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August 12, 2007

Virginia Putative Father Registry — Dial 877-IF-DADDY

Just launched on July 1 of this year, it's "... an online database that collects information from men who think they might have gotten a girl pregnant," according to Amy Biegelsen's article in the August 8, 2007 Style Weekly; the piece follows.

    Are You Baby’s Daddy? State Asks Potential Dads to Register Online

    Um, guys? The government wants to know if you’re doing it. You know, having casual sex.

    The Virginia Department of Social Services has launched an online database that collects contact information from men who think they might have gotten a girl pregnant.

    Alerting the government to your casual sex life can be a ticklish proposition, but there’s a serious point here, says Pamela Fitzgerald Cooper, the state’s acting adoption program manager.

    If a sexual escapade results in a woman conceiving a child and she decides to let another family adopt the baby, Cooper says, the mother must attempt to let the biological father know his parental rights are about to be terminated. That gives him the opportunity to claim the child.

    The database is intended to help the mother locate the father, Cooper says: “It will help to protect the man’s rights to the child.”

    Registering will also streamline efforts traditionally used to contact the father, like taking out newspaper advertisements and tacking notices to the courthouse door.

    “This is going to spare the mother some public scrutiny and puts some responsibility on the father,” Cooper says. “They need to step up and protect their interests.”

    It will also help avoid painful circumstances for adoptive parents who take a child home only to have the biological father show up and sue for custody, claiming he was not made sufficiently aware of the adoption proceedings.

    A father has until 10 days after his child is born to register on the database by filling out a short questionnaire providing a physical description, address, Social Security number and a few other details.

    If the database, known as the Putative Father Registry, sounds wild, consider this: 34 other states already have such registries. The database is searchable only by mothers seeking to put their children up for adoption, lawyers representing a family wishing to adopt or authorized state agencies.

    State officials cannot disclose how many putative fathers have registered since the database launched July 1, citing confidentiality concerns.

    King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia NAACP, says he likes the idea, but it might not work in practice.

    “The premise sounds good, but I’m always suspect whenever the state and Big Brother wants you to put [your personal information and Social Security number] in. You don’t know what it could be used for at some point in time,” Khalfani says. “The people who it might be of benefit [to], might not trust it” — or, he adds, even be aware of it.

    The Virginia Putative Father Registry is located at www.vaputativefather.com, or by calling (877) IF-DADDY.


Here's Michael Felberbaum's August 6, 2007 Associated Press story on the new database.

    Virginia joins ranks of states with registry for possible fathers

    Barbara Jones has seen them hundreds of times — newspaper ads featuring the name of a mother seeking the father of the child she's ready to put up for adoption.

    It is one of the last steps before a mother can legally give her child away without the father's permission — a burden that Jones, a longtime adoption attorney, said is ineffective and one most new mothers could live without.

    "You expose this mother who maybe sacrificed a lot to carry this pregnancy because she didn't want to abort the baby and now her name's in the paper," the Fairfax County attorney said.

    That burden is shifting.

    Virginia has joined about three dozen states that have developed registries designed to identify potential fathers and make it their option to take part in parental decision-making.

    "Before this registry we were totally dependent on the veracity of the birth mother," Jones said. "This way the balance of protection is phenomenal because any man that wants to know whether there's a child... merely protects his right by registering."

    Men who have been sexually active with someone who they are not married to are required to register if they want to know if the potential child is being put up for adoption or if the mother is looking to terminate the father's parental rights.

    In Virginia, a possible father has 10 days from the child's birth to register, though there are other circumstances in which that timeframe differs.

    The registry, which was enacted July 1, will help expedite some of Virginia's about 2,500 adoptions a year, said Pamela Fitzgerald Cooper, acting adoption program manager for state Department of Social Services.

    To register, men are asked to fill out a one-page form or register online with the social services department. The form asks for information such as Social Security numbers, ethnicity and information on where and when they may have conceived a child.

    Cooper said men have begun using the registry but couldn't say how many have registered, citing privacy laws.

    Registering does not establish paternity, which is a separate legal process, but failure to register means that the potential father waives his parental rights.

    "The objective of giving men their rights as fathers is genuinely important in the adoption world. We've spent an awful lot of time separating men from fatherhood," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in Massachusetts.

    But Pertman said, however well-intentioned, the problem with the registries is that most people don't know they exist.

    "It is not a natural course of people's human instincts to go sign up every time they have sex," said Pertman, author of the book "Adoption Nation." "If the intent is to engage and empower fathers, so far I don't see the evidence that that's happening."

    Pertman suggested that there could be a benefit with a well-advertised national registry, an idea being floated by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The bill, first introduced in 2006, awaits action from the Finance Committee.

    While the registries shift the responsibility to the possible father, it also protects their rights, said state Sen. Jay O'Brien, the patron of the Virginia legislation, which resulted from a state adoption study.

    "The fundamental issue about the registry is that it protects the privacy of a birth mother at a very, very stressful time for many of them," said O'Brien, R-Clifton. "At the same time it protects the paternity interests of the father."

    O'Brien said the new law means that no adoption attorney can proceed without checking the registry and a birth mother can't go anywhere in Virginia to get an adoption if the possible father is registered.



August 12, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive!

Posted by: ScienceChic | Aug 12, 2007 8:58:50 PM

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