NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

May 20, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Utah adoption industry has claimed another victim. This time it’s U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Carlton. To readers of this blog, the facts of Carlton’s case will be all too familiar, albeit outrageous. Here’s an article about it (Seattle Medium, 5/18/16).

For the past six years, the 33-year-old veteran from Williamsport, Pennsylvania has been fighting what feels like a losing battle for a father’s rights to his biological child, who was given up for adoption without his knowledge or consent…

For the war vet surviving on disability benefits, the salt in the wound is the fact that it began with a painful lie: his former girlfriend told him the baby had died while she secretly arranged for the infant to be adopted in Utah. Carlton and his girlfriend were living together in Williamsport when she told him she was expecting his baby in September 2009.

He said he intended to raise the child with her.

The couple split up a few months later, but Carlton said he continued to support her with cash gifts and other help, such as shoveling snow for her.

“Eight months into her pregnancy, she just up and disappeared,” Carlton said. “I was calling her like crazy. I thought she was missing.”

She showed up at his door just six weeks later with news that sickened him: the baby had died. A full year passed before Carlton discovered, during a court hearing, that his child was alive and living with adoptive parents, following legal proceedings in Utah.

In short, Carlton’s case is like so many adoption cases in Utah. State adoption law encourages lying by mothers eager to deny to the fathers of their children any say about who raises them. Put simply, there is no behavior, regardless of how mendacious or immoral on the part of an unmarried mother that it won’t be overlooked by the courts of the Beehive State.

The adoption industry wrote these laws and, unsurprisingly, benefits handsomely from them. Single mothers from all around the country travel to Utah to place their babies for adoption. Why? It’s not as if every state in the nation doesn’t have its own set of adoption laws. And of course adoptions are completed in those states every day.

Into the bargain, most states make claiming a say in the adoption process very difficult for unmarried fathers. They do that via the expedient of the Putative Father Registry. Laws establishing PFRs require every unmarried man who has sex with a woman to register the fact with some state agency, often the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If a man does so and a child eventuates and the mother seeks to have it adopted, the court will be required to notify the father and give him an opportunity to contest the adoption.

If the man fails to register, his right to notice of the adoption is waived and the process goes on without his knowledge or input. Now, the idea that PFRs provide unmarried men basic due process of law has always struck me as bizarre at best. Somehow, courts accept the fiction that the act of sexual intercourse is sufficient to inform a man that (a) a child was conceived, (b) the mother elected to carry it to term and (c) it was placed for adoption. Needless to say, none of that is remotely true, but still, fathers are deemed to know all those things.

Plus, they’re deemed to know about the state’s PFR, its requirements and the consequences of not registering. That’s true despite the fact that, in most registry states, the registry is a closely-guarded secret. Few states budget any money at all to publicize the registry or educate men about it.

Finally, in the unlikely event that a man manages to know all those things about the conception and birth of his child and the existence and legal consequences of his state’s PFR, he’s still not protected himself. That’s because Mom can simply travel to another state to place the child for adoption. So if the man and woman live in Texas, she can simply travel to any of 28 other registry states and place the child for adoption there. To fully protect himself, the man would have to register in all 29 states.

And that’s where Carlton comes in. Yes, he and his girlfriend lived in Pennsylvania, but she decided to travel 1,800 miles or so to give birth and give up her child. If she was so bent on having the child adopted, why didn’t she just hop over to Ohio or some other nearby registry state?

The answer is that she apparently needed to lie in order to complete the adoption, and, in those cases, no state smiles on perjury quite like Utah.

Utah’s adoption policy is that a child is better off with an unfamiliar married couple than with a single biological parent. And a “fraud immunity” statute in state adoption law means that if someone is found guilty of lying during an adoption, it still cannot be overturned.

And that, my friends, is why so many people travel from so far away to place their kids for adoption in Utah. They can lie to the adoption agency, to the adoptive parents and to the court and no one will lift a finger to punish them or to impede the adoption.

I’ve often wondered what lawmakers and judges think about the fact that so many mothers show up in Utah adoption courts who’ve spent virtually no time in the state. Do they think they’re there for the scenery? The skiing?

No, lawyers, legislators and judges alike know exactly what is going on. They know their state encourages perjury in adoption cases, but they also know that the adoption industry doesn’t make money if adoptions aren’t finalized. So they make doing so as simple as possible and fathers be damned. A less discreet narrative would call that trafficking in children, but those words never cross the lips of anyone involved in the industry. No, it’s all about suitable homes for kids, don’t you know.

Meanwhile, Christopher Carlton, who’s done nothing wrong, remains empty-handed.

Carlton, on the other hand, knows virtually nothing about his daughter — where she is, with whom, how she looks, or even what her name is.

He survived a tour of a war zone, but he’s a casualty of an adoption system that kicks fit dads to the curb and rewards fraud by mothers. The legal system’s antipathy for fathers is a disgrace. It’s a sure sign of a society in decay.



National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#adoption, #childtrafficking, #Utah, #putativefatherregistry

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