My Account



by Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS


A case from the media involving birthfather rights (among other legal issues) will be familiar to many readers.

A couple from Michigan (where independent adoption is not legal) feeling that the agency process was too long, decided to go to Iowa-a state which not only allowed independent adoption, but also allowed non-residents to finalize their adoptions there--to adopt a newborn privately. They were matched with an uncounseled birthmother who had decided that she did not want the father of her child, with whom she had broken up, to know about the pregnancy and the adoption. She named another man as the father and signed her consent 40 hours (rather than Iowa's required 72 hours) after the baby was born. The adoption attorney (who was representing both clients) accepted these decisions without question.

Within days, the birthmother had a change of heart. The adopting couple would not return the baby and fled to Michigan. The grieving birthmother contacted another attorney, who recommended that she contact the baby's actual birthfather and have him file a fraud action, since he had not been notified of the pregnancy.

A court battle ensued, during which time the adoption was never finalized, but custody of the little girl remained with the Michigan couple. Nearly three years later, after court decisions and appeals, the child was finally ordered returned to her birthfather, who had married the child's birthmother and had another child with her.

Print and visual media coverage plastered pictures of the screaming child "ripped from her adoptive mother's arms" and taken away by her birthfamily. No matter whose "side" they were on, the general public could only agree that we were witnessing a genuine tragedy.

Both sets of parents eventually divorced. This child now lives with her birthfather and her sister. She appears to be doing well.


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