Cooperative Adoptions: Contact Between Adoptive Families and Birth Families After...
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Cooperative Adoptions: Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families presents citations and text of State laws related to formalized open adoption agreements. While every attempt has been made to be as complete as possible, additional information on this issue may be in other sections of a State's code as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures. Readers interested in interpretation of specific statutory provisions within an individual jurisdiction should consult with professionals within the State familiar with the statutes' implementation.
Cooperative adoption or adoption with contact are terms that refer to arrangements that allow some kind of contact between adoptive families and members of the adopted child's birth family after the adoption has been finalized. These arrangements can range from informal, mutual understandings between the birth and adoptive families, to written, formal contracts. The written agreements specify type and frequency of contact and are signed by the parties to an adoption prior to finalization. The modes of contact can range from an exchange of information about the child between adoptive and birth parents; to the exchange of cards, letters, and photos; to actual personal visits with the child by birth family members.
Adoption with contact agreements have become more prevalent in the last decade. Growth is due to many factors, the most significant being that the majority of adoptions in the U.S. today are non-infant adoptions. Adoptions more typically involve older children, such as stepchildren and children adopted from foster care. These children, because of their age, frequently have attachments to one or more birth relatives that would be in some way beneficial for them to maintain. In addition, contact with birth relatives can be an ongoing resource to the adoptive parents for information about the child's medical, social, and cultural history.(1) In general, the law does not prohibit post-adoption contact. Since adoptive parents have the right to decide who may have contact with their adopted child
, they can allow any amount of contact with birth family members they choose, and such contacts are often arranged by mutual understanding without any formal agreement.(2)
However, many adoption professionals feel that a written contractual agreement(3) between the parties to an adoption can clarify the modes and frequency of contact and thereby minimize conflicts. In the absence of statutory guidance, however, problems have arisen. Unless sanctioned by law, agreements for post-adoption contact are purely voluntary and typically cannot be enforced in court. There is also some concern that the existence of an agreement might be used as grounds to set aside an adoption in the belief that an agreement for post-adoption contact is inconsistent with the severance of all rights of the birth parents
that is the traditional consequence of relinquishment for adoption.(4) Increasingly, adoption professionals have looked to State legislatures to provide the legislative mechanisms for drafting and enforcing post-adoption agreements.
Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)