyson Sherwood will never see his son.

Robert’s Part II is below.

Putative Father Registries, Part II

Following up on the case of Tyson Sherwood, the Idaho man who lost his son to an all-but-unknown law, I spoke with Sherwood”s attorney, Allen Browning.  Browning said that Tyson Sherwood is a fine man who was ready, willing and able to care for his child.  As soon as his pregnant fiancée cut off contact with him, he did everything he could to secure his parental rights.

Everything, that is except file a form with the Idaho Putative Father Registry. As an experienced adoption lawyer, Browning told me that the existence of the Idaho Putative Father Registry is a closely guarded secret. Basically, if you”re not an adoption attorney, you don”t know about it. Browning isn”t sure if it”s even taught in law school.

I contacted the Idaho Bureau of Health Policy and Vital Statistics and they told me that, in 2007, there were a total of 6,353 births to non-married women in Idaho. That same year, a grand total of 44 men filed the form with the Registry. If you”re keeping score at home, that”s 0.69% of single fathers who preserved their parental rights, or 99.31% who are at risk for losing their children. It looks like Browning was right. It also looks like Idaho doesn”t do a lot to let men know about the loss of their parental rights. No one at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare could tell me anything the state does to let men know about the registry or its possible effects on their rights.

Maybe that”s why Tyson Sherwood didn”t know. When his fiancée broke off their engagement, he contacted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, of which the Bureau of Vital Statistics is a part, to find out what he needed to do to secure his parental rights. He was told that he could do nothing until after the child was born even though Idaho law says exactly the opposite.

What that meant in Sherwood”s case and what it means in all cases in states with putative father registries, was that, when the mother placed the child for adoption, the court didn”t have to notify Sherwood that his rights were being terminated.  All it had to do was consult the Registry and, when it didn”t find his name there, terminate his rights without telling him.  Tyson Sherwood never had a chance to tell the court, “this child is mine and I want to be its father.’

For more about this case, click here.

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