Ask AF: Proof of Parenthood

Should I be required to prove my parenthood when I'm out with my adoptive daughter?

Q: At the dentist the other day, the parents before and after me checked in without incident. When it was my turn to sign in, the receptionist took one look at me (I’m white) and my daughter (she is African American) and told me I had to provide proof that she was, in fact, my child. I asked why, when our last names are the same and the other people were not asked to do so. She said that all adoptive parents had to have proof. This has also happened to me at my gym, and I just don’t feel like it is right. Do I have to walk around with court documentation at all times?

A: You are correct that it isn’t fair—this must be so frustrating for you. Still, service providers are within their rights to request proof that you are your child’s parent. Your gym, for example, has made a business decision that it would rather offend some parents than run the risk of releasing a child to the wrong person. The dentist’s office may be concerned about allowing someone who’s not a parent or guardian to authorize medical care. Although you can’t compel them to change their policies, you can let them know that it is important to handle the issue sensitively. For example, a note in your daughter’s file should avoid the need to question you at every visit. It is not just your irritation at stake—your daughter could want to know why her relationship with you was constantly being questioned. The people who help take care of her should understand that.

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