SALT LAKE CITY — The president of the Utah Adoption Council resigned Tuesday amid controversy over claims the council is working to undermine the rights of birth fathers.
Wes Hutchins was to serve another month as president of the Ut ah Adoption Council (UAC) — a group consisting of adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, families, and birth mothers and fathers. Instead, he's founded a new nonprofit organization he says will work in the best interests of all parties in adoptions.
There was certainly friction in Tuesday's council meeting, as some representing adoption agencies accused Hutchins of having his own agenda. In turn, he pointed fingers at them for not acting ethically in administering adoptions.
I'm a big proponent of adoptions, but I firmly believe they need to be done legally, constitutionally and ethically.
–Wes Hutchins, former UAC president
"I'm an adoption attorney. I've done over 1,080 adoptions, (and) finalized six adoptions on Friday of last week alone," Hutchins said, following the meeting. "I'm a big proponent of adoptions, but I firmly believe they need to be done legally, constitutionally and ethically."
Hutchins pointed to what he calls "egregious cases of fraud," namely: the case of Christopher Carlton, who was told by the birth mother that his child had died, and the case of Robert Manzanares, who was told by the birth mother she was traveling from Colorado to Utah to visit relatives when she was actually giving up their child.
These cases, and many like them, provide evidence, Hutchins said, that birth mothers should be held accountable.
"That's one of the changes that we need to make: that fraud is no longer accepted as a method of taking a child from one home, destroying a family, and placing (the child) in another home to create another family," he said.
That opinion conflicts with others who sit on the UAC.
"Wes has had a different vision of what's best for children in the state of Utah," said attorney David Hardy, also a former president of the UAC.
Hardy, whose clients include adoption agencies and adoptive parents, said Hutchins isn't as focused on what's best for the child.
Wes has taken more of the approach of some of the rights of fathers. He's taken some real strong positions on fathers that are, in many ways, inconsistent with Utah code.
–David Hardy, former UAC president
"Wes has taken more of the approach of some of the rights of fathers," Hardy said. "He's taken some real strong positions on fathers that are, in many ways, inconsistent with Utah code."
"There's been a very choreographed effort to sweep birth fathers and others under the rug," Hutchins said.
And some of those birth fathers were present and vocal.
"I do have a voice, and it needs to be heard," said Jake Strickland, a father currently fighting for custody of his child.
"There's two sides to every story," added Bobby Nevares, a man in the same situation as Strickland, "but they didn't want to hear the father's side."
Hutchins said the council didn't really want to hear his side either and accused him of having an agenda.
"If you want to call that ‘an agenda,' then absolutely, call it an agenda. And that agenda is to see that we have a balanced approach in Utah to how we're doing adoptions," Hutchins said.
It's clear this father's right is a hot-button issue among the council. Today's meeting was certainly tense as each side traded accusations.