Thursday, November 3, 2016

Grasping Fatherhood in Abortion and Adoption

New paper available on SSRN, by yours truly.  Here's the abstract:

Biology makes a mother, but it does not make a father. While a mother is a legal parent by reason of her biological relationship with her child, a father is not a legal parent unless he takes affirmative steps to grasp fatherhood. Being married to the mother at the time of conception or at the time of birth is one of those affirmative steps. But if he is not married to the mother, he must do far more before he will be legally recognized as a father. Biology is often presented as a sufficient reason for this dichotomy – it is easy to identify the mother of each child. But aside from the biological, there are historical, social and political reasons for recognizing mothers as legal parents while disregarding legal parenthood for nonmarital fathers. This article seeks to unpack the distinctions drawn between biological mothers and biological fathers in decisions about abortion and adoption placement. Both decisions are given to the sole discretion of the mother under current law, while such unilateral decision-making seems to make sense only in the context of abortion. Once a child is born, and a decision is being made about whether to parent the child or to place the child for adoption, there is less justification for excluding the biological father. This article explores notions of fatherhood and how fatherhood has changed in society to show how the legal standards have lagged behind those societal changes. The article proposes how courts should address birth fathers’ rights in adoption to provide greater protection for those rights.

November 3, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Korean Adoptee to be Deported

Adoptee Adam Crapser denied relief by immigration judge, according to NBC News:

Adam Crapser, who was adopted from Korea to the United States at the age of three, is expected to be deported after an immigration judge ruled this week against relief which would have allowed him to remain in the United States, according to the Adoptee Rights Campaign.

Crapser's adoptive parents did not apply for his naturalization, making him one of an estimated 35,000 intercountry adoptees who do not have U.S. citizenship and can be deported to their country of birth for crimes ranging from forging checks to murder, according to advocates.

Crapser has been convicted of burglary and assault, according to the Associated Press. He got into trouble with the law after he broke into his allegedly abusive parents' home — it was, he said, to retrieve the Korean Bible and rubber shoes that came with him from the orphanage — and later it was for stealing cars and assaulting a roommate.

Federal immigration officials told the Associated Press they became aware of Crapser after he applied to renew his green card two years age.

 Unless and until Congress passes the Adoptee Citizenship Act, we will be seeing more of these stories. See more about the Adoptee Citizenship Act here.

October 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Watch Oral Arguments in Ohio Supreme Court Case Involving Birth Mother Consent and Duress

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case involving a birth mother's consent and claims of duress.    It looks like a wonderful resource to use in an Adoption Law or Family Law class:


The issues presented:

  • When deciding whether a parent has voluntarily relinquished custody of a child, is it imperative that all steps be taken to ensure that the relinquishment was given without duress?
  • Is there a fiduciary relationship between a parent placing a child for adoption and an adoption agency in which the agency has the duty to protect the parent?

The facts according to the Ohio Supreme Court's Oral Argument preview:

On March 15, 2014, Caroline Stearns called Adoption by Gentle Care, a Columbus adoption agency, to inquire about their services. Pregnant and approaching her April due date, Stearns spoke with a Gentle Care social worker about her options. Stearns was living in Dublin with her five children and her boyfriend, Jeff Griffith. Stearns had become pregnant by another man, and she indicated Griffith told her she couldn’t bring the new baby into the home because he wasn’t the father. Griffith also isn’t the father of Stearns’ other children.

Stearns and the social worker met at a restaurant on March 27, 2014, to further discuss adoption. The social worker provided pamphlets and forms concerning various types of adoption. Stearns went into the hospital on March 31 for a scheduled cesarean section and gave birth to a boy, identified as C.C.S. The next day, she left the hospital and contacted Gentle Care to set a time to sign the adoption paperwork for a permanent surrender of the child.

Two Gentle Care social workers met with Stearns at her home on April 4 to complete the paperwork, and most of the discussion was recorded by the social workers. Stearns signed the permanent surrender agreement, which stated that all of her rights as a parent would end by signing the document. She also signed an “affidavit of relinquishment,” which noted her right to an attorney before making the decision, her right at that time to refuse to place the child for adoption, and that the surrender was “final and irrevocable.” Gentle Care then placed the child with an adoptive family.

Around April 12 or 13, Stearns contacted her Gentle Care social worker asking for her son back and to revoke the surrender agreement. Gentle Care denied the request. She then petitioned the Franklin County Probate Court to withdraw her consent to the adoption. When the adopting parents became aware of her desire to have her child returned, they gave him back to Gentle Care. The boy was placed in foster care.

Finally, the Ohio Court of Appeals decision can be found here.

September 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 12, 2016

With Push From Adoptees, States Open Access to Birth Records

From Stateline, a publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts:

For many years, adults adopted as children who wanted to find out who their birth parents were ran up against a brick wall because they had no legal right to simply get a copy of their original birth certificate in most states.

But that’s been changing, as a growing number of states have been giving adult adoptees more — and in some cases, unrestricted — access to those records.

The shift reflects a move toward more openness in the adoption process itself, as well as the growing influence of adoptee rights groups, which have grown in number and become more vocal, putting pressure on legislators to act.

“We have the right to find out about our ethnicity, medical history, family information and culture,” said Erica Babino, legislative director for the American Adoption Congress, a nonprofit group that advocates for adoptees’ access to their birth records.

Decades ago, the birth records of adoptees were being sealed in most states to try to protect the confidentiality of birth mothers, particularly those who were unwed and faced the stigma of having a child out of wedlock. But advocates for adoptees say getting ahold of original birth certificates is a way to help them understand their backgrounds by revealing where they were born and their birth parents’ names and addresses.

Today about half of all states allow adult adoptees some form of access to their original birth certificate outside of going to court. In at least nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (for those 25 and older) and Oregon — adult adoptees have unfettered access to those records, according to Nina Williams-Mbengue, who works on the issue at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Hawaii law was passed this year and took effect in June. At least two other states — Indiana and Missouri — enacted laws this year that make it easier for adoptees to access their birth certificates. But similar legislation failed in other states, including Kentucky and Louisiana.­

August 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 5, 2016

AZ Supreme Court allows father to challenge adoption despite failure to file with putative father registry

So reports the Washington Times:

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that a biological father can assert his paternity and challenge his child’s adoption though the father didn’t claim paternity by filing with a state registry.

The justice’s unanimous decision upholds trial judge’s decision allowing a man to set aside a couple’s adoption of the child.

The high court’s ruling Tuesday said the biological father preserved his rights to claim paternity by promptly suing to challenge the adoption once he learned of the adoption proceedings.

The opinion can be found here.

August 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Proposed Legislation: National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act

Press Release from Rep. Jared Huffman:

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) introduced the “National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act,” legislation that would improve how adoptions are conducted in the United States, including improving home study standards through the creation of a national standard and registry. This bill would create greater uniformity between states and ensure that the needs of children are put first no matter where they live. . . .

Specifically the bill amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), directing that Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a voluntary national standard and registry within the Adoption Opportunities Program, including:

·         The development of an evidence-based National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study assessment standard and demonstration program.

·         The development and deployment of a National Home Study Registry to allow foster care and adoption agencies across the nation to access through a secure system information about prospective families, providing a more efficient matching of foster and adoptive children to prospective families.

·         The independent evaluation of National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study methodology and National Home Study Registry deployment.

The bill text can be found by clicking here.


August 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Paper Orphans: Trafficking Children into Orphanages

An interesting article by  Kathryn E. van Doore, exploring the problem of non-orphans placed in orphanages to generate profits for those running the orphanages, Paper Orphans: Exploring Child Trafficking for the Purpose of Orphanages, in the International Journal of Children's Rights:

There are an estimated eight million children residing in orphanages, or residential care facilities, globally and it is estimated that four out of five of these children are not orphans. It is well documented that many of these children are taken from their families by recruiters and sold into orphanages for the purpose of profit. These children are known as “paper orphans”. There is no formal legal academic research available on how international law regards the displacement from family and subsequent construction as an orphan.This article provides a legal account of the movement of the child from the family to the orphanage, and considers whether this movement can be categorised as child trafficking under international law. The major point of contention as to whether paper orphans are considered trafficked is whether they experience a form of exploitation that is included in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. This article examines the forms of exploitation that have been documented as being experienced by paper orphans and argues that the process of paper orphaning meets the current interpretation of the definition of trafficking.

July 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Jersey: Indigent Birth Parents Entitled to Appointed Counsel in Contested Private Adoptions


A state Supreme Court decision Tuesday will help decide the fate of New Jersey children caught in custody battles between their birth parents and prospective adoptive families.

In a written decision released Tuesday, the court ruled that indigent birth parents fighting for their children in contested private adoption proceedings must be told by a judge that they have the right to appointed counsel if they cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

The decision marks a leveling of the two most common types of adoption cases in the state in which a birth mother faces the termination of her parental rights. In cases in which the state Department of Children and Family Services files to terminate a birth parent's rights, judges have been legally obligated to tell poor parents who could not afford legal representation that they are entitled to appointed counsel. Now, the same rule applies to contested cases filed by private people hoping to adopt the birth parents' children.

Read the opinion here.

July 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Registration Open for Conference on Innovations in Family Engagement

Registration for the 2016 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE on INNOVATIONS in FAMILY ENGAGEMENT: CONTINUING the LEARNING on DIFFERENTIAL RESPONSE and OTHER REFORMS, to be held in Fort Worth, TX, Nov. 1-4, 2016, is now open. The link for registration is here. Discounted registration before Sept. 15. The brochure can be found here. So, what’s this conference about?  The brochure says:

For two decades, the current Kempe Center faculty have been supporting the implementation of innovation in systems and communities that work with vulnerable children, youth and families. Three of these more well-known innovations are family group decision making (FGDM), family engagement and differential response. Disseminator, evaluator, conference and webinar organizer, trainer, technical assistance provider and thought leader, the Kempe Center fuels leaders’ quests to adapt systems to increasingly center on achieving safety, permanency and well-being through family engagement.

The Conference on FGDM and Family Engagement has been an annual event since 1997 that has served as an invigorating learning platform for thousands who have been engaged in the implementation of family meeting and engagement processes around the globe. In 2005, our team launched the Differential Response Conference, again attracting a global audience of innovators interested in restructuring and revamping the CPS system through the implementation of differential response. Over time, we found the topics, audiences, and interests of these two conferences began to converge so wemerged them in 2015 into the International Conference on Innovations in Family Engagement.

Defined as collaboration, partnership, inclusion, involvement, compliance and cooperation, what is meant by engagement is inherently complex. What is clear, however, is that “engagement” is a worthwhile pursuit when working with vulnerable populations. The “engagement process” begins with the first “hello”, knock on the door, or telephone call, and it continues throughout the entire relationship between service providers and families. It often extends far beyond the engagement of a parent or caregiver and child to include the extended family/kin system known as the family group and their informal networks.

Is this conference for you, o reader? The brochure provides a long litany of “who should attend:”

Our previous conferences have sported multi-disciplinary audiences who have represented numerous formal, informal, and community systems and have drawn from child welfare, juvenile justice, and mental health agencies. They typically represent 35 states, numerous Tribes, many Canadian provinces, and, on average, six other countries. Specifically, target audiences for this event include representatives from public and private child welfare agencies, such as administrators, program managers, supervisors, and specialists; intake, assessment/investigation, ongoing, permanency, foster care, and adoption caseworkers; family meeting coordinators or facilitators, family meeting supervisors, family finders, kinship navigators, policymakers, researchers and evaluators, child and family advocates, family members, foster parents, community members, parent mentors, and community leaders; and those from partnering systems and community providers, such as juvenile and family courts (judges, court staff, attorneys, and other legal professionals), faith-based services, domestic/family violence services, substance abuse services, and mental health services.


July 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Call for Proposals: American Adoption Congress Conference

The American Adoption Congress is seeking proposals for workshops at its Annual Conference April 5 – 8, 2017.  Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2016. Details:

We are now accepting workshop proposals for the 38th Annual American Adoption Congress Conference. Our conference will be held April 5 – 8, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead. We are equally excited to announce the theme of our conference: A March to Change: Healing Through Action. We hope our theme inspires you to create a unique workshop.

Conference Focus

This annual conference provides a unique opportunity for professionals and non-professionals alike to learn from the experts, and share with those on the front lines directly involved in the adoption constellation, as well as those whose lives are touched by the loss of family continuity. You are warmly invited to become a part of our conference by submitting a workshop proposal. We’ve added a list of topics that we hope to cover but welcome your creative ideas. We are interested and will consider proposals that give voice to the ongoing needs of the community.

Target Audience

• Family members who are connected by birth, adoption, foster care, and assisted reproduction.
• Social work and child welfare professionals, social services agency staff and administrators, and advocates.
• Those affected personally or professionally by separation from the family of origin.
• Those interested in the latest research and best practices in adoption and caring for children.
• Others in the helping professions: mental heath clinicians, educators, health care professionals and public officials.

Expectations of Presenters

• Please submit your proposal by September 15, 2016. Decisions will be communicated via email. We will schedule presentations based on the presenter availability indicated on the completed proposals.
• We encourage presenters to attend the full conference. Lead presenters will receive a $50 discount from the conference fee (one discount per person). All presenters must register for at least one day of the conference.
• Audio/Visual equipment is available by special arrangement and limited to projectors and screens. Computers must be brought by individual presenters. Please indicate the specific equipment needed on the proposal form. The AAC will work with the hotel and outside sources to procure equipment at the best possible prices, but the presenter must pay necessary rental fees. You will be able to pay any charges when you register.
• Please bring handouts with you. AAC will post your handouts to the AAC website if you grant us permission to do so.
• Due to the high number of submissions the conference committee will limit acceptance of workshop proposals to one per presenter. If you are on a panel this will be considered your one slot.
• Presenters will respect the mission and purpose of the American Adoption Congress and demonstrate respect and consideration for all members of the triad and the professional community.

Link for submissions: click here.

July 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michigan Law Clinic Students Help Change Foster Care Laws

The University of Michigan Law School reports on it's Legislation Clinic success:

“The real world cannot be controlled in the way that a traditional law school classroom can be,” notes Don Duquette, clinical professor emeritus of law, “but that is both the charm and the bane of real-world clinical work.” Fortunately, charm recently won out over bane when Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills into law on June 20 to improve the lives of those affected by Michigan’s foster care system.

Three years ago, students in Michigan Law’s Legislation Clinic began working on a bill that would change a small but significant part of the foster care system: sibling placement. “Up to 75 percent of all foster children are separated from a sibling,” explains Andrew Bronstein, ’14, who worked on the bill as a student in the clinic, which was offered in Fall 2013 and Winter 2014. “In short, we haven’t done enough to support the family ties of foster children.”

One of the newly signed laws will help to combat these issues by making it more likely that siblings will be placed in foster homes together whenever possible. The law does not mandate that siblings stay together because the homes available cannot always realistically accommodate an entire family. However, Bronstein says, “Michigan must now make reasonable efforts to place foster siblings together, and, where joint placement is not possible, at least provide monthly visitation.”

The second law will prevent children’s visits with parents from being terminated unless the visits would cause the child harm. “In Michigan, foster children also lose the right to parental visitation too often,” Bronstein explains. “This legislation will make a difference in their lives.”

July 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Grandparents in Rhode Island cannot terminate their children's parental rights to adopt their grandchildren

Since a child is supposed to have no more than two parents under current law, termination of parental rights of birth parents is a necessary prerequisite for adoption by adoptive parents.  Termination happens in two ways -- either voluntarily, by consent of the birth parents, or involuntarily, because of misconduct by the birth parents. Involuntary termination is ordinarily the province of the State, not private parties. In Rhode Island, a bill was proposed to allow custodial grandparents to involuntarily terminate the rights of a child's parents so that they could adopt. That bill has been vetoed by the governor, according to

Rhode Island’s governor has vetoed a bill that would have allowed grandparents who have custody of a child to petition to terminate the rights of a parent without that person’s consent.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo vetoed the legislation Thursday.

The bill, introduced by Providence Democratic Rep. Anastasia Williams, was designed to make it easier for grandparents to adopt. But Raimondo says the last-minute amendment allowing for the petitions would have undermined the rights of natural parents.

Under current law, only the state can petition to terminate parental rights.

Raimondo says the Rhode Island Family Court and the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families were among several groups expressing concerns about the bill and asking for a veto.

July 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lawsuit Claims Gun Restrictions on Foster/Adoptive Parents Violate Second Amendment

Fox News reports:

Kenneth and Colleen Shults want to permanently welcome a foster child into their Fairmount, Ill., family, but claim in a federal suit filed this week they are being forced to surrender their Second Amendment rights to do it.

Already parents of three, the couple is in the process of formally adopting a daughter through the state foster care system and is fighting Department of Children and Family Services rules they say severely restrict their gun rights. The couple charges that the firearm restrictions aimed at safeguarding foster children violate their constitutional rights and threaten their ability to keep their family safe.

“Our family has always owned and used firearms,” said Kenneth Shults, 37, who is a firearms safety instructor and a machine shop manager. “No foster parent should have to forfeit their constitutional rights in order to be a foster parent.”

Prospective Illinois foster parents must either certify that there are no firearms in their home or complete a form called the Foster Family Firearms Arrangement. That document requires a list of all guns and ammunition in the home and locations where they are stored. Would-be foster parents also must certify the guns have trigger locks and are stored unloaded, separate from ammunition and in locked containers accessible only with a key kept off the premises or on the owner’s person.


July 14, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Adoption gives legal status to baby's second mom

I've mentioned here before that post-Obergefell, there is considerable uncertainty about "the traditional parental presumption that a child born [or maybe adopted] during marriage is the child of the spouse." This Florida news story explores how that worked for one married couple:

[Becky] Stephenson's wife, Viktoria Gerth-Stephenson, 26, gave birth to Maverick on April 21 after becoming pregnant through intrauterine insemination. Though same-sex marriage has been legal in Florida since Jan. 6, 2015, at that time the state did not allow the female spouse of a woman giving birth to be listed as the second parent on a birth certificate.

That policy required the Winter Haven couple to pursue a legal process typically used by a stepfather seeking to adopt his wife's children. . . .

Christopher Roy, a Winter Haven lawyer, handled the application that culminated in Monday's final adoption hearing, which took less than 10 minutes.

* * *

Roy said he would file the final judgment record with the Clerk of the Courts office. That will trigger the issuance of a new birth certificate listing both women as Maverick's parents.

Gerth-Stephenson displayed Maverick's original birth certificate from the state, which included the printed line: “Mother refuses information on husband.”

* * *

Roy said he waived his fees for representing the women. He said a typically charge for the stepparent adoption process would be about $2,500.

“If this was a husband and wife, it never would have had to happen because the husband would have automatically been on the birth certificate, whether it was his biological child or not,” Roy said.

* * *

Florida's Bureau of Vital Statistics recently changed its policy on birth certificates for women with female spouses. The office lists the biological mother's spouse in the traditional “father” spot, but Roy said those birth certificates are legally binding only in Florida.

Roy said he expects the Florida Legislature will eventually enact laws granting same-sex spouses full parental rights at birth, though he said he doubts that change will happen soon.

July 12, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2016

GOP Platform Debate About Gay Adoption

The Hill reports:

[Annie] Dickerson fumed as her socially liberal proposals went down and the socially conservative measures she opposed sailed through the subcommittee. 

At one point, Dickerson, who has adopted children, accused others on the committee of “blatant discrimination” over an amendment that would keep publicly funded adoption agencies from giving custody of children to gay couples.

“We need children to be adopted, so hooray to the gay community for trying to raise children in a happy and stable home,” Dickerson said. “I object to allowing patent discrimination against gays over the right to adopt. … This is blatant discrimination and should not be in our platform.”

Dickerson lost that battle and essentially every other battle she waged. At times she stared down [Tony] Perkins and expressed exasperation after votes went against her.

“Unbelievable,” she said after the adoption measure passed.

Of course, the platform won't be final until the GOP Convention.

July 11, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 8, 2016

California Appellate Court Rules in ICWA Case

An ICWA case in California, involving a Choctaw child placed with extended family when her non-Indian foster parents wished to adopt her, has generated considerable media attention recently (see here and here and here, for example).  Today, the Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District of California ruled (again) in the case, In re Alexandria P., affirming the trial court's decision that the child was appropriately placed with her extended family:

For the third time this case comes before us on the issue of whether the lower court has correctly ordered an Indian child, Alexandria P., to be placed with her extended family, Ken R. and Ginger R. in Utah, after concluding that Alexandria’s foster parents, de facto parents, Russell P. and Summer P., failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to depart from the adoptive placement preferences set forth in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.).1

We have twice remanded the matter because the lower court used an incorrect standard in assessing good cause. The dependency court has now correctly applied the law governing good cause, considering the bond Alexandria has developed over time with the P.s, as well as a number of other factors related to her best interests. Those other factors include Alexandria’s relationship with her extended family and half-siblings; the capacity of her extended family to maintain and develop her sense of self-identity, including her cultural identity and connection to the Choctaw tribal culture; and the P.s’ relative reluctance or resistance to foster Alexandria’s relationship with her extended family or encourage exploration of and exposure to her Choctaw cultural identity.

Because substantial evidence supports the court’s finding that the P.s did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to depart from the ICWA’s placement preferences, we affirm.

The court's first opinion in the case can be found here.

July 8, 2016 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Missouri: Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates Eased

Last week, according to, the governor signed into law "House Bill 1599, which permits adoptees to obtain a copy of their sealed, original birth certificate and to obtain medical information. Those birth certificates currently can be obtained only by court order. The bill makes provisions for obtaining the consent of the birth parents." The text of the bill can be found here.

The new law is fairly restrictive.  It only allows for an "uncertified copy of the unaltered original certificate of birth to the applicant. The copy of the certificate of birth shall have the following statement printed on it: "For genealogical purposes only - not to be used for  establishing identity." Furthermore, it allows for a birth parent veto. On a more positive note, it does not provide different access depending on when the adoption happened, as some partial access states do (see Illinois and Massachusetts, as examples).  And the age requirement for access is merely attaining adulthood, unlike the requirement that adoptees be 21 years old, as in Delaware or 25 years old, as in Rhode Island.

Given that family law is the province of each state, activist movements to gain access to original birth certificates is hobbled by the need to fight this issue in each of the fifty states.  The American Adoption Congress provides an excellent roundup of the state of the law and reform movements in each state at this link.

July 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Registration open for National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare & Adoption Law

The Family and Youth Law Center at Capital University Law School, in Partnership with:

  • The ABA Center on Children and the Law
  • The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
  • The National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges

Proudly Announces the 12th Annual National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare & Adoption Law.

March 10 & 11th, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio

To register a team please visit:



  • Problem Released:  December 12th   
  • Final Registration:  January 1st  
  • Briefs Due:  February 6th

Questions?  Please contact Fawn Gadel at 614-236-7237or [email protected]  

July 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Utah, Adoption and Unwed Fathers

Utah is pretty notorious for being harsh with fathers in adoption.  A group of birth fathers sued in 2014, claiming fraud:

Twelve biological fathers whose children were placed for adoption in Utah without their knowledge or consent have filed a federal lawsuit against the state, alleging Utah laws permit "legalized fraud and kidnapping."

The fathers, represented by West Jordan attorney Wes Hutchins, allege that despite knowing about the "gross adoption infirmities" of Utah's laws, two former attorneys general "did nothing for more than a decade to correct the fraud and deception" that led to their children being placed with adoptive families in Utah.

What happened to their sons and daughters was essentially "kidnapping and highly unethical and disruptive placement into adoptive homes without the knowledge or consent of their biological fathers," the lawsuit states.

Utah's laws have created a "confusing labyrinth of virtually incomprehensible legal mandates and nearly impossible deadlines" that amount to unconstitutional violations of the rights of unwed fathers, it states.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a finding that the Utah Adoption Act is unconstitutional.

The lawyer representing the fathers, Wes Hutchins, was formerly president of the Utah Adoption Council who resigned in protest of the treatment of birth fathers in Utah law.

There are some signs that the tide might be turning in Utah, though, with some successes for fathers seeking to challenge adoptions under Utah law.  Terry Achane, whose wife placed their child for adoption without his knowledge, finally succeeded in regaining his daughter after a two-year struggle in Utah courts (yes, you read that right -- this was a married father, not an unwed father, who had to litigate to have his parental rights recognized in a Utah adoption). Robert Manzanares, one of the fathers in the lawsuit mentioned above, secured a ruling from the Utah Supreme Court that allowed him to seek custody of his daughter. Another of the fathers in the lawsuit, Bobby Nevares, also secured a ruling in Utah allowing him to contest the adoption done there when he had acted to preserve his rights in his home state of Colorado. And another father in the lawsuit, John M. Wyatt, won the right to sue the Utah adoption agency in federal court in  his home state of Virginia, though he lost the right to contest the adoption in Utah.

Most recently, just last week, another birth father prevailed in the Utah Supreme Court:

The Utah Supreme Court has given an unwed father another chance to contest the adoption of his daughter, ruling that a notice telling the man what he needed to do to preserve his parental rights did not include required information.

The 5-0 decision says that under the state's Prebirth Notice Statute, the birth father must be told that he will lose certain rights if he fails to complete specific steps within 30 days of getting notice, including acknowledging paternity and filing an affidavit in court that details child care plans.

However, the notice received by Phillip J. James — who said he had intended to raise the child with the mother — said he "may" lose all rights to his child, the court noted.

While parental rights for unwed fathers nationwide are difficult to assert, Utah is definitely the state to watch in the future.

July 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Digital Uploads: Adoption-Related Legal Scholarship

Each month we will post relevant articles from BePress and SSRN for your enjoyment.  No representation that the list is complete, so if you want to call articles to our attention, please do so!

Parental Parity: Intentional Parenthood's Promise
Buffalo Law Review Vol. 64, No. 3
Melanie B. Jacobs
Michigan State University College of Law
Date Posted: June 29, 2016

Indigenous Child Welfare Post Bringing Them Home: From Aspirations for Self-Determination to Neo-Liberal Assimilation
Australian Indigenous Law Review, Forthcoming, UTS: Law Research Paper No. 2016/6
Terri Libesman
University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law
Date Posted: June 18, 2016
Last Revised: June 20, 2016

The ICWA Penalty Box: In Defense of Equal Protection for Indian Children
Timothy Sandefur
Goldwater Institute
Date Posted: June 17, 2016
Last Revised: June 21, 2016

Proposing a Resolution: Why the 2015 Proposed ICWA Regulations Are Necessary for ICWA to Fulfill Its Purpose
Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, Forthcoming
Rori Collins
Columbia University, Law School, Students
Date Posted: June 05, 2016

'[Take from Us Our] Wretched Refuse': The Deportation of America's Adoptees
University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 1, 2017
DeLeith Duke Gossett
Texas Tech University School of Law
Date Posted: June 05, 2016
Last Revised: June 12, 2016

July 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)