Utah’s adoption agencies are receiving a lot of attention in regard to birthfather rights. Having been part of a family touched by adoption, I have closely watched the practices of several agencies in regard to how birthfathers are involved in the adoption process. As many of you know, usually only bad news is covered by the media. This seems to be the case in Utah adoptions. Of the hundreds of adoptions that take place each year in the state, just a handful of adoptions are contested. These make the news and put a negative spin on Utah adoptions and agencies.
In analyzing the statistics of one Utah adoption agency, A Act of Love, it was found that 72% of their adoptions in the past year have had either a birthfather aware of the adoption plan and/or sign relinquishment paperwork. This agency makes every effort to notify potential birthfathers of a pending adoption and offer services to that birthfather, including openness. Many birthfathers are supportive of an adoption plan and participate in counseling and selecting adoptive parents together with the birthmother. Whether or not the birthparents are together in a relationship at the time of the adoption, many have stated that knowing the other one is supportive of the plan makes the placement even better. Other situations make the signing of both birthparents more difficult. These can include scenarios like sexual assault, date rape, abusive relationships and birthfather’s identity and whereabouts are unknown. For situations such as these, state laws vary and will need to be addressed according to the state in which the baby is conceived and/or born.
Adoption law can be difficult because every state has different laws. Again, in most cases, the laws in the states where the baby is conceived and born are followed.
Many states have Putative Father Registries, where a father can establish his paternity and willingness to provide for the unborn child. A “putative father” is a man who may be a child’s father, but who was not married to the child’s mother before the child was born and has not established that he is the father in a court proceeding.
You can consult the National Directory of Putative Father Registries to locate your state’s registry and requirements. The following states are listed on-line as having a Putative Father Registry. According to National Directory of Putative Father Registries from Erik L. Smith: an asterisk (*) means that the state, by statute, regards a putative father’s ignorance of the pregnancy or the birth as no excuse for not registering with the putative father registry. Other states may imply similar theory through their case law, even if the statutes do not mention it.