What Is a Putative Birth Father Registry?



If you have researched domestic infant adoption, you may have heard the terms putative father, putative father registry or birth father registry.  A putative father is a man who is believed to be the biological father of a child when he is not married to the mother at the time of birth.  Unfortunately these men are only known to adoption agencies or attorneys if the birth mother names them.  If the birthmother is unwilling or unable to identify the father of her child, it is impossible to locate him.  As such, this gentleman may not be informed of the child’s birth or the potential adoption process.  In some cases, he may not even know that he has fathered a child.  States are faced with the question of how to protect the parental rights of these men.  A man has the right to know he has fathered a child and the right to choose to parent the child if he desires and is able, just as the birth mother has the right to do so.


Each state has its own law on how to proceed with an adoption involving a putative father.  Some states require a man to support the birthmother and be involved in her life during the pregnancy to establish his parental rights.  Generally a set period of time has to pass after the birth of the child without any supportive action from the putative father for a court to proceed with terminating his parental rights.  If a birthfather is unknown, there can be increased legal risk for the adoptive placement.  When a gentleman becomes aware of his child after being placed for adoption, a long legal battle can ensue with possible disruption after a child has attached to their adoptive parents.  The case of baby Jessica [1993], removed from her adoptive parents at the age of 2 years to be placed with her biological father, is an example of this.


Many states have responded to this ethical dilemma by using putative birth father registries, which require a man to register if he believes he has fathered a child and would like to assert his parental rights.  Currently over 30 states have such registries and each operates slightly differently.    There is generally a limited time period for him to register after the birth of his potential child.  Registration commonly includes providing his name, verifiable identifying information, location and contact information, as well as any information he has for the woman with whom he was intimate, including approximate date.  During an adoption process, an adoption agency or attorney checks the registry for matches to the birthmother making the adoption plan.  If a match is found, the man is then notified of the birth and the adoption proceedings.  If he does not respond, his parental rights can be terminated along with the birthmother’s so the adoption may proceed.


One of the limitations of the current system is that each state operates their putative father registry separately.  If a child is conceived in one state but born in another, a man may not know to register in both states.  It is entirely possible for a child to be born outside of the state where the man is registered and he is therefore never notified.  The Permanency for Children Act of 2017 (HR 3092) proposes a national putative father registry to prevent such issues, assisting states in locating putative fathers in other states.  This bi-partisan bill proposes expanding the use of the Federal Parent Locator Service to cooperate with state systems and cross-reference to exchange information.  The FPLS is currently used to establish paternity and locate parents specifically for child support obligations.  This framework and system is a logical starting point for national cooperation and oversight of a federal putative father system.


If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to do the following:


  1. Read Mary Beck’s scholarly article “Toward a National Putative Father Registry Database
  2. Review this fact sheet from the National Council for Adoption on the Permanency for Children Act of 2017
  3. Personally call your representative and ask them to support this bill

Information on the Adoption Tax Credit

taxcreditBelow are some details that I received from the IRS relating to the adoption tax credit.

Documents substantiating the adoption or attempted adoption are required to be attached to the taxpayer’s return. Acceptable documents are identified in the September 2010 guidance and in IRS publications. In addition, the IRS may ask for proof of expenses if a return is under examination. All taxpayers are advised to keep receipts for expenses claimed on a tax return for at least three years. That applies whether the expenses are related to adoption, medical care, charitable giving, a business, or pretty much anything else. If the IRS asks for evidence to support an item claimed on a tax return and the taxpayer cannot offer any, the item may be reduced or disallowed. This is standard operating procedure.  The IRS has begun looking more closely at adoption claims. This is why you are now hearing about requests for verification of expenses. This relates to a statutory change that made the credit refundable. Before 2010, the credit merely offset taxes.  The adoption credit was modified by the Affordable Care Act (PL111-148, section 10909), and then by the December 17th tax extenders bill (PL111-312, section 1(b)). The IRS has not yet issued any official guidance on the latter modification. We’ve recently launched webpage, Adoptive Parents: Don’t Delay Your Adoption Credit Refund. It contains a great deal of information on the refund, including necessary documentation, FAQ’s, etc. Continue reading

New Home Study and Post-placement Requirements for China Adoptions

The  China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption released some new home study and post-placements requirements. These new guidelines and regulations for the home study go into effect as of October 1, 2011; and those regarding post placement visits and reports apply to families who receive Notice of Coming to China for Adoption after August 1, 2011.

personwritingHome Study

First, you must have a home study completed by a Hague accredited adoption agency. Please contact Nightlight before you begin the home study process so we can advise you as to the selection of a home study agency. (As a Hague accredited agency, Nightlight provides adoption home study services in Southern California, Colorado, and South Carolina.)

China also requires certain applicants — anyone who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse, has experienced emotional loss or trauma or abuse, or is in counseling — to provide a psychological report as part of the home study process. The type of report required and the contents are not specified:  it will be up to the home study provider to determine the type of evaluation that the family may need. For example, emotional loss is a common experience — especially among those who have gone through infertility and possibly miscarriages — and the home study provider will want to address these issues with the couple. If someone has experienced serious trauma and abuse, then it may be more appropriate for counseling to be recommended if certain issues have not been resolved.

Continue reading

Waiver on Vaccines: International Adoption Simplification Act

vaccinationOn November 30, 2010, President Obama signed the International Adoption Simplification Act.  This Act provides the same waiver for  required vaccination documentation for Hague Convention adoptions as is available for non-Hague adoptions.  Effective immediately, I-800 families can follow the same procedure as used by I-600 families to apply for a vaccination waiver by completing a DS-1981 (Affidavit Concerning Exemption from Immigrant Vaccination Requirements) which must be signed and notarized.  The DS-1981 can be downloaded from:  http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/80002.pdf. The DS-1981 may be revised in the future to indicate that it also applies to Hague cases; until then, the current form will be accepted.
Continue reading

Passage of International Adoption Simplification Act by Congress November 15th

Washington-DC-CapitolCongress Comes Together to Help Orphans Find Families

Washington, DC – National Council For Adoption (NCFA) is pleased to announce the passage of S. 1376, the International Adoption Simplification Act, an important step forward for orphans awaiting adoption and their families.  On November 15th, 2010, Congress joined together across party lines to pass S.1376, which will allow parents to internationally adopt older children (ages 16 and 17) when adopting a younger sibling. Additionally, S. 1376 will remedy the requirement for needless and potentially dangerous vaccinations for internationally adopted children adopted under the age of ten. Continue reading

Adopted child returned to Russia

A response from Nightlight’s Executive Director, Ron Stoddart:

When a child is legally adopted in the United States, that child bears the same relationship to their adoptive parent(s) as a biological child would to their parents.  The adopting parents accept all of the rights and obligations of the parent-child relationship.  When a child is legally adopted in another country to be immigrated to the United States, the adopting parents also have the same rights and obligations.  Our laws allow an adopted child to be treated under the law in the same way as a biological child.

The recent case of an adoptive mother of a Russian child sending the child back to Russia, unescorted, with a note rejecting the child, sends a cold shiver through the adoption community.  Does anyone have any doubt what would be done to this parent if she had gone to a far away place and left her biological child unattended with a note saying she no longer wanted the child?

If the State of Tennessee does not deal with this parent expeditiously and with the same outrage that they would treat a parent abandoning her biological child in a similar manner, then the U.S. will have no credibility in stating that adopted children are treated the same as biological children in our Country.


On April 16, 2010 the U.S. Dept of State, Office of Children’s Issues issued an announcement, stating that suspension of adoptions from Russia has not been confirmed.

Considering adoption? What does the adoption tax credit mean to you?

taxesIf you are considering adopting a child this year, you’ll be happy to hear the latest update on the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit has been extended for one more year, has increased, and you may even qualify for a refund!

The new tax credit provides not only a credit but a refund if you do not receive the $13,170 in tax credit. So instead of waiting perhaps up to five years to get your full tax credit, you can receive the credit as a refund if you do not pay $13,170 in taxes.

If you are considering adopting a child from China, for example, the fees and your expenses could work out to be about $23,000. When you deduct for the tax credit, which may also be a refund, you could really be paying about $9,830 in net costs. If you or your spouse’s company has employer-provided adoption benefits, which on average, tend to be about $5,000, you could end up having a net expense of about $4,830. Continue reading

Are international adoption agencies part of an “Orphan Manufacturing Chain”?

[This post was originally published here on January 13. We withdrew it because it was submitted to another venue, but it is now available to be re-published here, with some minor edits. – admin]

Although there is no accurate number of infant domestic placements here in the U.S., it is estimated to be about 14,000 per year. If women here in the U.S., who have access to Medicaid, food stamps, Women Infant Children, and other safety net programs choose adoption for their infants, why is it so hard  to believe that in impoverished countries there are single women who would choose to place their infants for adoption? Continue reading

JCICS issues position statement on I-600A renewals

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services has worked tirelessly to ensure that the spirit of the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) of 2000 is honored by the government bodies responsible for implementing it. A particular problem recently has been USCIS’s decision to allow only one renewal of the I-600A pre-approval for families waiting to adopt from China and Haiti. Soon, families who have already renewed once may be required to start their homestudy and other adoption paperwork over again. This requirement will be disruptive and expensive, and as JCICS articulates below, the requirement would be a violation of the intent of the IAA.

Caroline Hope is a member of JCICS, and we, too, urge the USCIS to solve this problem without putting an onerous burden on adoptive families.

Joint Council Position on I-600A Renewals

As previously noted, Joint Council and others in our field have great concern regarding the one-time renewal of I-600A approvals and the impact on Potential Adoptive Parents (PAPs). Following is Joint Council’s assessment and statement on this very important issue facing over 10,000 U.S. families.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has again confirmed that PAPs with an approved I-600A in a Hague country may only file for a renewal one-time. Thereafter, families must ‘start from the beginning’ and file an I-800A petition.

It is very clear that the authors of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 intended to ‘grandfather’ all I-600A petitions filed prior to the date on which the Hague Convention went into force in the United States (April 1, 2007). At the time the legislation was drafted, the authors did not foresee the lengthy processing time now associated with adoptions from countries such as China and Haiti. Yet the intent was clearly to Continue reading

USCIS: Guatemala adoption law update

Yes, it’s old news now (six-days old!), but I wanted to pass along this notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about the current status of Guatemala adoptions and adoption law. This press release is available from the USCIS website as a PDF.

USCIS Update

January 25, 2008

Intercountry Adoptions Under the Hague Convention

On Dec. 11, 2007, the Guatemalan Congress passed new adoption legislation, which is a necessary step toward meeting the Government of Guatemala’s obligations under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. The new provisions are effective as of Dec. 31, 2007. Continue reading