This is my first post here that isn’t about Jack or our family. Let’s see how it goes.
Reading some blogs today, I found an interesting news story, 17 Year Old Wants Custody of His Son. Essentially, the teen dad in question found out his ex was pregnant, she chose to place the baby for adoption, he did not consent, but his rights were terminated anyway. This is in California, where birth fathers do have rights.
The media never tells the whole story. It’s very possible that this young man did have his rights trampled. It’s also possible that this young man’s mother wants the kid and is now using her son to get him. More likely, it’s something in between. I’m just going off of the three short articles that I read about the case.
Statistically, teenage parents are not as good at parenting as older parents are. This doesn’t mean that all teenage parents are bad. There are examples of great teenage parents and horrible older parents. It simply means that, overall, older parents are better parents. At age 17, there are a number of things one is not allowed to do: vote, get decent car insurance, drink alcohol, and rent a car all come to mind. The insurance and rental car restrictions actually come from the fact that the teenage brain is different than adult brains. Teens have poor impulse control, because their brains are essentially wired that way. Therefore, it makes sense that older parents would be better parents, because their brains are more fully developed.
It’s interesting to me that in all of the comments, only one person believes that this young man should not necessarily have his son back. One person, a birthmother herself, was angrily touting the benefits of adoption. She was being shouted down (so-to-speak) by every other commentator. Everyone else thought that the adoptive parents should give this kid his kid.
In the most recent article, the teenage father repeatedly calls his child’s adoptive parents “strangers”.
It wasn’t “a very good Christmas … because I wanted him to spend time with me … with his family where he belongs, not with some strangers,” Diaz said.
To the baby, the adoptive parents aren’t strangers – they’re family. The teenage father has never seen his son, so he’s the stranger. Is it just? Probably not. However, it’s not like the kid is being raised by Baloo and Bagheera. The commentators focus so much on the biological, or genetic, relationship, and not at all on the fact that this baby has been with his parents for six months. Of course, that doesn’t matter to them. Biology trumps adoption.
If this young man’s rights have been trampled – if his son was truly placed for adoption without his consent, and he met the standards put forth by California law to support the baby’s birthmother and the baby – then, yes, his son should be returned to him. I know, as an adoptive parent, if I knew at the beginning of the match that the biological father wasn’t on board, I would do everything to make sure that his rights were protected. (Assuming he’s not abusive, an addict, a criminal, etc. That’s a whole different kettle of fish.) I can imagine, however, adoptive parents thinking that they’re obviously better than this high school kid, and thinking they’re entitled to the baby, because the baby will be better off with them. I wouldn’t do that, but I understand it.
There’s also another argument: That of the birthmother. She didn’t want her son to be raised by a teenage parent. She wanted him to have what she (and presumably, the birth father) couldn’t give him. That’s why she chose adoption. How much do her wishes come into play here? Does a mother have the right to say that a man can’t be a father at all? In some states, that answer is yes. In some states, the answer might as well be yes, for how badly fathers are treated in court.
This isn’t a cut and dried case, and the media surrounding it really seems to be playing up the biological connection between father and son. There really isn’t an easy answer, as removing the baby from the adoptive parents’ home will likely be difficult on the baby and will devastate the adoptive parents.
Biological fathers need to have rights, need to be told explicitly about those rights, and need to consent to adoptions. Exceptions should be made for cases of abuse or other conditions that would cause the baby to be unsafe in the biological father’s care. It sounds like such a simple statement of fact. But cases like these prove that it isn’t.