A matter of days after the case of Christian Diaz hit the news comes the backlash. The first wave comes in the form of a letter to the editor here (Bakersfield Californian, 12/31/10).
Christian Diaz is the 17 year old father who’s battling the California adoption industry for the right to be a parent to his own child. To my mind, that makes him a stand-up kind of guy. We spend a lot of time and ink denigrating fathers as irresponsible louts who don’t care about their kids, but let a young man like Diaz come along who wants to father his child and there are plenty of people to tell him he can’t.
In my original piece, I compared Diaz to several other dads, like Benjamin Wyrembek of Ohio, who have fought the adoption of their children. The people who opposed those fathers were wrong for the same principal reason the letter writer is wrong – they ignore the fact that they’re encouraging child theft.
The letter to the Bakersfield Californian makes the tired old argument that, since the child has been in the care of adoptive parents, he’s bonded with them and those bonds may not be disturbed by anything as paltry as a father. That argument is wrong for several reasons, but first let me say how he’s right.
Newborns and infants need close attention; they need to see facial expressions, hear voices and experience the impressions they themselves make on people. Those things are necessary to the healthy neurological growth of the child. Failure to establish those attachments can result in serious and possibly lifelong emotional/psychological deficits.
That’s essentially what the letter says and the writer is correct as far as he goes. Where he goes off the tracks is his assumption that, having formed those attachments and experienced that neurological growth, the child is incapable of forming other attachments, e.g. to his father. That’s just plain wrong. The ability to form attachments is necessary, but once those neuronal pathways are formed, they won’t be undone by the presence of a new person in the child’s life.
So the writer draws too broad a conclusion from the biology of attachment.
Worse, he ignores the practical implications of his own point of view. Put simply, he, like so many others, is arguing that if adoptive parents or indeed anyone else, can just get their hands on a newborn, then all parental rights are voided.
We saw this time and again in the Wyrembek case in Ohio. Adoption agencies and their lawyers do what they do for money. The apologists for adults who knowingly attempt to take a child who has a father who is well known to be asserting his rights have no such excuse. Theirs is a brief for child theft pure and simple.
There are many reasons why it’s not appropriate for strangers to be permitted to step in and take a father’s child. A lengthy series of U.S. Supreme Court cases saying that parental rights are all but sacrosanct and cannot be diminished absent a showing of unfitness is one.
Another is the fact that millions of children worldwide need to be adopted. If the parents currently holding Christian Diaz’s son want to adopt a child, there is no shortage of children who need parents. But Christian Diaz’s son is not one of them; he has a father; he doesn’t need to be adopted.
And since there are far fewer parents seeking to adopt than there are children who need adopting, permitting Diaz’s son to be adopted would deny another child somewhere in the world the parents he/she so desperately needs.
Finally, biology bonds fathers to children as surely as it does mothers, and in the same way. In all bi-parental mammals, the hormones cortisol, prolactin and oestradiol are what cause parents to bond with, care for, protect and nurture their offspring. And so it is with humans – mothers and fathers alike.
It is that powerful biological connection that provides the basis for the attachments between biological parents and their children. Those are attachments that no one else has.
That is not to say that adoptive parents can’t provide perfectly good homes for children; of course they can and many do every day. But the sociology of parenting shows that children’s outcomes are better on average with biological parents than with anyone else.
Those who urge us to ignore fathers’ rights overlook all of the above. They are wrong to do so. Child theft is not acceptable in civilized society. Putting the gloss of adoption on it may convince the credulous or those who are anti-father. But the facts remain; where there’s a qualified father who wants to care for his child, no one should stand in the way.