Birth Father Registries

Information pertaining to birth fathers, birth father registries, and the process of domestic adoption.

birthfatherAdoption STAR was proud to have been the New York State project lead for the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project, a federally funded initiative that focused on infant adoption education for healthcare and helping professionals. We worked cooperatively with a child welfare organization named Spaulding for Children, which is located in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

A really useful curriculum that came out of the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project was entitled “Understanding the Birth Father Experience,” which includes a host of useful information related to birth fathers and birth father rights in the adoption process. Here are some of the basic curriculum components, including some definitions of birth fathers and information about birth father registries:


Birth father – A man who, with a woman, conceives a child who is later adopted or for whom an adoption is planned. He may also be called the biological father.

Putative father – A man who is not married to the birth mother and who has not acknowledged paternity, but whom the birth mother identifies as the child’s father.

Legal father – A man who is married to the birth mother at the time of conception or birth and who must consent to the adoption even if he his not the biological father. If another man is the biological father, the adoption agency must provide notice to him about the adoption.

NOTE – The above definitions are applicable in most states with regard to adoption. For additional information, contact Adoption STAR (who can answer your questions or refer you to a trusted adoption professional in your state).

Putative Father Registries

In almost all jurisdictions, putative fathers are entitled to notice of proceedings to terminate parental rights and/or adoption proceedings. States generally require a putative father to register on the putative father registry or acknowledge paternity within a certain timeframe in order to receive notice of such proceedings.

20+ states have statutes authorizing the establishment of putative father registries. Several states, however, only mandate by law that a putative father file a notice of paternity claim within a certain period of time. Failure to register or file may preclude the right to notice of termination or adoption proceedings.

Information Included in Registries

States differ in the information they maintain in their registries, although a typical registry may include:

  • Name, address, social security number, and date of birth for both putative father and birth mother
  • Name and address of any person adjudicated by a court to be the father
  • Child’s name and date of birth or expected month and year of birth
  • Registration date
  • Other information deemed necessary

Access to Information

Access to information maintained in registries also varies from state to state. Many jurisdictions permit access to certain registry records by people or agencies with a direct interest in the case. These interested parties may include:

  • Birth mothers
  • Court personnel
  • Attorneys
  • Licensed adoption agencies
  • Prospective adoptive parents
  • State departments or divisions of social services
  • State offices of child support enforcement
  • Any other person (upon a court order for good cause)

Termination of Parental Rights

Every U.S. state and territory has a statute providing for the termination of parental rights. Termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship. Once the relationship has been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption. Due to the seriousness and long-term impact of this decision, courts have stringent requirements that must be met prior to making this decision.