Do Birth Fathers Deserve a Part in Adoption Decisions?

When Darrick Rizzo was 18, his girlfriend of three years told him she was pregnant. With the couple on the cusp of their college careers and unprepared to parent, his girlfriend chose to pursue adoption. Despite opposing the decision, Rizzo ultimately acquiesced, hoping to offer the best life possible for his son.

“I was willing to do anything for my boy, even if that meant listening to his mom and choosing an open adoption,” wrote Rizzo in his book, The Open Adoption: A Birth Father’s Journey.

Rizzo was committed to his role as a birth father and sent letters and gifts to his son. Years later, he learned his child had never received his correspondence. Despite a desire to be an involved birth father, his efforts were thwarted.

Whether or not they make the effort, the reality is that many birth fathers end up absent from the lives of their adopted children. And until recently, the relationship between adoptees and their birth fathers had not been given too much consideration in the context of the adoption conversation.

But as social media and family genealogy tracing allow more children to find and connect with their biological dads, Christians involved in adoption are thinking about the significance of such relationships.

“We’re starting to see a little more discussion around birth fathers, where historically they’ve been left out of the picture,” said Cam Lee, an adoptee and a Christian who now works as a therapist with adoptive families.

“What we know is that when birth fathers are involved … it’s a better outcome,” said Jennifer McCallum, foster care and adoption counseling supervisor for Buckner International, a Christian organization that facilitates open adoptions.

“We tend to think of the expectant moms as the only one making a sacrifice or grieving,” said McCallum. “But we want birth fathers to be a part of the entire process.”

Both parents can experience a sense of loss when their child is adopted. There isn’t much research out there, but one study of 30 birth fathers found that they experience feelings similar to birth mothers: grief, distress, and pain, for example.

“Birth fathers reported similar waves of emotion around birthdays, holidays, major life events and other major triggers,” according to the National Council for Adoption’s report.

Roger Matthews, 61, placed his son up for adoption over 40 years ago. He maintains it was the right decision for him and his girlfriend, both just 18 at the time, and one born out of their nascent Christian faith at the time.

Years later, Matthews met his adult son, and it was the beginning of a new family tree for them both. Matthews’s son initially sought contact with his birth mother, who then connected the three of them. “We now see them regularly,” Matthews said in an email. “I count them as part of our family.”

Theodora Blanchfield, 38, was adopted as a newborn. As an adult, she met her birth mother first. That desire felt “urgent” at the time. But it wasn’t long after that when she was compelled to find her birth father, too.

“Growing up, I had envy of people who weren’t adopted,” said Blanchfield. “People who took knowing stuff about themselves for granted.” Though she said meeting her father was somewhat anticlimactic, she was thankful for the opportunity.

Lee, the therapist who works with adoptive families, never met the birth father who died when he was a baby. But he has a “living curiosity” about him, including regular thoughts and dreams. “There’s a longing to humanize him,” he said.

He believes it would be beneficial to start incorporating birth fathers more into his work with families. Without the presence of a birth father in any way, he said, identity development can be harmed.

E. Anderson

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

One thought on “Do Birth Fathers Deserve a Part in Adoption Decisions?

  1. The birth fathers should be given a say. But the reality is many birth fathers are not thinking of what’s best for the child, only them. If dad takes off and disappears half-way through the pregnancy, the expectant mom would have to find him to get his “permission” leaving her in a miserable position. There are also guys that stick around long enough to convince mom that they are “forever”, have the child and make it a junior and disappear without a trace. No money, no support, nothing.

    I know of quite a few women who became single mothers in the above ways when they wanted adoption but bio-dad didn’t show up or refused (when found) to sign the paperwork. Adoption option closed to mom, dad in the wind and life moves on. The mother will always have given birth to that child, the father could end up little more than a sperm donor (a crude term, but accurate in this case). If dads around and wants to be a part of a child’s life and is against adoption, he should accept the responsibilities for that child, get full physical and legal custody, and leave bio-mom alone as she wanted to put the kid up for adoption because she knew she was unable to give it the life it deserved for whatever reason.

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