Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I'm a single mom of a seven-month-old baby. My child's father wants nothing to do with the child. I've tried to care for the child but unfortunately I can't do so anymore. I don't want my child to suffer. I love my child dearly but the expenses are too much. How do I go about placing my child for adoption?
Before you act on adoption, why not apply to the Family Court for a Declaration of Paternity to be made for the father of your child and for him to provide maintenance for your child? The law is there for you to use in the circumstances you have related. Do so! This is the Child Care and Protection Act. And while you are waiting for your application to be heard and for the maintenance order to become operable, you can ask for assistance from Social Services through the Children's Officer(s) in your parish. You cannot deny your child the opportunity provided by law to have the opportunity of being cared for and brought up by a biological parent. If your application is successful, the court will order the biological father to meet his obligations to his child by providing for his/her maintenance. But also, most importantly, he will be a part of that child's life through access provisions, while you have custody and care and control of the child.
The Child Care and Protection Act recognises this by stating that the provisions must “be interpreted and administered so that the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration”, and to achieve this, several principles must be followed. Among them are these:
•“The family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents”
•“If, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should (must) be provided”
The Act seeks to ensure that a family like yours and your child can receive help from the Government social services in order to enable you, as the natural family of the child, to continue to care for your child, and that you are not forced to give the child up for adoption simply because you cannot cope financially. You should also seek their assistance to obtain some skills training so that you will be able to obtain employment thereafter, and so become empowered as a woman who can provide for herself.
If you are working, the father of the child will still have to provide some maintenance for his child. The Maintenance Act says that the parents a must provide for their child. You have been trying, but you must go to the Family Court and get a summons and your affidavit in support prepared, issued and served on the father of your child. Do not let your child down by letting the man get away with his selfish, irresponsible conduct, which is contrary to our law and your child's rights.
When you have tried all the avenues that I have pointed out to keep and care for your child, if for some reason you do not succeed with them, and despite everything it still has not worked out, then you can consider adoption.
To do this, there is the Adoption Board at the Child Development Agency (CDA) on Duke Street, Kingston, if you reside in Kingston. If not, check with the CDA officer attached to the Family Court of your parish and ask them to assist you to put your child up for adoption, but explain that you would prefer to receive help to keep the child. Ask also that you be assisted to help care for your child yourself until such adoption occurs. The officer will assist you and direct you how to go about the whole process to have your child adopted by an appropriate family. In my view, it is always best (as the Act predicates) that a child remains with its family rather than in a State home.
So please try the steps I have detailed above. Take care of yourself and your baby, and do what you should to have your child's father meet his legal and moral responsibilities. Train yourself to be your own woman and have a happy life together with your child. If these suggestions do not work out, then I pray that a truly caring and happy family home will be found for your child.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.