When Christopher Emanuel from Aiken County, South Carolina, became a father over seven years ago, he had hopes and dreams for his daughter.
“I always said I wanted to be a great dad,” he told WACH-TV.
He and the baby’s mother were not married, but he signed up with the Responsible Fatherhood Registry through the Department of Social Services in South Carolina that would require him to be notified if his child went up for adoption.
“Before rights are terminated to allow an adoption to occur attorneys as well as department of social services will check this registry and if his name is on there he must be notified,” said President of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families Pat Littlejohn.
Emanuel took the right steps and was officially signed up on Feb. 4, 2014, but adopters signed their papers on Feb. 19, unbeknownst to him.
He was never notified, never given a chance to step up for his daughter before she was given away without his knowledge or consent.
“I didn’t know if she was safe … I didn’t know if I would ever see her again,” he said. “I was lost, man, I was hurt, I was confused because I wanted to ensure that I could be there for my child.”
Part of the issue is that South Carolina adoption laws allow for children born under “unusual or exceptional circumstances” to be adopted by out-of-state adopters — and being biracial, his daughter Skyler fell under that category. It’s another law many agree needs to change.
Emanuel lawyered up and pursued Skyler, even though she’d been taken from Aiken County, where she was born, to San Diego.
“My daughter was in San Diego, California, with the prospective adoptive couple where her name is changed,” Emanuel said, “where I have medical documentation calling my daughter another name but she was never legally adopted.”
He was not even listed as the biological father on the adoption paperwork, and his rights had been terminated illegally.
“This was my opportunity to prove that I was deprived of that, you know, my constitution and my state rights were violated,” he said.
It took almost a year, but a judge finally ruled in his favor, and his baby was sent back to South Carolina and to his waiting arms. As a result of his struggle and the way his rights were trampled, Emanuel started a group in 2015 to advocate for fathers’ rights, called “Sky Is the Limit Foundation.”
“Despite the obstacles and structural impediments he faced as a father he was successful in bringing his daughter home,” his website states. “Now as a single father, through his triumph and the lessons of fatherhood, he has taken on a role of being a Father Practitioner.
“Educating and empowering fathers to cultivate responsibility and family values. Why its imperative to be proactive. The importance of registering with your State Putative Father Registry and the rights of putative fathers.”
Emanuel, his daughter and his work are all a beacon of hope for others who want to avoid the same issues that he encountered and be able to keep their children close.
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