Three generations are sitting at the end of a table. A man in his forties, his grandmother, and his father. Son and father are the spitting image of each other--and both look like Grandma. The subject of legal costs came up. The son says that at his company, he paid six dollars a month for a legal insurance policy that would cover simple legal matters, and so he asked if that would cover the cost of "fixing" his birth certificate since his it did not have his father's name on it--but the name of the man who was married briefly to his mother and "adopted" him. "In future generations they will be able to trace the family, but they they'll come to me and take a left turn," he said, matter-of-factly but obviously frustrated.
Ears perked up. Why wasn't his father's name on his birth certificate? Because his father, following a divorce, had agreed decades earlier to let his son be adopted by his stepfather. The man went on to say that to get his real dad's name back on his birth certificate--and "dad" is now totally involved in his son's and new granddaughter's life--his father had to go through the long process of "adopting" his son. He mentioned that simply filing an affidavit attesting to the reality of the situation as not enough. He added that there was even talk of a home study--the whole works--to see if his biological father was a "fit" parent. The man with the other man's name on his birth certificate said he gave up at that point.
PROS OF STEPFATHER ADOPTIONS
Stepparent adoptions: It is estimated that they are roughly twice the number of infant adoptions. Stepparent adoptions trail adoptions from foster care, though no exact national numbers are available. *
Their motivations vary, but most are relieved to not have to make those monthly payments, to her, that despised ex-wife. They are free to go as they please. They can shed that nagging, guilty feeling that they should call or visit. Fathers may feel they are doing their child a favor by not interfering in his or her life. The stepfather is someone who likes domestic life and dotes on the child. If the father is truly gone, and a child is the only one in the home with a different name, the child may prefer to change his or her last name to "dad's."Fathers don't think about--because no one points it out to them--how the child will feel about their father signing a paper and opting out of his responsibilities and legal connection to him or her. Not all men who seek to adopt their wives' children have good intentions. Sometimes it is just to keep the biological father away from his wife, a sort of primal, male territorial reaction. Sometimes it is because the new husband wants to control the child, "I'm your father now! Forget that other jerk." Some stepfathers later regret taking another man's child. "I only did it to please her," one man said. "And now I'm stuck with support. I hope she can find another sucker."
AND CONS OF STEPFATHER ADOPTIONS
AND CONS OF STEPFATHER ADOPTIONS
The children, like other adopted children, may fantasize about the father they do not know. They may stare at men they see in malls who look sort of like themselves, wondering if they should approach them. The children may hope their fathers show up some day and save them from whatever catastrophe they are going through. In cases when the children were old enough to remember their father, their sense of loss may be even greater. Before the adoption, they may not have seen their father often, but they stare out the window, hoping he will come and visit. Then one day, they get the devastating news: he signed away his legal paternity. He is unlikely to ever come.
Fathers that we have known don't forget. They get on with their lives but there's always a tug at their hearts, a trickle of guilt. What feels like a freedom today may feel like a loss one day. Like first mothers, these men often exchange immediate benefits for long-term pain.
A man married at 18 because his girl friend was pregnant. He left for another state soon after his son was born. Within a few years, both he and his ex had remarried. He resented having to make support payments for the son he did not know when he and his new family needed the money. He gladly signed the paper giving up his paternal rights to the boy's stepfather. His son was now in his forties. What had happened to him, his father wondered? Should he look for him? Would that hurt his wife and the children he had raised? Would the son even want to know him? Probably not, the father concluded. Better for his son to think of him as non-existent. The father was unaware that his son might want to meet him, might want to learn his heritage, might want to know why his father signed away his legal rights and claim of paternity.
Another father we know discovered he was gay after he married and had a son. After his former wife re-married, and he and his partner got together, he said he thought it would be better if I just cut out: "My son probably wouldn't want a gay father anyway--so I let his stepfather adopt him. And I hate to admit it, part of the reason was that Harry [his partner] and I had decided to open a bread and breakfast in London. We were short of cash and I was behind in the support payments." He looked down.
"When my son was in his 20's, he came to visit. He'd never gotten along with his adoptive father, and he asked if he could change his last name back to mine. I told him 'no,' it wouldn't be fair to the man who raised him. I didn't see much of my son after that." This father thought he was being noble, altruistic to insist his son keep his adoptive name. He didn't know the hurt his son must have felt.
SIMPLE TODAY, SAD TOMORROW
Fathers like these men are invisible in the adoption community. They have never connected with or even heard of Concerned United Birthparents or American Adoption Congress, or any other adoption organization. They have no support groups. They're decades behind in their understanding of adoption. For the most part, they assume their children are all right, unaware of what it might mean to their children to know their father has thought of them over the years. There's no tearful TV reunion shows, magazine spreads, not even a Birth Father Day. They don't write memoirs. They don't even talk much about their lost children, and when they do, they get little sympathy.
We mothers who lost our children to adoption would like to tell them, seek out your children. Be there to answer their questions. We encourage fathers considering giving up their children to think long and hard before they do so. Fathers are not interchangeable. DNA matters. While you and your child's mother may not be compatible, you are still the father. Abdicating your paternal responsibilities can have far-reaching negative consequences. What seems simple today you may live to regret tomorrow. --lorraine and jane_____________________________________
*According to the Children's Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services, there were 63,094 non-public, non-intercountry adoptions, in 2008, the last year for which it has posted data. If the national rate for stepparent adoption are about the same as the rate in Oregon, about 28,000 of these were stepparent adoptions which is about twice the number of infant adoptions, 14,000 to 15,000 per year.
Oregon Adoption Statistics
Child Welfare Information Gateway: How Many Children Were Adopted in 2007 and 2008?
Birth Fathers and their Adoption Experiences by Gary Clapton
"Virtually all literature about birth parents of adopted children has focused on mothers. In this pioneering study, Gary Clapton gives us a fresh perspective: he recounts the experiences of thirty birth fathers separated from their children at birth, and suggests ways of applying this knowledge to work with adopted children, their adoptive families and birth parents. Discussing different notions of fatherhood, such as biological paternity, social fatherhood, sperm donorship and the 'father figure,' this informative book gives new light on issues such as the decision to give up a child for adoption, the child's desire to find his or her birth parents, and the facilitation of contact later in life. Written in an accessible style for busy professional readers, Birth Fathers and their Adoption Experiences offers a new understanding of the causes and consequences of adoption, and makes positive suggestions for working with those whom it affects."--Amazon
Ever After: Fathers and the Impact of Adoption by Gary Coles
"This book is about the fathers of children who were raised in other, adoptive families. Frequently, in writings about the separation of parent and child, the emphasis is on the mother and her son or daughter. The father is an absent, or at best a peripheral figure. The Invisible Men of Adoption brings the father into the open and accords him his proper place within the family of origin. Through this exposure of the ‘invisible men’, the reader will gain a full appreciation of what it means to be a birth father. The Invisible Men of Adoption also explores and demonstrates the benefits of birth fathers being included in the mending of emotional wounds caused by the initial separation of the three family members. This key role for the birth father in a tripartite setting has not been addressed by anyone else in adoption literature. The Invisible Men of Adoption is the culmination of Gary Coles’ writings about the place of birth fathers in adoption."--Amazon
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