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Published: Saturday, 10/23/2010

Ohio high court right to unite father, son

BY ROBERT FRANKLIN

This month, the Ohio Supreme Court finally cleared the way for Benjamin Wyrembek of Swanton to be united with his biological son, who will turn three years old this week. That should have happened long before now.

But for almost three years, attorneys for an adoptive couple in Indiana who have raised the child since birth have kept the case tied up in court, separating father and son.

In the vast majority of cases, adoption is a fine and noble act. But Mr. Wyrembek's son has never needed adoption. He had a capable, loving father who wanted to care for him.

And from the very first, that fact was public knowledge. Within 30 days of the boy's birth to a former girlfriend, Mr. Wyrembek registered with the Ohio Putative Father Registry. Then he filed suit to get custody of his son.

At any time since then, the couple that sought to adopt the boy could have done the obvious, fair, and kind thing: hand Benjamin Wyrembek his son and seek another child to adopt. Instead, they chose litigation.

In every court, Benjamin Wyrembek prevailed, because he is the child's rightful father. And every time he did, opposing attorneys filed more motions and appeals.

Media reports have emphasized the distress that the boy will surely suffer when he is removed from the only parents he has known. That distress will be heartbreaking for all, especially the child.

But let there be no mistake about the cause of that heartbreak. It is not Benjamin Wyrembek, but adoption attorneys who mistakenly believed that after enough time and expense he would give up his son.

There is a larger picture the media have overlooked. Every day, about 400,000 children in the United States need to be adopted. Millions more worldwide are warehoused in orphanages in countries such as China and Russia. They have no parents and get tragically little care.

These children are literally crying out for the love that good adoptive parents could give them. The great tragedy of the Wyrembek case is not only the effort to force adoption on a boy who didn't need it; it's also the loss of good adoptive parents by another child who did.

The Ohio Supreme Court did the right thing not only for Benjamin Wyrembek, but also for countless other parents who face losing their children the way he almost did.

And it did the right thing for all the children throughout the world who do not have the priceless resource that Mr. Wyrembek's son has: a father who loves him.

Robert Franklin is a board member of Fathers & Families, a Boston-based organization that seeks reform of family court proceedings.



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