Guardian UK : Lask Fights for Young Father's Rights to Child Custody after Secret Adoption
Father fights adoption of secret son
Michael Ellison in New York
Tuesday December 5, 2000
A 20-year-old airline flight attendant is challenging his 16-month-old son's adoption on the grounds that he was unaware of the child's existence.
Juan Campoverde, who lives in Harlem, New York, says he was not told about the birth of Shiloh Morabito. "I just want my son. How can this adoption be legal if my son's birth was kept a secret from me?"
He says in papers filed with a family court that he tried to keep in touch with Sabrina Morabito, 26, after their 10-month relationship ended, but that he was always turned away. "Her mother always answered the phone and always had a reason why Sabrina was not available or didn't want to speak with me," he said. "I was always rushed off the line."
The couple went their separate ways two years ago and it was not until August that Ms Morabito's mother told him that he was a father.
By then, the 13-month-old Shiloh had been adopted. Court documents in the father's case say that Ms Morabito threatened never again to talk to her mother, a teacher, if she told him of the pregnancy.
The child is now said to be in the care of a couple in Poughkeepsie, New York, after a previous adoption attempt failed when the private agency concerned said that the father should be notified.
Sari Friedman, general counsel for the Fathers' Rights Association of New York, said: "This is the first case of its kind in that it addresses a situation where a father came around but the mother refused to tell him. Fathers should be notified and given the first right of adoption."
Unmarried fathers however are rarely successful in opposing adoptions because New York state law says that they do not need to be told of the proceedings.
"My client's case is different because he was calling for a year and was never told of the pregnancy or the birth," Susan Chana Lask, Mr Campoverde's lawyer, said. "It was only after the child was given away that the grandmother developed a conscience and revealed the secret."