Are You Baby's Daddy? State Asks Potential Dads to Register Online 

Um, guys? The government wants to know if you're doing it. You know, having casual sex.

The Virginia Department of Social Services has launched an online database that collects contact information from men who think they might have gotten a girl pregnant.

Alerting the government to your casual sex life can be a ticklish proposition, but there's a serious point here, says Pamela Fitzgerald Cooper, the state's acting adoption program manager.

If a sexual escapade results in a woman conceiving a child and she decides to let another family adopt the baby, Cooper says, the mother must attempt to let the biological father know his parental rights are about to be terminated. That gives him the opportunity to claim the child.

The database is intended to help the mother locate the father, Cooper says: "It will help to protect the man's rights to the child."

Registering will also streamline efforts traditionally used to contact the father, like taking out newspaper advertisements and tacking notices to the courthouse door.

"This is going to spare the mother some public scrutiny and puts some responsibility on the father," Cooper says. "They need to step up and protect their interests."

It will also help avoid painful circumstances for adoptive parents who take a child home only to have the biological father show up and sue for custody, claiming he was not made sufficiently aware of the adoption proceedings.

A father has until 10 days after his child is born to register on the database by filling out a short questionnaire providing a physical description, address, Social Security number and a few other details.

If the database, known as the Putative Father Registry, sounds wild, consider this: 34 other states already have such registries. The database is searchable only by mothers seeking to put their children up for adoption, lawyers representing a family wishing to adopt or authorized state agencies.

State officials cannot disclose how many putative fathers have registered since the database launched July 1, citing confidentiality concerns.

King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia NAACP, says he likes the idea, but it might not work in practice.

"The premise sounds good, but I'm always suspect whenever the state and Big Brother wants you to put [your personal information and Social Security number] in. You don't know what it could be used for at some point in time," Khalfani says. "The people who it might be of benefit [to], might not trust it" -- or, he adds, even be aware of it.

The Virginia Putative Father Registry is located at www.dss.virginia.gov/family/ap/putative_registry.cgi, or by calling (877) IF-DADDY. S

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