This Father’s Day let’s raise a glass and toast John Wyatt, Ramsey Shaud, Jon Klaren, and all the other childless fathers who took on the system and lost. And let’s make another toast to those fortunate fathers, Otakar Kirchner and Dan Schmidt, who beat the odds. And finally let’s toast Erik Smith, the Ohio paralegal working with fathers all over the country in danger of losing their children to the rapacious adoption system.
Unmarried fathers Wyatt and Shaud are the latest in a string of men victimized by Utah’s relaxed residency laws, allowing the State to become a safe haven for would be adopters. Utah laws, reflecting LDS Church doctrine of eternal togetherness for sanctified families (father, mother, and children) and oblivion for unsanctioned ones (father and child or mother and child), are a God-send for unscrupulous segments of the adoption industry.
Wyatt’s baby was born in Virginia and surrendered by the baby’s mother to a couple who took the child to Utah. Shaud’s baby was born in Utah where her mother relocated from Florida, apparently induced to do so by a Utah adoption agency. Both men took every step required by their homes states and Utah to protect their right to nurture their child; nonetheless, Utah trial courts upheld the adoption of their children. Both cases are on appeal. We told Wyatt’s story here.
Shaud’s story as reported on The Daily Bastardette:
“Shaud filed a paternity claim in Utah and a notice in the Utah putative father registry five days before the birth. Shaud’s notice was mailed on January 12, 2010 and marked received by Utah Vital Statistics on January 14. The mother consented to adoption on January 19, and an adoption petition was filed.The State of Utah is not alone in its zeal to separate fathers from their children. Other states also have laws cleverly designed by the adoption industry to screw unmarried fathers. Klaren lost his son in left-leaning California because his attorney failed to tell him about an important deadline.
[Vital Statistics did not process Shaud’s paperwork until January 20, making Shaud’s filing one day late.] Moreover, the date of receipt on the envelope had been altered from January 14 to January 20. The adoption was then ordered without Shaud present.
[Through an attorney, Shaud] filed a motion to intervene in the adoption …. A judge ruled that Shaud had preserved his right to due process. For unknown reasons the judge was replaced by Judge Robin Reese, who reconsidered the matter. Reese refused to admit … evidence about Vital Statistics activities and denied Shaud’s intervention.”
As we wrote in our post about Wyatt’s case, prior to 1972, unmarried fathers were legally dead when it came to the adoption of their children. (Of course very much alive if the state wanted them to pay support.) In Stanley v. Illinois, the US Supreme Court held that unmarried fathers had the right to nurture their children. States immediately adopted laws designed to give the appearance of recognizing fathers’ rights while denying them in fact. To the horrors of the adoption industry, however, fathers actually asserted their rights and in a few cases, they prevailed. Thanks to well-financed public relations campaigns by the would be adoptive parents and allied adopters in the media, two of these cases, Baby Jessica (Dan Schmidt) and Baby Richard (Otakar Kirchner) made headlines. "No More Baby Jessica’s" and “Save Baby Richard” ranted the press as though the children were being sent to where the wild things are rather than to the loving arms of their fathers. (Jane will have a review of Baby Richard: A Four-Year-Old Comes Homein the coming weeks.)
Adoption industry lobbyists and legislators, contending they were motivated by “the best interest of the child”, worked overtime to shutter fathers’ all-ready small window of opportunity. Whether this commitment to the “best interest of the child” was based on narrow religious views or the need to keep children – and money -- flowing into industry coffers, the result was the same: more traps for unwary fathers to navigate.
An irony in all this? These state laws fly in the face of a national priority articulated by the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships: “Supporting fathers who stand by their families, which involve working to get young men off the streets and into well‐paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood”.
Now that is a policy we can get behind. Let's hope the White House sinks some teeth into that initiative.
Here's a book on birth fathers and their experiences.