The news media usually doesn't do adoption any favors.
As an adoptive parent, I notice news stories about kids being "taken" away from their adoptive families, and I noticed the one plastered on Yahoo! for the last couple of days.
An army drill instructor and his wife were having marital problems, and the wife gave the child up for adoption to a family in Utah. There was a big problem, though. The birth-father never terminated his parental rights.
The judge in this case, awarded the child back to her birth-father, and, of course, the adoptive family is pursuing a lawsuit to fight for the return of the child.
A careful read shows the judge's disbelief in the behavior of the adoption agency handling the case. He is right in his indignation. A good adoption agency would not have done such a thing. I know. I've gone through a good adoption agency, and my wife and I went into the process with eyes wide open.
Each state has different adoption laws, but most require both the birth-mother and birth-father to terminate their parental rights before a child is free and clear to be adopted. In cases like abuse or neglect, the state can terminate a parents rights. Finally, as with the case of our oldest daughter, when the birth-mother isn't sure who the father is and lists only the first name possibilities, the state has a procedure to follow before the father's rights are terminated--usually a public listing of a child who is up for adoption and an appeal for the father to come forward. In all these cases, the termination of parental rights is important to avoid situations like the article puts forward. If a birth-mother or birth-father does not terminate his/her parental rights, then the adoption is termed "at risk." A good adoption agency makes this known without hesitation, and without sugar coating it.
Our second daughter's adoption was exactly this. We took our daughter home knowing the birth father hadn't terminated his rights. First, the birth-mother fabricated a story (out of fear) saying she didn't know who the father was. Then the birth-father was discovered. Then the agency went through a process of seeing if the father would terminate his rights. Finally, he did. It was absolutely nerve wracking, anxiety producing, and kept us on pins and needles for about two months. Yet, if the birth-father had refused, then we would have had to given our child to him.
That's the law. Plain and simple. Biological parents have the right to raise their children unless they give up those rights voluntarily or the state terminates them. If that doesn't happen, the adoption is considered at risk.
Now, let me be very clear with this next statement:
EVERY MEDIA CASE ABOUT KIDS BEING TAKEN "AWAY" IS BECAUSE A PARENT DID NOT TERMINATE HIS OR HER PARENTAL RIGHTS.
It doesn't matter if the child has been raised by a family for several years. If the rights weren't terminated, the child legally belongs to the birth-parents. That's simply the law.
In the case plastered on Yahoo! et.al., the nasty part is the lack of knowledge and the keeping secret of said adoption from the father. This is a massive failure on the part of the adoption agency, and I sincerely hope the agency gets its feet held to the fire for the emotional damage it has caused.
I mean, I feel for the adoptive parents in this case. I feel for their heartbreak. I feel for the loss they will have after bonding with the little girl. I feel for the birth-father whose child was hidden from him. Sometimes, in such cases, emotions run rampant, and people truly believe they are doing the right things. The laws truly are written to ensure that the right decisions are made, and there is a wonderful fact regarding adoptions...
Most adoption stories turn out wonderfully. I've got two cases to prove it. We have good relationships with the birth-parents of both of our girls. Much of that is due to the fine work of the folks at Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach in College Station. It's a shame the media likes to sensationalize such stories instead of getting all of the relevant facts out there. It would calm things down tremendously and help paint adoption in a better light. I hope readers of this blog will see that and deal with the facts put out by adoption agencies instead of the sensationalism of the news media.