AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WACH) --- It’s something no father would ever want to experience.
Your own daughter being taken away from you through adoption.
For one South Carolina man this was his story and after months of fighting through court he was able to show his daughter the love of a father.
“I didn’t know if I would ever see her again,” says Christopher Emanuel, Founder of Sky Is The Limit Foundation.
Christopher Emanuel is talking about his daughter Skyler.
“I always said I wanted to be a great dad,” says Emanuel.
But his dreams of being a dad turned into a nightmare after his girlfriend placed their newborn daughter up for adoption without telling him.
“I was lost man I was hurt I was confused because I wanted to insure that I could be there for my child,” says Emanuel.
Christopher fought back turning to the court system in Aiken County, where Skyler was born.
“This was my opportunity to prove that I was deprived of that my constitution and state rights were violated,” says Emanuel.
Under South Carolina law unwed fathers can sign up on the responsible fatherhood registry. It’s an online database through DSS that lets the state know that you fathered a child. Pat Littlejohn is the president of the advocacy group South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.
“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,” says Pat Littlejohn, President of South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.
Christopher registered adding the name of Skyler’ mother, making it mandatory that he would be notified if she put the child up for adoption and that’s actually what she did.
Court documents show Christopher added his name to the registry on February 4th2014. However the adopted parents filed a motions on February 19th to adopt Skyler. Christopher was not added on the documentation as the biological father even though he was listed as such on the registry.
But under South Carolina law – someone living in another state can adopt a baby born here only under unusual or exceptional circumstances.
So, under the South Carolina Children’s Code a biracial child like Skylar fell under that category.
Therefore the adoption in part was able to go forward.
“My daughter was in San Diego, CA with the perspective adoptive couple where her name is changed. I have medical documentation calling my daughter another name and she was never legally adopted,” says Emanuel.
Christopher kept the faith and contested the adoption. Court records show that his paternal rights were terminated without his permission. At one point he and his lawyers were willing to adopt his own daughter back. After almost a year a judge sided with him. Baby Skyler was sent back to South Carolina and the courts granted Christopher sole custody of his daughter.
“Aiken County Judicial Center this is where it went down at. But when I’m here being in this space it fills me with joy, I feel safe because Aiken County brought my daughter home where she belongs,” says Emanuel.
Senator Shealy tells me that at the time the adoption code was written, it was more because of the public’s unwillingness to want to adopt mixed race or children with disabilities. She says the out of state option was added so that South Carolina children could find a forever home. She also tells me that with changing times it might be a good idea to review and update that portion of the adoption code.
In response to his fight, Emanuel started the Sky Is The Limit Foundation where he travels across the nation educating father's on their parental rights.