Women Against Paternity Fraud Submits Paternity Acknowledgment Program Recommendations (during open comment period) to Health and Human Services
Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment and Required Data Elements for Affidavit DCL-16-20
RE: OMB Control Number 0970-0171
Comments by: Dianna Thompson, President and Founder of Women Against Paternity Fraud (WAPF)
November 26, 2016
Dear Ms. Ward,
In-hospital paternity acknowledgements are a cornerstone of government policy and a requirement for any state seeking TANF funds. Establishing paternity is important in knowing what name should be placed on a child's birth certificate, for financial support, access to family medical records, social security and veterans benefits, inheritance, custody and visitation, and the emotional advantage of building a relationship with both parents and extended families.
The current procedure is an example of good intentions gone badly. If the program was designed to do DNA testing prior to asking a man to sign a "paternity acknowledgment form" then this program would be workable.
However, a program that fails to screen out false paternity establishments scores a temporary statistical victory for states seeking TANF funds, but causes enormous enforcement burdens and emotional costs to the victims of false establishments.
Hospitals do a good job in making sure that mothers are connected to the right baby. Footprints are taken, identity bands are placed on both mom and baby, and nurseries are staffed and guarded by twenty-four-hour security.
Just as technology exists to protect mothers, DNA testing exists to protect men. But no in-hospital paternity acknowledgment program is geared toward providing protection for men. Anyone familiar with in-hospital paternity establishment programs knows that the programs are not geared toward verifying that the right man is identified as the biological father.
Instead, the programs are openly geared toward exploiting the emotional vulnerability of a man who has come to the hospital solely because he believes that the baby who is there...is his. The man's presence in the hospital to be with "his" baby is called the "magic moment" and the child support bureaucracy openly exploits it as the best opportunity to get a paternity acknowledgment with no questions asked.
As explained by the United States Department of Health and Human Services:
• The Experience of States indicates a father of a child born to an unmarried mother is more likely to be present and to admit paternity during the time surrounding the birth than later on…
• We are not requiring genetic testing for all births as a means of preventing fraudulent acknowledgments…
• Furthermore, we are not requiring hospital-based programs to offer the option of genetic testing as part of hospital-based programs.
Men come to the hospital solely because they are led to believe that the baby is theirs. They are proud, excited, trusting, and will sign the paternity acknowledgment form without first demanding a confirmation DNA test. From that moment on, actual paternity becomes irrelevant, and the paternity fraud victim is trapped.
Men being asked to sign a paternity acknowledgement form should be informed that by signing the form they are acknowledging that they are the father...and if later they discover that they are not the biological father through DNA testing they will still be responsible for child support until the child turns 18.
According to the American Association of Blood Banks, 28-30% of fathers tested for paternity are not the real father. And yet, nobody knows for certain how many paternity victims there are. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spends approximately $4 billion per year on child support enforcement. It further sponsors enormous research efforts and demonstration projects, and claims credit for establishing more than one million paternities per year. With a limited window of opportunity to contest paternity when the truth is disclosed, men and children will often become paternity fraud victims.
Whether the number is one million, one hundred thousand, or ten thousand, significant numbers of paternity fraud victims exist and are suffering from the burdens imposed by false paternity establishments. Unfortunately, there has been no interest in counting or identifying the number of victims, which may be due to every paternity fraud being seen as an embarrassment to the child support bureaucracy. Each paternity fraud victim is a potential reduction in performance statistics. Only the victims want to be counted and they do not control the research budget.
Aside from money issues, paternity fraud is a violation of a child's right to know his/her own identity and the identity of his/her father. The child has a right to have a relationship with his/her biological father and mother. Additionally, the proper identification of a child is important for genetic and medical reasons, as well as, inheritance and medical insurance coverage.
Under the law of many states, it ranges from difficult to impossible for a defrauded man or child to escape from a fraudulently induced paternity acknowledgement and the Federal government absolutely bears responsibility for facilitating many of those frauds through the current defective nature of the in-hospital paternity acknowledgement process. Our government should never be complicit in fraud and the government has a responsibility to all Americans, particularly including the potentially defrauded non-fathers and the children who are deprived of information about their actual birth fathers, their own genetic history, and the potential for a truthful relationship rather than one based on fraud.
In hospital paternity processes must be reformed as follows:
1) No individual may be asked to sign a paternity acknowledgement until the hospital representative, governmental representative or other person seeking the acknowledgement has confirmed by DNA testing that the correct individual is being asked to give the acknowledgement.
2) No state shall be credited with a paternity establishment for any purpose under any federal program, including child support incentive payments, unless the paternity establishment has been confirmed by scientifically valid paternity DNA testing.
3) All paternity acknowledgement forms must have printed in prominent, black box format the following or its equivalent: “WARNING: The signing of this form will have serious consequences for you and for the child. You absolutely should not sign this form, regardless of what anyone has claimed, asserted, or said to you about the paternity of the child, until you have received and evaluated the results of DNA testing of yourself and the child. If you are not the genetic father of this child or a participant in a sperm donor arrangement in which all parties are knowing and willing, it is wrong to deprive the child of the right to learn his or her genetic heritage, including possible genetic conditions or diseases, and it is wrong to deprive the child of an opportunity for a relationship with the actual genetic father.”
4) All paternity acknowledgement forms must have printed in prominent, black box format the following or its equivalent: “REPRESENTATION: The undersigned hospital representative, governmental representative or other person seeking this paternity acknowledgement has presented the results of scientifically valid paternity DNA testing to the person who is signing the paternity acknowledgement and has confirmed by such DNA testing and by examination of personal identification documents that the genetic father (or a knowing and willing participant in a sperm donor arrangement) is the person signing the paternity acknowledgement. Signed by [ printed name, title and signature in ink ].”
Thank you for your attention to the recommendations of our national organization on behalf of children, men, women, and the rights of all to know and live in truth rather than under the injustice and dangers of fraud. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me my contact information follows.
WAPF, President and Founder