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May 31st, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The president of the Utah Adoption Council has resigned saying its members often acted unethically in denying parental rights to single fathers.  Read about it here (KSL, 5/8/12).

And guess who it was who resigned?  Wes Hutchins, that’s who.  He’s the one who was in the news recently regarding an undercover operation conducted by several expectant mothers.  They went to five different Utah adoption agencies about placing their infants for adoption, and each was wearing a wire.  Adoption personnel were heard frankly advising the mothers on how to cut the dad out of the adoption process.  One even went so far as to promise cash “in a little envelope” if the mom used that agency.  While two of the agencies played it straight, recordings made at the other three reveal what we’ve always expected about the adoption industry in Utah.  Now we’ve got the smoking gun.

There was certainly friction in Tuesday’s council meeting, as some representing adoption agencies accused Hutchins of having his own agenda. In turn, he pointed fingers at them for not acting ethically in administering adoptions.

“I’m an adoption attorney. I’ve done over 1,080 adoptions, (and) finalized six adoptions on Friday of last week alone,” Hutchins said, following the meeting. “I’m a big proponent of adoptions, but I firmly believe they need to be done legally, constitutionally and ethically.”

Hutchins pointed to what he calls “egregious cases of fraud,” namely: the case of Christopher Carlton, who was told by the birth mother that his child had died, and the case of Robert Manzanares, who was told by the birth mother she was traveling from Colorado to Utah to visit relatives when she was actually giving up their child.

These cases, and many like them, provide evidence, Hutchins said, that birth mothers should be held accountable.

“That’s one of the changes that we need to make: that fraud is no longer accepted as a method of taking a child from one home, destroying a family, and placing (the child) in another home to create another family,” he said.

That opinion conflicts with others who sit on the UAC.

I’ll bet it does.  But take a minute to reread what Hutchins said: “fraud [should be] no longer accepted as a method” of adopting a child.  And consider that that opinion “conflicts with others who sit on the UAC.”  That about says it all.  It was just a few days ago that I pointed out that transparent lies are routinely accepted at face value by adoption agencies and the courts that rubber-stamp their cases.  That case occurred in North Carolina, and involved an affidavit identifying the father whose name was then scratched out and another substituted.  And lo and behold! the agency reported it was unable to locate the fictional “father.”  Needless to say, it made no effort to find the man whose name was marked through, i.e. the real one.

Hutchins’ word for that type of sham proceeding is the right one – fraud.  And the idea that Utah law and adoption practice must change in order to no longer rely on fraud to get adoptions done is disgraceful.  That the UAC thinks that fraud in the pursuit of denying fit single fathers their parental rights and their children is acceptable goes beyond disgraceful into realms hitherto undescribed.

Notice also that Hutchins wants to hold birth mothers accountable for their wrongdoing.  My guess is that he thinks they should do that novel thing – tell the truth about who the dad is.  But if there’s any requirement anywhere in any state law that a birth mother seeking to place a child for adoption tell the truth about who the father is, I’ve never seen it.  Oh, there are the usual laws about falsely testifying in court including making false affidavits, but when was the last time you saw one enforced?  When was the last time a birth mother bore any consequence whatsoever for having lied in order to avoid notifying the father that his child is being taken from him?  I’ve been reading these cases for 14 years now and I’ve never seen it happen.  Not once.

I don’t need to see mothers going to jail; I just need to see them truthfully identifying the fathers of their children, and those fathers found and notified and given an opportunity to decide whether they want to raise those kids or not.  If a dad doesn’t want to do the job of father, or if he’s not fit to do it, the child can be adopted.  But if he can raise the child and wants to do so, he should be able to.  And those adoptive parents can then adopt one of the millions of children worldwide who don’t have parents.

David Hardy, former president of UAC, had this to say about Hutchins and his pro-father approach:

“Wes has taken more of the approach of some of the rights of fathers,” Hardy said. “He’s taken some real strong positions on fathers that are, in many ways, inconsistent with Utah code.”

No doubt about it.  But again, reread what Hardy said.  Without quite saying it outright, he suggests that involving fathers in the adoption process is “inconsistent with Utah code.”  Well, we knew that already.  It’s easier in Utah than in any other state to kick the dad to the curb and my guess is that, in the adoptions Hutchins is involved with, he’s refused to do that.  I’m sure that makes a lot of other lawyers and adoption agencies very unhappy.  Hey, there’s money to be made in adoptions, and fathers just get in the way.

To its credit, the article quotes a couple of those fathers.

“I do have a voice, and it needs to be heard,” said Jake Strickland, a father currently fighting for custody of his child.

“There’s two sides to every story,” added Bobby Nevares, a man in the same situation as Strickland, “but they didn’t want to hear the father’s side.”

Hutchins said the council didn’t really want to hear his side either and accused him of having an agenda.

“If you want to call that ‘an agenda,’ then absolutely, call it an agenda. And that agenda is to see that we have a balanced approach in Utah to how we’re doing adoptions,” Hutchins said.

Meanwhile, Hutchins has started his own non-profit organization that will work to promote the interests of all parties to adoptions.  Good for him.

And good for KSL and Lori Prichard for keeping the issue of fathers’ rights in adoption cases on the front burner of Utah news.

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