There's a man at the door who says you forgot to sign the putative father registry.
And now some weird family is gonna come and adopt me!

PAGE # 24

2:30 pm
"Jennifer!  Hi, it's Paula." 
 The social worker sounded enthusiastic.  I could practically hear the smile on her face.  I moved into the living room, the only spot in my house with decent cell phone signal. 
"Hi Paula," I replied.
"I just left my meeting with Kendra and Johnny.  Jennifer, I have to tell you, I believe she is going through with this," Paula stated.  "She has thoroughly processed this adoption plan.  She is so different from other birth moms I've worked with.  I'm telling you, she is the cream of the crop as far as birth mothers go.  I was so impressed with her..."
"Paula, wait," I interrupted.  "Hold on."
Of course I wanted to hear about the meeting with Kendra, but I had an unsettling conversation earlier in the day with the attorney, and it needed to take priority.  Immediately.
"Look, Paula," I started.  "I spoke with Shelley [the adoption attorney] earlier.  She told me that Kendra has a friend spying on the biological father's Facebook page.  And that the biological father is saying all kinds of terrible things about Kendra, about how she messed up his life, and that he wants to kill himself.  I'm very concerned about this," I explained.  "Everyone has been telling me that Bobby [the biological father] doesn't want anything to do with the baby, but now this?"
Paula made a slight sound--an indication that she was listening and that I should continue.
"Shelley is adamant that the biological dad does not want the baby.  She said that if he really wanted the baby, he'd be taking legal action to stop the adoption, not posting stuff on his Facebook page.  Does this sound reasonable to you?" I asked.  "I wondered whether perhaps Bobby does not know what legal steps to take, but the attorney claims that the specific directions are in the papers she served him, as well as her phone number.  She says that if he really wanted to try and block the adoption, he could just pick up a phone and call her.  That he's just trying to hurt Kendra with all the Facebook posts."
I was anxious.  Tom was away at a work meeting, and the attorney, obviously, had not been a comfort.  
"Look, Jennifer," Paula said.  "I know how Shelley comes across at times and you just have to remember that she's an attorney.  She doesn't have the patience for all the emotional factors involved.  I get it.  But she's right," Paula stated.  "If Bobby wanted this child, he'd call Shelley.  And sign the putative father registry.  He's not doing any of the steps toward parenting this child.  He hasn't even given Kendra any money.  In order to establish paternity, he needs to demonstrate financial support during the pregnancy."
"What about the suicidal threats he's supposedly making on Facebook?" I asked.  "I've worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, Paula.  It's impossible for me to just dismiss a suicidal threat without any kind of clinical assessment."  
"I know this is all very dramatic and overwhelming," Paula agreed.  "But this is just how adoption is.  Biological families are dysfunctional and they tend to act out all over the place.  I do not believe this guy is suicidal, not at all.  It's all posturing.  He's just trying to save face with his family and friends.  It's what a lot of these guys do."
"Save face?" I asked.
"Yes," Paula continued.  "He doesn't want the baby.  But he's not going to admit that to his family and friends.  This way, he makes Kendra the villain and himself the victim.  He gets everyone's sympathy if he loses this baby to adoption.  And he's done nothing to challenge the adoption."
Bobby needed to do 3 things to contest the adoption:
  1. Sign the putative father registry.
  2. Submit a signed affidavit attesting to his ability to parent the child.
  3. Send Kendra some money.
According to the adoption attorney, Bobby had failed to complete any of these three steps.  Moreover, if he didn't understand what he needed to do, he simply needed to call her for clarification.  Her contact information was all over the legal paperwork he'd been served over  a week earlier.

I was calming down, for sure, but being an obsessive-compulsive checker, I ran the whole Facebook drama past one of my best friends, Crystal.  Crystal is also a social worker, who, like Paula, does adoption home studies.  She's spent years working with kids in the foster care system too--and has seen more than her share of abuses.  She is 100 % ethical and devoted to the safety of everyone in all her cases.  I've listened to her vent her own frustration about 'the system' and know she will take every action necessary, including testifying in court, on behalf of her clients.  She is also an adult adoptee with a significant trauma history of her own.  She was adopted out of the foster care system at the age of five, but you'd never be able to tell.  She is a true survivor and a success story.  Her opinion is everything to me.

Crystal was in agreement with Paula:
"It does sound like the bio dad is just saving face with his friends and family.  Obviously, you cannot know anything for sure, but given all the information we have, it's pretty clear he's not interested in fathering this child," Crystal explained.  "But," Crystal warned, "I think you need to go into this with a different frame of mind.  You need to start thinking of this as a foster-adopt placement, because the birth dad has not signed off on the paperwork.  And until his 30 days are up, you and Tom are officially a foster family.  And no matter what is going to happen, you should just focus right now on giving this baby a safe place for her first weeks of life.  You and Tom and TJ and Sara are going to give this baby all the love she deserves, and even if the adoption falls through, you will always know in your heart that you gave her at least that."
Crystal and Paula were probably right, but I logged onto Facebook anyway, and tried to access Bobby's profile page.  Though his pictures were public, his wall was limited to friends only.  Again, his profile picture made me shiver.  But it was worse than the first time I had looked.  Before, he was pictured holding the dead corpse of a deer he'd obviously hunted, but now, the photo had been cropped.  He had cut himself out of the picture.  In fact, most of the deer was gone too.  All that remained was the animal's head:  its vacant eyes, the blood gushing from its mouth, the stained fur.
I could not stop myself from projecting every conceivable emotion, image, idea, etc. onto the biological parents.  They were mysterious, heartbreaking, terrifying, unknown lurking variables in this complicated equation of adoption.  And while I tended to thrust relational paradigms upon Kendra, I thought of Bobby, the bio dad, as some quantitative entity in my mind--like a pie graph.  Since I had absolutely no direct knowledge of him, I saw him as one giant circle cut into parts representing numerical possibilities.  I figured it was a 50/50 chance that he wanted to father the baby.  Out of the half a chance that he did indeed want to father the child, I divided this region in two parts (to account for possible reasons why he had not taken any legal action thus far).  According to my mental diagram, he was 1/2 deadbeat bio dad or 1/2 victim himself:  

The green half--Truly No Interest in Baby--requires no additional explanation.

The red quarter--Victim of Kendra Lying About Him:
Maybe he had sent Kendra money but she was lying?  
The orange quarter--Victim of Confusing Legal System:
Perhaps Bobby was struggling to decode the legal documents?  It seemed plausible that the man might be overwhelmed by the legal process and not have the resources to help him navigate the system.  
I mean, what the hell is a putative father registry?  I'd certainly never heard of one.  Where does one sign it?  Does one learn about it in public school?  Maybe the government gives you a pamphlet about it when you register to vote?  Or get your driver's license?  

Nowadays, it's not enough just to make the baby.  At least not for the man.  

If you:

  1. Are male
  2. And have had intercourse with a female in the last 9 months
  3. And are not married to said female
  4. And could have fathered a child
  5. And even if you're not sure
  6. And even if it was a one night stand
  7. And even if you don't know said female's real name
  8. And if you don't want your maybe baby adopted out

Of course, you'll need to know where to go sign--it's not so well advertised.  And God forbid your baby is getting adopted in a different state, then first you have to figure out which state.  Good luck getting that all accomplished in a short time frame.

Good luck indeed.


Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

I know you feel trusting of your social worker but I just had to comment on this.

"I know this is all very dramatic and overwhelming," Paula agreed. "But this is just how adoption is. Biological families are dysfunctional and they tend to act out all over the place.

This is such a HUGE generalization. Biological families are dysfunctional? I have to object to this stereotype. Dysfunctional families happen in all walks of life including adoptive families. I lost my daughter to adoption because I was single yet the couple who adopted her divorced when she was only 3 yrs old and her adoptive mother never remarried. She was raised by a single mother. I married a year after I lost my daughter and I've been married for 30 years. If I had been able to keep my daughter she would have been raised with her natural mother, step-father and both her siblings. I lost my daughter because I was single yet she was raised by a single mother because of divorce.

Jennifer said...

Hi Carlynne,
Thanks for reading and I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I think your perception is right on about the social worker. In fact, it was only after I began processing what happened (through writing this blog), that I experienced a sudden epiphany regarding the social worker. This happened exactly after I finished writing the post entitled "What's in a Gift?" At the risk of sounding paranoid, I do believe we were "Good-Copped/Bad-Copped" by the social worker/attorney. I was very naive. As I write the story, I see exactly what you identified in this post.
I have had one subsequent contact with the SW since starting the blog (and after realizing she was not so great). The story of that communication will be told in this story, but I will just say now, that she ultimately infuriated me. But, I am trying to tell the story from where I was (emotionally & psychologically) at each point.
Obviously, the story is too complicated to tell in this single comment (hence, why I'm writing the blog), but I now see how I was "coached" and in some ways even "coerced" by the adoption workers. I am, no surprise, back in therapy.
I worry about "Kendra" all the time too. As well as Baby Lily and her two brothers.

Samantha P said...

I wonder if this is what the SW in our case is doing to the foster parents of my step-daugher? It's so weird because we have had 5 SW's over the course of nearly 2 years and this last one is when the foster parents decided to get a lawyer to fight us regaining custody. NOTE: We had absolutely nothing to do with the child going into CPS care.

Jennifer said...

I don't know the details of your situation--but I will say this: After our experience, I definitely think that adoption workers say things to PAPS to try and get them to fight against biological families. They will use coercive strategies not only with natural families, but also with PAPs. Sounds like you are going through some tough times...will check to see if you have a blog.