Fathers and Families has supported embattled Ohio father Benjamin Wyrembek and publicized his long, hard struggle to raise his own son. In Ohio high court right to unite father, son (Toledo Blade, 10/24/10), Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. wrote:
This month, the Ohio Supreme Court finally cleared the way for Benjamin Wyrembek of Swanton to be united with his biological son, who will turn three years old this week. That should have happened long before now.
But for almost three years, attorneys for an adoptive couple in Indiana who have raised the child since birth have kept the case tied up in court, separating father and son.
In the vast majority of cases, adoption is a fine and noble act. But Mr. Wyrembek”s son has never needed adoption. He had a capable, loving father who wanted to care for him.
And from the very first, that fact was public knowledge. Within 30 days of the boy”s birth to a former girlfriend, Mr. Wyrembek registered with the Ohio Putative Father Registry. Then he filed suit to get custody of his son.
At any time since then, the couple that sought to adopt the boy could have done the obvious, fair, and kind thing: hand Benjamin Wyrembek his son and seek another child to adopt. Instead, they chose litigation.
In every court, Benjamin Wyrembek prevailed, because he is the child”s rightful father. And every time he did, opposing attorneys filed more motions and appeals.
Media reports have emphasized the distress that the boy will surely suffer when he is removed from the only parents he has known. That distress will be heartbreaking for all, especially the child.
But let there be no mistake about the cause of that heartbreak. It is not Benjamin Wyrembek, but adoption attorneys who mistakenly believed that after enough time and expense he would give up his son.
Fathers and Families has always been mindful of the fact that until this transfer, the Vaughns were the only parents that Grayson knew. However, the Vaughns created this circumstance and prolonged it through endless legal appeals, in effect using the concomitant delays as a strategy to deny Benjamin Wyrembek custody.
In the best interests of little Grayson, during the original battle Fathers and Families urged the Vaughns to drop the suit, accept that Benjamin Wyrembek is Grayson”s father and custodial parent, and support their relationship. Assuming that this happened, we urged Benjamin Wyrembek to offer the Vaughns a liberal visitation schedule under which Grayson could maintain his relationship with them, hopefully throughout his childhood and adult life.
We now have more good news to report–the United States Supreme Court declined Jason and Christy Vaughn’s writ of certiorari and therefore will not hear the merits of their argument opposing Wyrembek’s custody of his son (High Court Won’t Intervene In Adoption Battle, The Indy Channel, 3/7/11).
This is apparently the final chapter in the long saga of an Indiana family’s effort to adopt Benjamin Wyrembek’s son.
For those who don’t remember, Wyrembek fathered a child in Ohio in 2007. He told the mother he intended to be the child’s father; he filed the appropriate documents with the Ohio Putative Father Registry claiming paternity; he timely filed a paternity action and was proven by DNA testing to be the boy’s father.
All of that was well-known to the adoption agency, the Vaughns and the child’s mother from the first weeks of the boy’s life. Despite knowing who the father is and that he intended to assert his rights to his son, the Vaughns and the adoption agency persisted for three years in trying to deny Benjamin Wyrembek his son.
They lost at every step of the process. That’s because Ohio law is clear that a natural father who has done what Benjamin Wyrembek had, may not lose his parental rights without a showing of unfitness. There was none, and that means what it always meant – that Jason and Christy Vaughn had no right to keep his son from Benjamin Wyrembek.
But they did anyway. For the first three years of the boy’s life, they kept him from his father. Perhaps they did so on the advice of counsel. If so, it was improvidently given.
From the outside looking in, it appears that the Vaughn’s attorney assumed that prolonging the litigation over the child would eventually exhaust Wyrembek’s resources of money, time, energy and patience. That’s happened in plenty of other cases, and my guess is that the attorney hoped it would happen in this one as well.
Did the attorney explain his tactics to the Vaughns? Did he say to them “the law is against you, but drawing out the process can sometimes accomplish what the letter of the law cannot?” We’ll probably never know.
But what we do know is that, at any time during those three years, Jason and Christy Vaughn could have given Benjamin Wyrembek his son. It was they – not some attorney, not some adoption agency, not some court – who every single day of those three years unconscionably kept father and son apart. At any time they could have done the right thing, but they didn’t.
But Wyrembek proved more than a match for all the excruciating delays thrown at him. Now the final attempt has been swept aside by a Supreme Court for which the denial of certiorari could not have been a tough decision.
You’ll notice that, in my opening sentence, I described the Supreme Court’s decision as the last chapter in the adoption saga, and so it is. There is, however, a new book coming out, and it’s first chapters are now being written.
Benjamin Wyrembek has sued both the adoption agency and the Vaughns. I think that’s a good idea and I hope he prevails. For far too long, state legislatures have pretended that taking children from fit fathers via adoptions unknown to them and consented to only by the mother is acceptable in a society that claims to care about gender equality and the connection of fathers to their children.
It’s not. But what may not be corrected by legislation may nevertheless be improved by litigation. If enough adoption agencies suffer in their pocketbooks because of their unscrupulous actions against fathers and fathers’ rights to their children, then maybe their behavior will change. If so, it will be a good thing, because it may once and for all halt the taking of children from fit fathers via adoption.
And, after all, why not? It’s not as if Jason and Christy Vaughn couldn’t have found another child to adopt. There are plenty. At any given time, there are over 400,000 children in foster care in this country whose parents have had their rights officially terminated by a court. That means that, unlike Benjamin Wyrembek’s son, those kids need to be adopted.
There are millions more like them worldwide. The orphanages of China, India, Southeast Asia and Africa are bursting at the seams with children who are literally crying out for good adoptive parents.
The terrible irony of the Vaughns and all those who defend them is that they actually denied parents to a child somewhere in the world who truly, deeply needed them. By wasting time in their doomed effort to take Benjamin Wyrembek’s son, they simultaneously turned their backs on a needy child.
Now that their last effort to get Benjamin Wyrembek’s son has ended in deserved failure, maybe Jason and Christy Vaughn will do what they should have done all along – adopt a child without parents, a child who needs to be adopted.