The Utah Adoption Council meets today for an annual retreat. I'm told by the president-elect Wes Hutchins that several issues related to unmarried fathers and their rights to their children that I exposed in this week's cover story will be discussed.---
"This is item number 1 on my agenda," Wes Hutchins told me on the phone yesterday, referring to, "Some Call It Kidnapping: How Utah adoption laws
take babies from the nation's unmarried fathers." The Utah Adoption Council is a non-profit advisory committee that sponsors most of the almost-annual revisions to Utah's adoption laws.
But it's not just Utah laws that Hutchins is excited to discuss with the rest of the council: he also wants to discuss Larry Jenkins, the lawyer/lobbyist who many of the men in my article blame more than anyone else for their predicaments. Not only is Jenkins the frequent legal representative for birth mothers and adoption agencies in these cases, but he's the legislative representative for the Utah Adoption Council and a registered lobbyist for two Utah adoption agencies.
Hutchins was particularly concerned about one comment Jekins made to me. Jenkins said the bill he promoted on behalf of the Council during the last legislative did not address some issues raised by the Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and others because "I haven’t had anybody suggest that there ought to be something changed about the statute. … Why comment on provisions we aren’t changing?"
Problem is, Hutchins said he was a part of a rousing debate--conducted mostly via e-mail--in which members of the Utah Adoption Council very much discussed some of the issues in my article and suggested changes.
Hutchins is currently representing a putative father from Washington state--who I did not discuss in my cover story only because I was not aware of the case (maybe a follow up)--who opposed the adoption of his child but lost--in part--because the child's mother delivered the child in Utah and placed it for adoption under this state's laws, which are unusually difficult for unmarried fathers to navigate, especially those from out of state. Hutchins client has a filed federal RICO complaint, a law created to fight organized crime, which alleges a criminal conspiracy between the birth mother, adoption agency and others, to kidnap and commit mail fraud.
Hutchins also said he plans to follow up with some of the sources I quote in the article, including putative father/adoption expert Erik Smith and executive director of the New York City-based Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Adam Pertman. Both support adoption, but worry not only that U.S. laws inadequately protect unmarried fathers in many adoption cases, but that the situation is uniquely acute in Utah.
I've covered this issue now for almost five years. I'm curious to see if changes these fathers will applaud may be on the way in the next legislative session.