Sunday, June 6, 2010

The role of men in adoption

I just read a very interesting and important article about men's reproductive rights. Before we began the adoption process, the topic had never entered my stream of consciousness. This article deals mostly with abortion vs. parenting, but for the interested, I'd like to give you the adoption POV.

Adoption laws vary widely by state, and as our adoption agency performs adoptions for 2 different but neighboring states, we had to learn the laws for each state. Most were very similar, but there was a huge difference in birthfather's rights.

State A (which turned out to be the Nugget's state) gave birthfathers the same rights as birthmothers. Birthfathers were supposed to be notified of the pregnancy and adoption plan, and if they wanted to parent, their rights were respected. No adoption could happen without the birthfather's support and consent. If the birthmom didn't know how to get ahold of the birthfather, advertisements had to be made in the local paper for a month before the state would agree to terminate his rights without his signature. Maybe not the best venue for information in this day and age, but a big effort nonetheless.

State B treats fathers like an afterthought. A birthfather may not block an adoption unless he is married to the birthmom OR can prove that he has financially and emotionally supported her throughout the pregnancy.

I feel very torn about this topic, and I don't believe either state has it completely right. It takes 2 people to create a baby, and whether they choose to parent, abort, or plan an adoption, it feels like they should both get a say. Our society holds high expectations of men but does not give them the tools nor education to figure out what it means to be a man in a family, how providing for your children can mean so many different things. And indeed, sometimes providing for your child means planning an adoption.

Ideally, the future of a child's life should be a joint decision, but what happens when the man and the woman have different opinions? Do you think the woman's say should count "a little more" since she gives so much more of herself to the pregnancy, and often, to the care of the child should she decide to parent?

In State A, a man can block an adoption without any intention of helping the woman raise the child. He can refuse to sign the consent to terminate his rights, then he could vamoose. However, a woman could get an abortion without even informing him of the pregnancy. That double standard doesn't seem fair to the woman nor to the child. Why is it legal to end a life without father's consent, but it's illegal to plan a safe and loving plan for the baby's life without his consent?

In State B, the men get the short end of the stick - if they don't know about the pregnancy, they have no rights at all.

Is there a perfect solution or does it not exist? Because women bear the trials of pregnancy, labor, and very often serve as primary caregiver, does that give them more of a right to make the tough calls?
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We feel tremendously thankful that the Nugget's Poppy was an active participant in his adoption plan and that we still have contact today. I know it was very difficult and scary for the Nugget's Tummy Mummy to tell him about the pregnancy and adoption plan and risk him saying, "No." But we are so grateful that she did, and that he chose, "Yes." We know that despite the pain involved, he feels peace in that he got to help choose a family for their son and that he can also have the opportunity to watch the Nugget grow and thrive. Many adoptive families and many birthfathers are not so fortunate. We may not get to see or hear from the Nugget's Poppy often, but he is an important part of our family and always in our hearts.

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