Today, Congresswoman Laura Richardson introduced the Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2012. A companion version of the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Congresswoman Richardson and Sen. Landrieu have been working closely on this legislation for the past two years. It's customary for Congresswoman Richardson to work across the aisle and chamber to get things done.
This legislation will create a National Responsible Father Registry, giving unwed fathers the chance to register and be notified of court proceedings involving the child and relieving birth mothers of the burden of notifying the birth fathers.
Congresswoman Richardson's legislation is endorsed by the National Council for Adoption and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
"Too often, a child misses a critical window of opportunity to be adopted simply because there is a lengthy and cumbersome process of locating the father and adjudicating his parental rights," said Congresswoman Richardson.
California is not one of the 34 states that already have father registries. It's for this reason that Congresswoman Richardson introduced this legislation to encourage the state to participate in a national responsible father registry. Registered men are entitled to notice of court proceedings involving a particular child, such as adoption or state custody proceedings. Congresswoman Richardson's legislation will "protect the rights of responsible fathers, protect the rights of mothers, and help secure the prompt and stable placement of children," said Denise Bierly, President of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
According to the President of the National Council for Adoption, Chuck Johnson, the legislation will "protect the rights of responsible fathers, promote privacy rights of mothers, and help secure placements for children -- allowing them stability in the forever families they need and deserve."
"While these state registries have gone a long way to address the sensitive issue of parental rights, state registries do not interact with one another, meaning that there is no way to notify a father if he has registered in one state but proceedings take place in another," said Congresswoman Richardson. "Ultimately, the lack of information sharing across state lines undermines the effectiveness of each individual registry and often leads to expensive and heart-wrenching legal battles down the road."
The Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act links together current registries and provides the opportunity of registration to fathers in the remaining sixteen states. Registration would continue to be voluntary and free of charge and would not require a DNA test. The national registry will also protect the privacy of mothers, as the registry will not release any information about the mother or where she is living. Information can only be accessed by licensed adoption or child placement agencies, state courts, and licensed attorneys to aid in the efficacy of the child placement processes.
Congresswoman Richardson is a proud charter member of the Congressional Foster Youth Caucus.