Putative Father Registries Designed to Remove Fathers from Adoption Process

October 12, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Kansas case, In re Adoption of C.L.that I’ve written about the last two days, demonstrates the abysmal awfulness of putative father registries.  In so doing, it makes the points about them I’ve made many times before – that (a) far from enhancing fathers’ rights, they do the opposite and (b) they place the burden of finding out about a pregnancy on the wrong party, i.e. the father.

Kansas law today is much like that of all states prior to the advent of PFRs.  In order for a court to dispense with the father’s consent to the adoption of his child, those seeking to finalize the adoption must prove that the father abandoned the child.  Kansas adds another possible ground for doing so – that, once the father learned of his child, he took no reasonable steps to support it, establish a relationship with it, etc.  That of course is much the same as abandonment. 

The point being that, in order to prove abandonment (or that second ground just mentioned), there must be clear and convincing evidence that the father knew about his child and intentionally ignored it and its needs.

By contrast, PFRs dispense with the need for the father’s knowledge of his child’s existence.  To do so they make some truly remarkable assumptions.  They assume that the father knew his sex partner had become pregnant, that he was its father, that she hadn’t terminated the pregnancy and that the same had been carried to term.  They assume all that from the fact, routinely recited in the preambles to the laws establishing the PFRs, that men know that sex makes babies.

And of course no state and indeed no jurisdiction anywhere requires any woman at any time to simply inform the man that he’s the father of her child.  PFR’s demand that he, in some way, ascertain the fact.  And, as I’ve said in a previous post, they also demand that he know about the PFR despite the state’s making no effort to inform men of its existence or effect on their rights.

Given that Kansas isn’t a PFR state, the father of baby C.L. was able to assert his rights and finally win custody of his child.  The adoption agency and its lawyers didn’t make it easy, but he prevailed.  He was able to do so because the burden of proof was on the party attempting to terminate his parental rights to demonstrate that he’d made no effort to support or communicate with his little son.  This they couldn’t do and all their dogged efforts to keep him from doing so were both noticed by the Supreme Court and used to defeat the adoption.

What if Kansas had had a PFR?  The overwhelming likelihood is that Father would have known nothing about it and therefore not filed the appropriate forms with the appropriate state agency.  Absent his having done so, the court would have checked with the agency that operates the PFR, found no claim of paternity and proceeded without giving him notice of the adoption.

What would that have achieved?  First, a child who didn’t need adoption (because he had a fit father who wanted to care for him) would have had adoption forced on him.  Second, another child who did need adopting would have gone without parents.  At any given time, there are far more children who need adoption than there are qualified adoptive parents.  C.L.’s adoptive parents apparently passed muster with the adoption agency and the lower court.  So, in the absence of a PFR, they’re now free to adopt a child out of foster care or whose parents have died or are otherwise unable to care for it.

That of course is what adoption is supposed to be about – the provision of good homes to children who don’t have one of their own.

PFR’s are a blight on families, parental rights, good sense and justice.  The U.S. Supreme Court case that first greenlighted them, Lehr vs. Robinson should be overturned and sanity restored to the adoption process.  We’ve done the bidding of profit-driven adoption agencies at the expense of children’s best interests far too long.

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