Adoption : what’s yours is mine

What if the child is born and the mother doesn't want the child? Where does the child go next?

It is not obvious – but it should be.

Perhaps we can hint at the obvious.

We do not make an unwilling mother raise a child. Equally, we do not make an unwilling father raise the child either.

That seems fair so far.

Well not quite. We are quite happy to make an unwilling father contribute financially to the child's upbringing as noted earlier.

The obvious bit that is missed is that while we generously allow unwilling parents off the hook of raising the child, her vote trumps his. Specifically, we do not even allow a willing father to raise the child. Why not?

The father is the other parent, the first one who should be considered if the mother decides to abandon the children to adoption. But it doesn't work like that.

In the rather frightening and media-worthy case of Baby Richard, the father knew that his estranged girlfriend was pregnant. When he contacted her after hearing that the baby was born, he was informed that the child had died in childbirth.

However, 57 days after the child had been born, he heard that the child was still alive – and had been given up for adoption by the mother.

He then proceeded to contest – through the legal system in the US – for the right to custody of the child. After four years, he won. But the media circus turned his win into a loss.

The return of the child to the father was a televised event. As can be well imagined, the young boy of four was in tears as he was torn from the only people that he had ever known as caregivers. The image and story was emotionally wrenching. And the father was clearly identified as the villain.

A father fighting for his own flesh and blood.

The media was doing its job and selling a newsworthy story. But in so doing, they overlooked the real crime. The real crime was that the father had to fight to win custody of his own child for so long when the mother did not want the child.

Due process takes its time, and it is undoubtedly difficult to allow a child to be removed from an adoptive family. But it is equally difficult to allow that father has to fight for four years for the right to raise his own son as in the case of Baby Richard.

In Connecticut, a child was given up by an 18 year old mother who six months changed her mind and wanted the baby back. She won her case within two more years even though she was living in a homeless shelter.

Baby Jessica was adopted out without her father's knowledge. The father initiated proceedings to block the adoption. After he repartnered with the birth mother, they won back their baby within two years.

Baby Emily's Dad however lost his case. He never succeeded in his desire to block the adoption. Perhaps appropriately because he had made some serious mistakes. He was a convicted rapist and had shown no interest in the child initially.

Nonetheless, this does much to undermine the UN Charter of the rights of the child : the right to know, and to be cared for by her parents. She can make mistakes in giving up a child, but a father cannot.

Undoubtedly the rights of the woman and the man can come into conflict as revealed in efforts for father's rights to be considered in Florida in the wake of the Baby Emily. But how do women's rights come to dominate father's rights?


  1. Usually the Triple M radio station is not a font of wisdom or profundity, but the other day on the "Grill Team" program there was a rumour being discussed that, if elected, Julia Gillard would overturn the Family Law (Shared Parental Responsbility) Act, effectively taking children away from divorced dads. You're talking about the power mothers have over fathers, but how absurd is it when childless women decide whether fathers get to see their children? Mind you, she is the PM.