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Stanford Swim on Adoption: Children First, Parents Second

by Norris Law Group on March 20, 2014

AdoptionStanford Swim, former chairman of the National Council for Adoption and an adoptive father of three, offers his opinion on the current Utah adoption debate in the March 5 edition of the Deseret News.

In his article, Swim suggests that Utahans consider “three basic premises” as guides when deciding upon whether or not to change Utah’s adoption statutes.

  1. Parents’ rights at law exist to encourage fulfilling duties owed to the child. Swim submits that “[t]he law owes childless people nothing — there is no right to a child. By contrast, the law owes parentless children its best effort — the child has a right to a mother and father.”He goes on to say that unwed fathers and mothers respond to parenting in different ways: women typically nurture their children regardless of their own marital status, while men often walk away. Swim further cites federal data that indicates that households in which the father stays but does not marry the mother are at least 10 times more likely to experience significant physical, emotional and sexual abuse. He says that this statistic is the genesis for the “legal inequality” that birth fathers often experience in Utah adoptions.
  2. Parental rights follow acceptance of parental duties. “The state should recognize unwed fathers who fully engage, but it is prudent and reasonable to follow experience and favor the mother’s judgment until the man steps up to join her.”
  3. The best way for the law to encourage healthy openness is to presume confidentiality and allow the parties to adapt as they choose. Swim opines that compared to closed adoptions typical of past decades, modern adoption is includes open communication between birth parents and adoptive parents, and that an “ironic…enabler” of this the legal presumption of confidentiality. To that end, all parties in an adoption work out a balance that fits their personalities, needs and situations.

Swim concludes by offering his own thoughts legislation currently being debated in the Utah legislature, and says that, “[A}doptions begin with imperfection. Law should serve the vulnerable child first. Utah takes children and family seriously and should enact or adjust laws consistent with that seriousness.”

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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