We've discussed various aspects of the adoption process on this blog before. One of the issues that prospective adoptive parents, including stepparents and foster parents, may need to deal with is a biological father who is not legally the child's parent.
Minnesota has something called the Minnesota Fathers' Adoption Registry. It allows "putative" fathers to be notified if someone takes steps to adopt a child. Generally, in order for a man to receive such notification, he must register no later than 30 days after the birth of a child he believes is his. If he waits longer than that, he forfeits his right to be notified of a pending adoption unless he can prove that he was unable to register within the baby's first month of life. This usually involves going to court. MFAR's "Frequently Asked Questions" document encourages men in this situation to seek legal advice.
The MFAR can be searched even without a pending adoption by the birth mother, stepmother or other relative. Social service agencies may also search it.
With a couple of exceptions, before a child can be legally adopted in Minnesota, the Office of the State Registrar must search the MFAR. The search is not required for children born outside the country or "safe place" babies. Minnesota has a Safe Place for Newborns law that allows a mother or someone whom she has designated to "anonymously surrender an unharmed infant born within the past seven days to a designated safe place," according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This can be a hospital or urgent care facility (while open). A mother can even do it by calling an ambulance via 911.
Once an adoption petition is filed, the putative father, if registered, has 30 days to either relinquish or claim his paternal rights. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the MFAR seeks to take into consideration the interests of both parents and the child before allowing an adoption to proceed. It also seeks to "stabilize the adoption process" by limiting the period in which a putative father can assert his parental rights.
Legal adoption of a child is a significant step for a family, and particularly for the child. It's always advisable to have experienced legal assistance to help ensure that everything is handled correctly and that the process moves as efficiently and smoothly as possible, for everyone's sake.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health, "Minnesota Fathers' Adoption Registry (MFAR)" Sep. 06, 2014