I love being a father. It’s hard work, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Personally, I couldn’t imagine having a child and not being a major part of his or her life. There are circumstances, of course, that result in a parent – mom or dad, or both – choosing to surrender their child to adoption. And that doesn’t mean they didn’t want to care for their child, it just means that there was a choice made to place the child for adoption, for whatever reason.
So, what happens when a child is born and the father is not in the picture? Perhaps he never acknowledged the pregnancy, or it’s also a possibility that he never knew about it. Maybe he tried to be involved and the mother wanted no part of him, or she did, but the situation was too complicated. There are a plethora of scenarios that one could imagine. It begs a real question about fathers’ rights and roles in making decisions when it comes to their children.
Don’t get me wrong – by no means am I trying to equate the role a father plays in creating a child to the one a mother plays in childbearing. I can’t imagine the bonding that occurs, the wave of emotions, the physical and mental tolls taken on a mother during and after those nine months that the child is literally attached to her. I can try to empathize with all of that, but I am in no position to speak of it with any credibility.
By the same token, when a child is born, he or she is part of a fabric that is woven together from both mother and father. Regardless of the circumstances, the father should have a chance to be heard before the child is placed for adoption. There may be situations when it is not appropriate for a particular father to be able to weigh in. For example, the child could have been conceived as the result of a rape, or the father could be a perpetrator of domestic violence or child abuse. But, the situation should be evaluated, at least with some attempt to determine whether the father is suitable and wants to parent his own child.
These days, I think it’s much easier to facilitate an assessment of the situation to include the father’s voice in determining a care plan for his child. The use of DNA testing has become much more prevalent, making it much easier to determine paternity. It is also a social norm for children to be born out of wedlock, significantly reducing the shame factor and other social barriers that made these situations more complicated 30 or 40 years ago.
The bottom line is, let’s not ignore the voice of fathers. Sometimes, they are given a bad rap, and sometimes with good reason. But, when we as a society complain about deadbeat fathers who want nothing to do with their kids, who don’t pay child support or aren’t there for whatever reason, let’s make it a point to applaud the ones who can and do want to raise their kids. To the fathers who will be there for the milestones of their children, to guide them and do whatever we can to make sure their voices are heard.