Post-Adoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

Post-adoption contact agreements are arrangements that allow contact or communication between a child, his or her adoptive family, and members of the child’s birth family or other persons with whom the child has established relationship, such as a foster parent, after the child’s adoption has been finalized. These arrangements, sometimes referred to as cooperative adoption or open adoption agreements, can range from informal, mutual understandings between the birth and adoptive families to written, formal contracts.

Agreements for post-adoption contact or communication have become more prevalent in recent years due to several factors:

  • There is wider recognition of the rights of birth parents to make choices for their children.
  • Many adopted children, especially older children, such as stepchildren and children adopted from foster care, have attachments to one or more birth relatives with whom ongoing contact may be desirable and beneficial.
  • Birth parents who participate in selecting the adoptive family may have a wide range of adoptive parent choices and may base their selection on the willingness of the adoptive parent(s) to allow post-adoption contact.
  • Contact or communication with birth relatives can be a resource to adoptive parents and adopted children for information about the child’s medical, social, and cultural histories.

Stages With Enforceable Contact Agreements

In general, state law does not prohibit post-adoption contact or communication. Because adoptive parents have the right to decide who may have contact with their adopted child, they can allow any amount of contact with berth family members, and such contacts often are arranged by mutual understanding without any formal agreement.

A written contractual agreement between the parties to an adoption can clarify the type and frequency of the contact or communication and can provide a way for the agreement to be legally enforced. Approximately 29 states currently have statutes that allow written and enforceable agreements for contact after the finalization of an adoption. The written agreements specify the type and kind of frequency of contact and are signed by the portieres to an adoption prior to finalization.

Contact can range from the adoptive and birth parents exchanging information about a child (e.g. cards, letters, and photos via traditional or social media) to the child exchanging information or having visits with the birth parents or relatives.

Who May Be a Party to an Agreement?

In most states that permit enforceable agreements, an agreement for contact after adoption is permitted for any adoptive child as long as the nature and frequency of contact are deemed by the court to be in the child’s best interests and the rights of all the parties to the agreement. Some states limit the enforceability of such agreements based on factors such as the type of adoption, the age of adoptive child, or nature of the contact. Most statutes permit post-adoption contact or communication for birth parents. Some states also allow other birth relatives who have significant emotional ties to the child to be included in the agreement, including grandparent, aunts, uncles, and siblings.

 

Source: Child Welfare: www.childwelfare.org

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