In review: I asked you to read an article and post your replies. Thanks again to everyone who did. To those who didn't feel compelled or comfortable doing so I understand. I'd also like to know what, if anything, I can do to remove any hurdles you may encounter to sharing your experience. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any inspiration. Back to the topic at hand I'll now pick apart the article in question myself. I began writing this post last week. I delayed publishing it for a few reasons. The biggest of them was my realization that the post length was out of hand. After reviewing three paragraphs I had better than two pages. I'll attempt to be more succinct this time. With that in mind please be aware that I can't dig as deep into this article as I'd like. There will be a lot of subtle connections glossed over. If there's anything here that you find confusing, as always, please ask and I'll try to clarify my thinking. Without further ado, here we go:
In approaching this article the title interested me. I found the article by Mardie Caldwell looking for online resources and support networks for birth fathers. As I read the article I was particularly horrified by her obvious bias. In the first paragraph Mardie describes birth fathers as men who have impregnated multiple women without regard for financial or emotional support and willfully block the adoption of their children without justification. She does admit that some birth fathers are "devoted." Her definition, however, is deeply troubling. A devoted birth father, according to Mardie, is "interested in being part of an adoption plan and supporting the birth mother as she tries to make the right choices for her child." Here I must become the pedant. The birth father, in order to be devoted, must fully back the adoption decision in total deference to the birth mother. This is evident in the statement that he is "interested in being part of an adoption plan and supporting the birth mother." The implication is that he must support the birth mother's decisions to be dedicated. No mention is made of participating in the decision. Only being part of the adoption is necessary. Nor can he expect support from the birth mother. That doesn't sound like a relationship of equals to me. Furthermore the distance is imposed upon the relationship between the birth father and the child. This is evident in the author's choice of pronouns. It is the birth father's job to support the birth mother as "she tries to make the right choices for her child." The birth father is not making the decision. The child is not his.
On and on she rants about women in poverty caring for multiple children by multiple fathers. The birth fathers in this article are described in unilateral and defamatory terms. I was particularly shocked by the implications that most birth fathers are also wanted criminals incapable of entering a court without immediately being incarcerated. Later the author mentions cycles of abuse and poverty. Unfortunately poverty isn't actually addressed here. That troubles me as poverty is a significant factor in many adoption decisions. I believe it is important to remember that poverty is more than a lack of money, but rather a lack of resources of various types. Lack of time, money, energy, health, relational/emotional support are all forms of poverty that can play heavily into adoption decisions. Instead of discussing this very real problem Mardie speaks only to abuse. Sort of. Here we find one of the most disturbing intimations yet. Here's what she has to say; "[i]f a little girl sees her mother abused, then she will often be attracted to men in her life that will treat her as her mother was treated. The mothers that call us are trying to stop this cycle." Remember that this article is about birth fathers and reread that quote. She has now implied that women making adoption plans are doing so for fear of domestic violence against their children. Birth fathers are now non-monogamous, habitually unemployed, drug addicted, ego-centric, sociopathic, woman and child abusing felons. Among her other irrational claims, Mardie suggests this justification for men objecting to the adoption of their children: "When birth fathers do object to an adoption, 85% say they don’t want the child placed because it will make them look bad." I question the validity of this statistic. More than her numbers I question the point this "article" was attempting to articulate and her reasons for writing it.
Mardie calls for state birth father registries. Her suggested function for these registries is to make adoptions easier for women who's partner's stand in the way of adoption proceedings. The exact process by which this is to happen is, perhaps, the most infuriating proposition yet. Men are to sign on to the birth father registry to confirm their desire to support their child and the child's mother emotionally, financially, and legally. If the men don't sign onto the registry their paternal rights are terminated. This is a legal rat's nest. In order to have rights birth fathers must first be aware of their status as fathers. They must also sign on before the birth of their child. I am unaware of any other area in the United States' legal system where ignorance of one's rights can be used as sole legal justification for stripping those rights. Further, the author mentions no recourse or ramifications should a mother fail to inform a father of her pregnancy. But there's another issue of discrimination here. Among married couples parentage of a child is, legally, presumed to belong to the two members of the married couple. Thus married men are automatically given parental rights of their children. A state birth father registry presumes unmarried men have no parental rights. This would also apply to common law marriages and domestic partnerships. So were a couple to live together in a domestic partnership, have children, and later separate the father would be, at best, presumed a birth father who failed to sign onto the registry. Hence, in our hypothetical situation, he would have no parental, visitation, nor custody rights. The notion of a birth father registry has ramifications far beyond its intended purpose.
Reading this article landed one important point home for me. My interpretation is very simple. Mardie Caldwell's goal in this article is character assassination against birth fathers. When approached as a collegiate argumentative essay her thesis statement is "[birth fathers] refuse to sign for the adoption yet will not provide any assistance in the form of financial or emotional help." State registries aren't mentioned until the final quarter of the essay. That this rant masquerades as support for involved birth fathers is profoundly troubling.
Thank you to everyone who read the article and responded. I'm terribly sorry for putting you through such an experience. To be honest I have never encountered such open faced libel against birth fathers. However, despite her best efforts, Mardie did get something right.
"These children need to grow up with parents that love them, committed to giving them the opportunities to be all they can be in life." I can't think of a better description of a first family.