US Senators Introduce Bill to Create National 'Responsible Father Registry'

A pair of U.S. Senators who co-chair the Congressional Coalition on Adoption have introduced a piece of legislation that would create a federal level "Responsible Father Registry."

Democratic Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced on Thursday the Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2013.

In a statement, Sen. Landrieu argued that the proposed national registry would be valuable to fathers across the country. "By establishing a national registry, we can better ensure that any father has the chance to be involved in the life of a child he may have fathered," said Landrieu.

"This bill would also provide protection to families going through the adoption process by preventing a father who did not register his interest from disrupting the placement of a child into a loving family."

A "responsible father registry" allows a man who has fathered a child with a woman he is not married to the right of being notified when an adoption or termination of parental rights action takes place.

On the website, posters decried the proposed measure as an example of government overreach.

"…this sounds like more government intrusion & tracking. this goes way beyond the authority of the government. its hypocritical, that women who also abandon children & single dads are not included," posted "Anonymous1172260."

South Carolina has a similar regitsry, which is under the state's Department of Social Services. For a "putative" father, or a man who fathered a child with a woman who not his wife, there is no fee for registration and it does not get used to enforce payments for child support.

According to South Carolina's registry, "If a putative father does not register, he may lose his right to object to termination of his rights or to adoption of the child."

Rita Fuerst Adams, national executive director of Fathers and Families, wrote in an online article about a 2012 bill that called for a similar system.

"Over one-third of all births are to unwed parents. According to the proponents of such registries, adoption proceedings for these children can be delayed, contested, and disrupted when paternity is in question," wrote Adams. "Adoption agencies and attorneys favor registries because adoption proceedings can then commence without the possibility of disruption due to late paternity claims."

Responsible Father Registries currently exist in 34 states, including South Carolina and Landrieu's Louisiana.

"Currently, many proceedings involving child placement and adoption cross state lines, but states have no mechanism to cross-check their registries to identify possible fathers in other states," said Landrieu.

Co-sponsor Sen. Inhofe commented, "The role of the father in the family is something we, as a society, need to reaffirm and protect. This legislation promotes the rights of the fathers in our country who feel a responsibility to provide for and play a role in their children's lives."

As Landrieu and Inhofe proposed the legislation in the Senate, U.S. Representatives Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri are proposing a similar bill in the House.

The creation of a national registry of responsible fathers has received its share of criticism from those who feel a concern about the project.

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