Here is our viral reunion video which has received more than 100,000 views and which paints a beautiful culmination to what began as a sad loss for this kind-hearted man who only discovered he had a daughter 42 years after my conception.
Our story began the day I drove down the drive to my birth father's home on July 16, 2011.
Who would have dreamed that two and half years later, long after the roller coaster of reunion had spun us about it's wild ride, that my Pop, Jerry Knight, and I would be scheduled as guests on Huffington Post's Live Interview coverage honoring National Adoption Month. We will be talking about our reunion, and he will be representing the birth father's perspective for men who have fathered children of adoption all over the world.
We are excited to share our unique reunion story. So often reunions covered in the media are between birth mother and child, with birth father reunions being quite underrepresented. There are reasons for this: many birth fathers are simply unknown, DNA testing back in the 60's did not exist, and social stigmas and systems have long sought to erase all ties between birth parents and their children. Birth mothers' names were far more likely to make it on the birth record than the birth fathers'. This left the birth mother bearing the brunt of the stigma, as well as the emotional toll of adoption. Thus ensued the stereotypical belief that birth fathers got off scot-free.
"Not so! Not all!" says Pop, who works with grieving and searching birth fathers via his Facebook page dedicated to Birth Fathers. "I lost a whole lifetime with my child, and had no say so about it," he explains.
Thanks to a sexist society and system that failed to hold birth fathers accountable even to the slightest degree, adoptees my age and older must rely on our birth mother's memory and willingness to share what information she has. These memories are often about a man she has harbored ill will toward for decades. A man who got her into the mess and suffered little to no consequences - a man who may never have even known. This does not describe all birth mothers or birth fathers, but it is representative of many.
Thus ensues an emotional tug-of-war between the newly-found birth mother and her child. Many times the birth mother wants to keep this reunion all to herself, and new bonds are strained under her unreadiness to share, or expose, the other half of the story. This happened to me and my birth mother, and had it not been for my birth mother digging deep within herself to find among her memories a few names she had put behind her, I never would have reunited with my birth father. About a year after our reunion she found him for me. I had his name -- something that many adoptees of my era can never have without their birth mother's cooperation.
Her cooperation was my only hope. The only place my birth father's name was - was in her head. My birth mother had assumed I was the child of a different man, a man she said had raped her, and she never contacted Jerry, the man with whom she had shared only one night. Read about that night here.
At 70 years of age, Jerry Lee Knight learned that 41 years earlier he had fathered a child. Back in 1969 Jerry was not contacted as a possible father, so he had no opportunity to have a say in my relinquishment, and this has haunted him and confounded him with grief since the day he learned of my existence.
According to www.alovingchoice.com, "The U.S. Supreme Court has protected a putative father's right to constitutional protection of his parental rights when he has established a substantial relationship with his child. The Court defined a substantial relationship as the existence of a biological link between the child and putative father, and the father's commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood by participating in the child's upbringing.
However "when an infant is placed for adoption at birth, the putative father can have no more than a biological link to his child; he never received an opportunity to develop a substantial relationship with his child. The Court has yet to rule on what this putative father must do to protect his parental rights."
Still the question remains, when do birth fathers get to claim their children as their own? Will they legally be granted the opportunity to raise their children before adoption can enter the picture? And most importantly, should birth mothers be required by law to inform, use DNA to confirm parenthood and allow birth fathers the option to step up, before adoption can be considered?
Too many birth fathers are stuck in this embryonic limbo denying them the right to have a say about, and often to even have a right to step up into the role before adoption occurs. How heart breaking it must be to find out after the fact, let alone 40 years after the fact, that the child you fathered is now in the legal custody of another family. Simply, and with no legal recourse, denied the right to fatherhood with no say and no legal rights in place to protect you.
I hope you tune in to the Huffingpost coverage and share with those you know who are adopted, or part of the triad known in adoption circles as: the adoptee, the adoptive family and the birth family. Birth fathers have long been given a bad rap as the guys who question "Is it mine?" and then say "prove it!" But many birth fathers long for their lost children or the lost time with children just as birth mothers do. Point being birth fathers experience loss too, have rights too and deserve the same support, understanding and voice as anyone in the triad.
I encourage everyone touched by adoption to log on and tune in!
NOTE: This blog post will be updated as links and details become available.