U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. and James Inhofe, R-Okla., co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, introduced the Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2012 today. This bill would create a National Responsible Fatherhood Registry, allowing any unwed father the chance to register and consequently be notified of court proceedings concerning his child. This protects his rights as well as relieves the burden of this notification from birth mothers. This legislation also helps secure the prompt and stable placement of relinquished children in adoptive families.
"As we celebrated Father's Day this past weekend, we honored the important role that fathers play in so many lives. Every father deserves the chance to be involved in his child's life, and this legislation would allow a father in any state to declare his interest in becoming involved in the life of a child he may have fathered," Sen. Landrieu said.
"In addition, this legislation protects families going through the adoption process. When a birth mother decides to seek an adoptive family for her child, an absent and uninterested father is just one additional obstacle to overcome. In states without registries, a child's placement can be delayed or later dissolved due to difficulties that agencies, attorneys and courts face in locating and notifying possible fathers. This legislation ensures that if a father did not register his interest in his state's or the national database, he cannot delay or disrupt a child's placement."
Responsible Father Registries currently exist in 34 states, including Louisiana. Registries expedite the stable placement of children and protect the safety of mothers by defining a legal process for a father to claim rights to his child. A father must register within a certain period of time after the birth - as determined by each state - and if he chooses not to, a family wishing to adopt can do so without fearing that a biological father will come forward years later and reverse the adoption.
Sen. Landrieu's legislation would encourage all states with existing registries to provide their data to a national registry, as well as allow men who live in states without registries to register directly with the national database. This would allow men to receive notification of court proceedings in any state. It would also authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to states in order to create registries or modify existing registries in accordance with standards defined by the legislation. The Secretary would oversee the national registry and establish a nationwide educational campaign to inform the public of the registry and how it operates.
Sen. Landrieu has been a longtime advocate for adoption and has worked tirelessly to help families seeking to adopt. In 1998, Sen. Landrieu became a founding co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, which has since become the largest bipartisan, bicameral caucus in all of Congress. In 2000, she and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., passed the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, to approve the provisions of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption. In 2003, Sen. Landrieu sponsored the Adoption Promotion Act, to reauthorize a program designed to increase the number of adoptions by providing incentives to states that increase adoptions from one year to the next.