The Need for State Birth Father Registries

man sits on bench looking over city at sunset
On average, 25 women call us each week, sharing one common concern: the requirement that the birth father consents and signs for the adoption. These women are desperately wanting to know how they can legally have their babies adopted if the father of their child has said he is not going to sign or is no where to be found. These men often have more than one woman pregnant at a time or have fathered other children they are not supporting emotionally or financially. They refuse to sign for the adoption yet will not provide any assistance in the form of financial or emotional help.

Thankfully, we know that there are also devoted birth fathers, interested in being part of an adoption plan and supporting the birth mother as she tries to make the right choices for her child. Some birth fathers have a true desire to parent their child, or at least support the child and mother financially. These are real fathers, fathers with a compassion and concern for the future of their child. And they are not the problem.

Not Fathers But Sperm Donors

Birth fathers who stand in the way of what is best for the child, be it adoption or being a true father, are nothing more than “sperm donors.” They just want to have a good time, then when a woman becomes pregnant and tries to do what is right in her mind by choosing adoption, he puts up a road block.

A woman in this position is fearful and often faced with a birth father that is simply not going to cooperate. Most of these men are not working, have a history of abuse or substance abuse, and have no intention of supporting the child. They want to know the “kid” is there if they want to see “it”, some day, maybe someday, often never. They see kids from different women as trophies, validating they are able to produce, not realizing it take so much more than sperm to be a Father and Dad to a child.

Frequently these women are burdened with three or more children, trying to raise them the best she can with never enough money, food, or support. Another mouth to feed would mean less for the children she has, and less hope of escaping the endless cycle she sees herself in. The fathers of her children are aware of the system and will make just enough money to support themselves, often working under the table to avoid having their paychecks garnished for child support. Three children, three different fathers and no form of child support– What is the mother to do with a baby that is due in a few weeks?

Naomi was one woman who didn’t have the support of her family. At 21, she became pregnant with her third child. Once her parents and her boyfriend found out she was pregnant again, they shunned her. With no one offering guidance or help, she faced a tough decision alone.

Naomi said she considered placing her second child with an adoptive family, but decided to keep her baby when the birth father told her he wouldn’t sign for the adoption, and her parents allowed her to move back in with them for a while.

“Everything was going fine until I found out I was pregnant again. Then everything let loose,” she told me when she called, trying to make an adoption plan for the baby she was carrying. “Right now, it is the best decision I could make for all of us.” She shared with me some of her daily difficulties, including struggling to keep the other children from running into the street.

“When I told the father I was pregnant, he said it wasn’t his. I haven’t been with anyone else. I know it is his baby.” She was asking how she can complete this adoption without his cooperation since he wouldn’t even acknowledge it was his child. When we posed this question to an adoption attorney, we found that since they didn’t live together he was only considered an alleged birth father. The lawyer would serve him papers, and if the time lapsed without a formal objection to the adoption, his rights would be terminated. Naomi could complete the adoption, placing her baby with the couple of her choice, without any recourse from him.

Strong Women Want More for Their Children

One of the reasons this country has so many children in foster care is that women are unaware of their power, and they buy into the fear these men put into their minds. We’ve had women tell us, “If I can’t complete the adoption, I will just have an abortion. He can’t stop me from that!”

We need laws that protect these children. When a women is strong enough to go through with a pregnancy and wants to give her child a better life, she should have that choice. But because the man than fathered this child is unwilling to allow an adoption, the child, the mother, and her other children all suffer from this irresponsible man. We have found that most men like this are full of hot air; they have not completed anything in their lives, can’t keep a job, may have outstanding warrants, and if, they had to show up in court to contest the adoption, they would be arrested. So instead, they control and threaten to get the woman to keep a child they will not take any responsibility for.

If a birth father can see the benefit of adoption, an open adoption where there are choices, some will let the adoption go through without a fuss. Many logical men just want to be heard, they want to be part of the process, and not left out in the cold. They want some say and don’t want to be judged. These are the smart men that can think beyond themselves and what they can offer. These are real men that care for others and their children.

pregnant woman looks out window holding her belly thinking about adoption choices for her child
Open Adoption Offers So Much More

Adoption has changed and birth parents are given choices in adoption. An open adoption or semi-open adoption allows the birth parents to select a family for their child as well as updates and photos as the child grows if they wish.

Thirty years ago, a woman than was unable for whatever reason to parent her child could quietly go to a home and then place the child without having to get consent from the father. This was acceptable then when men fathering children out of wedlock was frowned upon.

In today’s society it is common to have one, two or even three children by three different women. Only a small percentage of these men are responsible and willing to support their children, the others leave the task to an overburdened welfare system and the struggling women forced to raise another child, something she knows she hasn’t the time, money, or strength to do.

Each week adoption professionals get calls from women seeking help, often with crying, screaming children in the background. It is any wonder that they have to go to desperate lengths to survive. Is this fair? Certainly not to the innocent children. A few will be lovingly placed for adoption in families that are eager and willing to provide a loving and stable home to a child.

Responsible Men Will Have Choices Also

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. New adoption laws need to be in place that allow responsible fathers to register with a “birth father registry”, similar to the one used in Oregon and other states now. If a man knows he is the father of a child that is going to be born and wants to support the child, then he signs a registry acknowledging that he is the father and wants to be responsible. The fathers that do not sign the registry and are not interested in supporting the child then lose their rights. The mother can then choose what is best for her child, be it parenting or adoption.

When birth fathers do object to an adoption, 85% say they don’t want the child placed because it will make them look bad. Their own macho image is more important to them than their child’s future.

No wonder we have so many women forced into not naming the father, saying they were raped, or claiming that they sleep around, just so that they can give their child a better life. Can you blame a woman that makes this choice? She is reaching out for help, wanting to do something that she feels is in the best interest of her child, and wanting to insure that her child has a true father, not this loser who places more worth on his image than his child. It’s a simple fact that when children grow up, they will often mirror the behaviors of their own father or mother. And so, without better choices made, the negative cycle continues.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse and Poverty

If 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. They are bright women than want more for their children. They see what they are not able to provide now, and know that they want more for their child, in spite of the personal sacrifice. Women with this much love and concern for their children should not be forced to parent or to abandon their baby in an alley, in hopes it will be found.

Everyone would benefit if we had in place more laws that required men to register. We would see less child abuse, less women dependent on welfare for their support. It would allow the responsible men to have their rights upheld and the irresponsible ones granted no rights unless they take the steps themselves needed to raise these little ones. It would give thousands of children the basics in life that they don’t have, or don’t have any hope or receiving. And most importantly, it would offer every child the hope for a safe home and the promise of a future.

No one will deny that we have too many children entering the foster care system every day. Many of these children could have been placed for adoption at birth or a younger age and given a chance for a safe adoptive home and a loving forever family, something that many of their mothers had hoped for before they took their first breath. Reach out in your community, speak to the lawmakers and representatives that can help change the adoption laws. And maybe, just maybe, the next generation will have a chance at a better life.
by Mardie Caldwell C.O.A.P.

Founder of Lifetime Adoption in 1986, Radio Talk Show Host for Lets Talk Adoption, Executive Director for Lifetime Adoption Foundation and Author of -Your # 1 Internet Adoption Resource Guide. Mardie has also authored numerous articles on adoption, parenting and financing. She is also an adoptive mother, married with four children. You may reach Mardie at for reprint permission.

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“Thank you so much for being patient with me through this journey and for all the great help that you were. May God bless you. Take care Chrissy. If you all need anything else from me, you know where to reach me. Again thank you so much.”
A Birth Mother



Mardie Caldwell



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