As I said in my previous piece on the Benjamin Wyrembek case, the anti-father crowd is up in arms about the fact that Ohio law has allowed him to stop the adoption of his child. From the first, all parties – lawyers, the adoption agency and the prospective adoptive parents – knew that Wyrembek was claiming his son as his own. But they went ahead anyway to try to force adoption on a little boy who has a fit and loving father. Now, almost three years later, they’ve lost at every level of trial and appeal.
Their cry is “the best interests of the child.” Indeed, that’s the first sentence of a piece in the Huffington Post bewailing Wyrembek’s success at finally getting access to his own son. But what the Ohio Supreme Court has done in stopping this adoption is to recognize the fact that the “best interests of the child” standard is often nothing more than a stalking horse for separating children from their fathers. Those who say this adoption should be allowed to go through stand foursquare for the proposition that all adoptive parents have to do is get a child away from its father for a certain length of time and – bingo! – the child is theirs. To them, fathers’ rights, children’s rights, common sense, matter not a whit.
As I said in my previous piece, that point of view comes embarrassingly close to support for child theft. I gave the example of Edward Bookert whose son was snatched out from under his nose and, despite his rights, despite his every effort, he was unable to get his child back. Why? Litigation is a lengthy process and, by the end of it, courts often rule that “the best interests of the child” demand that fathers lose their children because they’ve spent so much time with the parents who are trying to adopt them. The concept is closer to that of adverse possession in real property law in which a person who seizes and holds another person’s real estate for a prescribed period receives ownership.
This article reminds us of another case that comes perilously close to child theft (Washington Post, 10/8/10). It’s the John Wyatt case that I’ve written about before. Wyatt is the Virginia man whose girlfriend, Emily Fahland became pregnant with his child, last year. She wanted to place the child for adoption as soon as it was born, but Wyatt made plain his desire to keep it and raise it. As her due date came closer, she began to withdraw from Wyatt and, despite his efforts to keep up with her, managed to go to a hospital, give birth and then sign away her rights on day two. That was all done while Wyatt was desperately trying to locate her and their child. Apparently the hospital was in on the effort to keep Wyatt separate from his child because when he got there, hospital officials said there was no patient there with the last name of Fahland.
By that time though, his daughter was winging her way to Utah with her adoptive parents and officials of a Utah adoption agency. Of course Wyatt didn’t know where she was, but he rushed to court in Virginia and got an order granting him custody of his child. Meanwhile, the adoptive parents were in Utah filing their adoption proceeding.
All that happened in early 2009. The linked-to article says that Wyatt’s case has been heard by the Utah Supreme Court which is expected to issue its ruling either late this year or early next.
John Wyatt has never set eyes on his child as far as I know, and several months have passed since her birth. In that time, she has been in the care and possession of her adoptive parents. So should John Wyatt lose his child because he was a few hours late to the hospital? The only reason he wasn’t present for the birth is that Fahland had managed to give him the slip. Should courts reward deception of the father by the mother? How does the anti-dad crowd feel about that? Listen.
“Both the adoptive parents and the adoption agency believe it would be extremely detrimental to remove the child from the loving and stable home she has enjoyed for 19 months,” the couple said in a statement released by their lawyer, Larry S. Jenkins. “Their primary concern has and always will be the best interests of the child.”
Ah yes! The “best interests of the child.” Once again the phrase comes up in the context of what can only be called kidnapping or child theft. Once again, a decent loving father finds himself fighting a system that perversely rewards exactly that. Benjamin Wyrembek succeeded. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for John Wyatt.