The Battle Unwed Fathers Face

It’s not unusual for me to be short on time – especially when I have to go out and do the weekly grocery shopping. However, this is an important story. I am aware of other “unwed” fathers who have fought successfully to retrieve their children from adoptive parents. It is a lengthy battle and expensive. I don’t know if racial bias in our justice system is a factor in this case but I wouldn’t be at all surprised, if it was.

You an read the complete story at this LINK>Tampa father fights for daughter after she was given up for adoption without his permission. Some excerpts and details. His daughter, the baby he loved from the day she was born, is now five years old. “I’m her father. Her real father. I’m not trying to adopt her. I’m her father,” Ulysess Carwise said.

Carwise is fighting for his daughter after an adoption agency took her two days after she was born without his knowledge or consent. His case reveals the battle unwed fathers can face over parental rights, who determines what’s best for a child, and the Florida laws that allow this to happen.

The adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, and prospective adoptive parents referred to only as Katrina and William Doe in court records, took Carwise to court in Orange County to terminate his parental rights, arguing he had abandoned his daughter because he did not financially support her while she was not in his custody. Carwise’s rights were not terminated. But his daughter stayed with Katrina and Willian while they filed an appeal. As months turned into years, his little girl has grown more attached to the only family and home she has known. “Now she thinks they are her parents,” Carwise said of the prospective adoptive parents.

The prospective adoptive parents then filed a new lawsuit in Hillsborough County this year, another petition to terminate his parental rights. “It’s just getting difficult. Ok? It’s getting real hard,” Carwise said, overwhelmed with emotion. “That’s the first time it hit me hard. I’ve been like fighting these people, fighting these people.” One of his younger sisters, Rosalyn Green, has stood beside her brother as he fights for his daughter. “It’s a huge eye-opener,” she said. “That the law would allow these people to literally, legally, take someone else’s child.” Carwise plans to live in Green’s house when he gets custody of his daughter. “He has the support that he needs to take care of this child,” Green said. That includes the support of his 26-year-old daughter, who he raised as a single father.

More about this story at the link.

To Separate Or Not

An interesting question from an adoptive parent showed up today – two children had to be removed from their natural parents. They have the same mother but different fathers. Each father has a sister willing to care for both kids until they can be returned to their parents. Is it better to keep the children together with one aunt ? In that case, one child will be related to the aunt caring for them but the other not – biologically. Or is it better to separate the children, in order to prioritize having each child be cared for by an aunt who they are biologically related to ?

Under these unfortunate and traumatic circumstances, is it better to be in the same home with your sibling, if you are being cared for by your sibling’s aunt (who is not biologically related to you) ? Or is it better to be in a separate home from your sibling, so that both of you are cared for by an aunt you are biologically related to, even if it means not living with your sibling ?

The originator of these question is one of the aunts. If placed with her, the toddlers will also be placed with their two older brothers. This she feels is an important aspect for all 4 of the kids. She does not want the kids separated but she does not know if being cared for by an only indirectly related adult matters, if that keeps the siblings together. She notes that their goal is reunification. The other aunt and this woman do not live near each other. If they are separated, their sibling contact will not be as often as might be desirable. Either aunt relocating is not an option. These kids are toddlers, so not old enough to establish their opinion. Their parents have not expressed a preference in this situation.

A response from a domestic infant adoptee – If the siblings get along, keep them together. Make sure they have opportunities to spend time with other family members as well. These siblings staying together should be your top priority.

Another adoptee shared – this actually happened to my nieces and they both ended up with the oldest one’s aunt and it worked well for them. I think it’s best to keep siblings together whenever possible UNLESS the relative would treat the non-biological child differently or keep them from seeing their family.

A former foster parent notes – in my experience it was best to keep siblings together. Sometimes the county would split up siblings and it was so hard for the kids to understand why they can’t be together. They missed each other. Are the toddlers more familiar with one of you, than the other ? They should go to the one they are most familiar with-in my opinion. (Response was that they are familiar with both aunts equally.) They are already being ripped from their home, their parents and everything they know (even if it wasn’t ideal, it was still what they know), so please don’t take them from each other.

A former foster care youth says – from experience, sibling separation is torture on top of trauma. Siblings are truly the only ones who are going through the same situation and having that support is invaluable. They can visit the other aunt.

Another adoptive parent to foster care siblings suggests – is it possible to do a shared custody – one aunt becomes primary home and the other aunt has lots of phone calls, takes care of the kids for long weekends, helps if there is an emergency, is a place that kids also know well as their extended family.

Another affirmed – I grew up in this exact situation, but it was my grandmothers. I am thankful for their supportive friendship that gave me stability. Always welcome at either house, open communication, always invited to things. At least once a week in Elementary School, my brother and I would get picked up by the grandma we didn’t live with, would have dinner at her house, she took me to dance class, I spent weekends and breaks with her. One took guardianship of me as a teen, so that she could make medical appointments for me since I lived with her. Absolutely a great solution.

The one who originally posed the questions confirmed – this is currently how we live. I’m one of the aunts and I have the toddlers’ two older siblings and what you describe is the relationship that we have with their immediate and extended family. The other aunt will be part of this village, without a doubt.

When It Feels Like No One Cares

A birth mother story about what it is like when the entire deck is stacked against you.

I placed my daughter for adoption back in 2017 when I didn’t have custody of my 3 older kids. I was homeless, depressed and struggling. The adoption process was very traumatic for me. Although my daughter is very loved and happy, I wish I would have been encouraged or supported to keep her.

I got my life back together and fought my family for custody. I have my older two children back in my care but my third child is with a different family member. I had been doing much better in life, until …

I had just moved into a big house the couple weeks before I found out I was pregnant, was working, making great money. And then I found out I was pregnant. Everything has gone downhill from there. I have severe morning sickness – so severe that it’s classified as hyperemesis gravidarum. I was constantly in and out of the hospital, so I quickly fell behind on bills and the baby’s dad became obsessed with a stripper and left us at the time we moved into the house. I wound up losing my job due to missing so much work and was facing eviction.

The baby’s dad stepped in to try and work things out. We were all staying in a motel. I don’t make nearly the money I did at my job doing side gigs and he makes minimum wage. The cheapest motels around here cost about $2,000/month. Realizing we didn’t really have many options, we decided to sign on with an adoption agency that would pay our motel expenses. He was there for me when I gave up my daughter for adoption, even though he is not her birth father. We viewed this decision as staying strong and doing it for the baby.

I am getting closer to my due date. I can’t help but to feel like I’m only choosing to do this as we are technically homeless. We have no plan or anywhere to go after this baby is born. Does this mean I’m not good enough to parent my other children, if I can’t take care of this one? I haven’t told them about the adoption because I don’t know how to explain “I want this baby to have a better life than the crappy one I can provide for you guys.”

I feel like not only does nobody care about this baby, nobody cares about what’s going to happen to my other kids either… it’s so depressing. I don’t know what to do/where to turn anymore. I started using hard substances a couple months after I placed my daughter for adoption to numb that hole in my heart. Deep down I fear if I go through this again, I’m going to want to go back to numbing that pain, except I probably won’t survive it this time around. I have no family, not many friends, no support. Baby’s father and I are on better terms now but it’s not the way I pictured any of this unfolding, especially when my life was going so well before this pregnancy.

What To Do ?

Today’s question – A woman adopted 2 kids years ago and has raised them since they were very young. Now that they are older, some truth came out that the situation that caused the adoption wasn’t as bad as she had been led to believe.

1) She wants to know if there is a way for their birth certificates to revert back the originals? She thought she had to change them in order to adopt the kids. (This is a common misperception that adoptees are trying to change because it almost always matters to them.)

And/or

2) Can she help their birth mother regain custody so that she can finish raising her own children ? Or un-adopt them, is that even possible?

A complication is that the kids say they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother or even to meet her. The woman is not certain they are telling the truth. Maybe they don’t want to hurt her feelings?

Some responses –

1) She probably did need to change the birth certificate to adopt, that’s still the case in many jurisdictions. It’s why guardianship is often preferred, though what that means also varies from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes it is viewed as not allowing for stability.

2) The first step is for the kids need to get to know their mother again. If they refuse, I’m not sure what she can do other than to gently encourage it and never speak poorly of their mother. If they get to that point, what comes next varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.

The mother may be able to re-adopt her children. However, if the allegation was neglect or abuse determined by Child Protective Services, that may not be possible. Same with guardianship. She might be able to take guardianship of her children, or not, depending on the situation.

These options may fail. It may be possible for the adoptive mother to give the original mother a power of attorney, should the children move in with her, and/or unofficially she could share custody of them, just like some separated/divorced parents do.

The woman definitely needs to consult a lawyer, so that she can determine if the court might view her as a possible risk. This assumes that Child Protective Services removed the children from her care. If her Termination of Parental Rights was a private relinquishment (that would make all of the above FAR easier.)

Another possibility is an adult adoption, which could restore the information that was originally on their birth certificates (by again changing the documents to finalize an adoption). If these children are already teenagers, that makes this option easier, as long as they are in agreement.

And this is the most important point, from an adoptee – It’s very possible that they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother, if she hasn’t been in their lives. Listen to what they are saying. I would never have wanted to leave my adoptive family to go and live with my biological family. It would have felt like a complete rejection of the life I had lived. I wouldn’t want another name. I am the name I have been for a long time, not baby girl “x”. These kids need to be the ones leading. Everyone else needs to just sit back and listen.

Therapy. Individually. Let them heal their own traumas. Create a space that’s safe and secure enough that they know they can speak honestly about how they feel about their biological family.

Another adoptee admits that she wanted so badly to have a relationship with her biological family. “It was freaking awful. The worst.” It’s not always what the adoptee thinks it would be like, either way.

The most important thing is their healing and security. The rest will come, if that is the right direction. They don’t deserve to have the process of reintroduction rushed, if they say “no” for any reason. It should be their lead.

Feeling Like Damaged Goods

It’s a problem I feel compassion for – from a woman who aged out of foster care . . .

I never was adopted. I almost was and then, my dad got custody. Then, I went back into foster care from the age of 13 until I turned 18. When you’re a teen in foster care, everyone knows no one wants you because you’re too old. It sucks. Like you’re just damaged goods.

Advice to hopeful adoptive parents – Maybe use your desire to reach out and get to know and/or adopt a teen.

I will say from personal experience, it’s not easy. Because for me – I was damaged goods. But I still deserved to know I had worth and was loved. Teenagers also can make choices regarding adoption and name change vs younger kids who can’t. So if you’re wanting to adopt to “be the change”, and not just because you want a baby to cuddle, then actually make real contribution to change. Help someone in foster care who is likely to turn 18 while still in the state’s care. When they look at their future, there seems to be no one there who cares.

Loss of Custody in Domestic Abuse

Let’s talk about domestic abuse and child custody.

For everyone who is convinced that children only end up in foster care and/or adopted because the parents were abusive, guess what? Women in abusive relationships are especially vulnerable to losing custody of their children. Spouses/intimate partners use custody of children as an abuse tactic.

Examples:

–If you leave me, you’ll never see your children again.

–Filing false/malicious child abuse reports if you succeed in leaving with your children

–Deliberately impoverishing you so you can’t afford to provide for your children to the standard required by social workers

–poisoning authorities against you by using things like depression, addiction, etc. to paint you as an unfit mother

–deliberately getting you pregnant to make you vulnerable and unable to leave the relationship

Domestic abuse services are notoriously underfunded and unsupervised. Unscrupulous providers can get away with neglectful or even downright harmful treatment of the vulnerable women in their care because it’s non-profit, charity funded, and people assume that they’re doing good things.

Someone in an abusive relationship is in the most danger when they try to leave the relationship.

A tactic abusers might use is to always keep one child with them (as a way to make sure you can’t leave without putting that child in danger).

Abusers might explicitly favor one child over another, creating a situation where one child contributes to the mistreatment of the other child.

An abuser might groom a child to make false accusations against you (projecting and protecting themselves, the real abuser).

Of course not all cases are the same, but there are too many situations in which the mom would be a perfectly fit parent, if she just had enough support. All the things that we talk about – help getting a job, affordable daycare with flexible hours, supplemental income for pregnancy and maternity leave periods, actual maternity leave, and in this particular example, trauma therapy/mentoring/emotional support.

Someone who has fled an abusive relationship often has to cut off contact with family and friends. If there are children involved, this might be a requirement from social services (such as: if you move back to that area, you will lose your child because you’re being a bad parent putting them at risk).

That means being especially isolated when you’re already vulnerable and unwell and stressed. If your case goes to court (and many don’t, due to lack of funds or resources or simply not being able to cope), this can trigger more danger for you and your children. Some women successfully flee an abusive relationship with their child(ren), only to have their children taken away later.

Now imagine that you’re a foster carer or adopter in this situation. You’ve been told by social workers that the child was removed from an abusive family and that you’re “rescuing” them. You’re told the parents are a danger to the children. You’re told about addiction and jail time and all kinds of fairy tale reasons why you now have custody of the perfect parentless child who is yours to shape as you will.

You then go onto social media and repost this false story everywhere. Launch fundraisers, complain that your stipend “isn’t that much,” and say that you need respite care because caregiver burnout is so awful and claim you have “Post adoption depression.”

The reality is that you have no idea what the hell these children have been through. You have no idea what their parents’ situation was like.

Case in point – “Most recently I’ve watched a young lady whose abuser isn’t the parent of her children. He manipulated, punished, and such – until he was able to get the two children to their biological father by feeding him false information. This caused the biological father to be able to gain emergency custody and a restraining order against the mother. All while this same abuser has promised he is “going to help her get her kids back so they can be a family.”

Who’s Surname ?

My dad was given his mother’s surname when he was born at an unwed mother’s home run by the Salvation Army in San Diego CA. His father was a married man. It does not appear he even ever knew he had a son. More’s the pity because I believe they would have been great fishing buddies. It was the mid-1930s and so, that is how it was done – if the father was not involved. This would have made it difficult for me to discover who his father was, if I had not found my cousin (we have the same grandmother). Clearly, my grandmother knew who my dad’s father was because of the middle name she gave him and a head shot photo of the man with his name written on the back. Thanks to that photo, I was able to confirm who my dad’s father was. And inexpensive DNA testing also helped !!

Today’s story is a bit different but along similar lines.

I’m an adoptee who is 6 months pregnant. Father and I are no longer in a relationship but on really good terms. I’ll never keep this baby from him. Here is my dilemma. I don’t want this baby to have his last name and he’s insistent on it. He can be listed on the birth certificate and have his paternal rights without having to have his last name. I’m adamant about this. I want her to have my last name as does my 6 year old (with a different father.) Am I wrong? I’m also considering my 6 year old and think it’s best she has the same last name as him.

A few more details – dad is insistent on it because he is much older, in his late 50’s. He has a married daughter who no longer has his last name. His son has 2 daughters and doesn’t plan on having more children. Mom doesn’t want to have a hyphenated last name because she feels it would cause too much aggravation for the child as she grows up.

One adoptee said – As someone whose parents never married, I’m glad I was given my mom’s last name. I gave my son my last name and his dad didn’t stay around. He wouldn’t have had anyone else in his life with that last name. IF I ever marry I won’t change my name because my son has it.

And of course, today the choice of one’s name is so fluid and open to personal interpretation. The social mores regarding names has changed so much and for the better I believe. Someone else notes that – In the United States, they put mom’s last name on the crib card that they have the baby in at the hospital. You fill out the birth certificate while at the hospital also. You don’t have to say anything out loud if you don’t want to. Just put what YOU decide and leave it at that.

Which reminds me – when I had my daughter (in those days one didn’t know the sex of their baby until it was born), the father and I had not agreed on a name. Later, he announced to me what he told the hospital staff her name was to be without ever consulting me. I hasten to add, I really love her name but the origin of it ?, let us just say I refused to tell her and told her, “ask your dad.”

Another person shares her experience of having her mother’s last name – The only time it was ever annoying was, as a kid, whenever a grown adult would ask me, still a child, why I didn’t have my Dad’s last name. Even then, the name didn’t bother me. People being both nosy and close-minded about it bothered me. And I find nowadays, most people either don’t care, or don’t see a reason to question why a child has whatever last name they have.

I really LOVE this response – The notion that children should be named after the men in the first place is based on the sexist notion that women and children are chattel. Think of all the things named after men in the world and then, tell me a single thing that deserves to be named after a woman more than a child. We’re independent women, and keeping the patriarchal name chain going isn’t necessary anymore.

And then there is this real life example – my daughter, age 13, has her biological dad’s last name…he only sees her a couple times a year, (his choice, he lives 5 min away). My husband of 11 years has raised her and been her “daddy” as long as she can remember…she hates that she has her biological dad’s last name! She is the only one in our home with that last name and she hates it. She has even said she wished, at the least, she had my family’s last name. She has no close people with the same last name. Also, the other thing she is dealing with right now in middle school…she has several older cousins with the same last name, including one girl that is only 1 year older…they both have red hair. So everyone is always assuming they are sisters…which wouldn’t be a big deal, except the other girl doesn’t even acknowledge her, she turns her nose up at her. So my daughter hates it when people assume they are sisters. It makes her uncomfortable. She has been asking for several years if she could change it to match the rest of us, I tell her that she can when she is older.

Someone else notes – You both have strong feelings on the matter, and reasonable points. Even if I think there’s some patriarchy mixed in his feelings. I’m saying, if possible, find a way to compromise or bend in another area so he feels heard and included.

And I smile when I see her next suggestion – Why doesn’t he take your name?

I found this to be the best argument – The baby should have the name of the person who will have more custody, because a lot of times I ran in to issues because my sons have their father’s last name and not mine. Many times I had to bring extra paperwork. So if you will be doing all the paper work ie – doctors, schooling, sports/arts/camp stuff – it should be yours.

Finally, it was also pointed out by someone who handled name changes as one of their tasks at a courthouse – the mother should give the baby her last name. The mass majority of minor child name changes she did over a four year period were because the child was given the father’s last name and then stopped being present in the child’s life, stopped paying child support, etc.

In order to do a name change on a minor (probably in most states), a signed and notarized consent is required from both parents. And if one of the parents is deceased, then signed and notarized consent was required from both of that person’s parents. If consent couldn’t be obtained, then proof of service had to be presented to the Court and then, the Court would have a deputy attempt to serve the parent with notice of a court hearing. Most of the time, the father would show up for the hearing or would send a letter denying consent to the name change. When that happened, the case would be dismissed. It is in you and your child’s best interests for the child to have your last name. If circumstances change between you and the father later on, it will be a lot easier to do a name change because it’s a guarantee all parties will be in favor of it.

An Opportunity To Affect Legislation

If you care about adoption law and foster care issues, you might be willing to add your voice to this pending legislation.  Ohio Representative Gayle Manning created House Bill 506 which is designed to prioritize the desire of foster parents hoping to adopt over that of relatives. If passed, it would create a new Ohio law that prohibits moving a child from a foster home to a relative that they do not know, or have never met, if they have resided in the foster home for more than 6 months. Clearly, this would be a huge roadblock to relatives seeking custody, and a court order would need to be obtained proving that the move is in the best interest of the child (which takes time and money and is reduced to a judgement call by the courts). If a law like this passes in Ohio, it is safe to assume that it would only be a matter of time before other states follow suit.

A few local advocacy organizations have been effective in educating Rep. Manning on the horrific implications of this bill, she feels compelled to carry it forward due to the backlash she would receive from foster parents if she withdrew the legislation.  Ohio families need your help! Please take a moment now to e-mail Ohio state Representative Gayle Manning at Rep55@ohiohouse.gov and “cc” her aide at Bryanna.Austin@ohiohouse.gov.

Here is a sample e-mail that you are welcome to copy:
Dear Representative Manning,
Thank you for seeking to promote what is in the best interest of our most vulnerable children. I applaud your desire to advocate for children, and that is why I must warn you that House Bill 506 (Prohibit placement of child with relative child does not know) will do more harm than good.
HB 506 is NOT in the best interest of children, and it will not protect them or ensure that they are placed in the care that best suits their needs. Rather, HB 506 will impose an unrealistic timeframe on relatives, and place the desires of foster parents hoping to adopt over the well documented lifelong benefit of keeping children within their natural families.
If passed, HB 506 would effectively prohibit relative placements, which is directly contrary to medical research, social justice, and federal guidelines.
Please withdraw HB 506 immediately. Thank you.

 

The Injustice of Disability

This is one of those issues that one rarely sees discussed.  Here’s the story –

The natural mom of an adult son who suffers with MS reconnected with him 2 years ago. She had him when she was 14 and her parents adopted him out.

His wife recently died and they have an 18 month old. He fell down with the child in his arms and she needed stitches. Hospital called Child Protective Services and they removed the child saying her son is not fit to parent the child due to his disability.

Both his adoptive parents have passed away. Natural mom is a nurse in New York.  Her biological son is in a different county in New York. She has tried to help him by calling and email but receives no response from the caseworker or the supervisor. She assumes it may be because she is not recognized as his family member.

This child is currently in foster care. The mother was asking what else she could do, to try and get custody of her grandchild? Her son supports her effort. He is heartbroken his child is now living with strangers.

The most obvious first step for this mother is to obtain the services of a lawyer and file an emergency petition for custody.  The father will need to name her as the legal guardian of his child.  This is admittedly expensive but it is usually the fastest way to address a situation like this.

And it almost goes without saying because it is so very obvious that the man didn’t abuse or neglect his child. He has a disability. The state should have helped him find resources to care for his child rather than taking his child away.

Bottom line – the son should be able to tell the caseworker that he wants his baby with his mother. As long as she can pass a background check, that should be where baby goes, regardless of legal relation.  The placement hierarchy is usually in this order – grandparents, then siblings, then extended relatives, then anyone else that knows the baby as requested by the child’s parents with random foster parents – a last resort.