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Written by Jessie McNaughton
on January 12, 2016
Some birth parents considering adoption may worry that even if they choose an open adoption, they will never see their child again after placement, or that the adoptive family will try to shut them out of their child's life.  This is legally prevented by the birth parents and adoptive parents signing a legally binding and court enforcable Post Adoption Contact Agreement.  

 

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When birth parents place their child with an adoptive family in an open adoption, the two families agree to a post adoption contact agreement (a legally binding document) according to the birth parents wishes.  Birth parents can be assured that their wishes will be honored by the adoptive parents due to the Post Adoption Contact Agreement being court enforceable.

 

In New York State agency adoptions, birth mothers and birth fathers who want to have an open relationship with the adoptive family and have post-adoption contact the with child and family can have an legal agreement that guides the relationship.  The Post Adoption Contact Agreement is discussed and agreed to by the birth parent(s), adoptive family, and adoption agency at the time the birth parent makes an adoption play for their baby. Post Adoption Contact Agreements are legal contracts between the birth parent(s), adoptive parents, and adoption agency that detail the minimum requirements of post-adoption contact between the birth parent(s) and adoptive family.  They are one of the safeguards in open adoption in New York State.

 

Post Adoption Contact Agreements commonly include:

  • Sending pictures and letters about the child’s growth and progress from the adoptive family to the birth parents. Usually, the agreement outlines a minimum schedule.  This schedule can be four times per year during the child's first year of life, twice a year until the child is five, and once a year until the child is 18 years old.  The schedule is determined and agreed upon by the birth parent(s) and adoptive parents.
  • Visitation between the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents. Most courts will approve agreements for one or two visits per year.  Again the schedule of those visits is agreed to by the birth parent(s) and adoptive family.

 

 Important Notes Regarding Post Adoption Contact Agreements in New York State:

  •  Agreements are only court enforceable in New York State Agency Adoptions (not in private independent adoptions).  Thus, if birth parent(s) want a court enforceable agreement they must work with an authorized adoption agency. 
  • Family Connections, Inc. is an adoption agency that ensures the use and enforcement of Post Adoption Contact Agreements
  • Family Connections, Inc. was one of the first adoption agency in New York State to advocate for the use of Post Adoption Contact Agreements.
  • Agreements specify the minimum requirements for post-adoption contact; birth families and adoptive families may have additional contact based upon their relationship.
  • Many open adoption relationships develop over time and the amount of contact between the birth parent(s) and adoptive family changes.  The agreement sets forth only the minimum requirements for contact.
  • Birth mothers and birth fathers will have separate agreements with the adoptive family. The birth mother and the birth father can have similar requirements for post-adoption contact or can have very different requirements.  For example the birth mother may wish for an annual visit with the adoptive family but the birth father may not want visitation.
  • Agreements obligate the adoptive family to providing pictures & letters and visitation as indicated in the agreement; it does not require the birth parent(s) to comply with the agreed contact.  For example, if the birth parent chooses not to visit the child there is no consequences to the birth parent.  However, if the adoptive parent refuses to a visit with the birth parent, the birth parent has the right to require the visit with the adoptive family.
  • In our experience, it is very rare that an adoptive family doesn't comply with the agreement.  Most adoptive parents are thrilled to have continued contact with their son or daughter's birth parent(s).  Many adoptive parents wish to have more contact than the birth parents wish for. 
  • Agreements are developed by the birth parent's lawyer after the attorney provides the birth parent will legal counsel.  Click here for a listing of adoption attorneys in New York State who develop Post Adoption Contact Agreements.  
  • If the adoptive parents do not comply with the agreement (for example they don't send the birth parent pictures & letters or agree to a visit), the birth parent first calls the adoption agency to resolve the problem.  If the adoption agency is unable to get the adoptive parents to provide the pictures & letters or visit, the birth parent can then petition the court to enforce the agreement.
  • Family Connections, Inc. is available to mediate disruptions regarding Post Adoption Contact Agreements. 
  • Family Connections, Inc. has never had an adoptive family who has not provided the birth parent(s) with the required post-adoption contact.
  • If the court must enforce the Post Adoption Contact Agreement, the court may order the adoptive parents to comply with the agreement and/or pay a fine.  The court will not nullify the adoption; the court will not remove the child from the adoptive home.
  • Family Connections, Inc. has never had a Post Adoption Contact Agreement that needed to be enforced by the court.  In the unlikely event that a birth parent needs their Post Adoption Contact Agreement enforced by the Court, we are here to help.  
  • Agreements protect birth parent(s) rights to wanted post adoption contact with the child and adoptive family.

If you are a birth parent and you ever think an adoptive family is not honoring your post adoption contact agreement, do not hesitate to get in touch with the agency, social worker or lawyer who assisted you while making your adoption plan.  Adoption agencies, adoption attorneys and adoption social workers are there to help throughout the entire adoption journey, not just the beginning.  We will be happy to help you through the court process.  

 

Family Connections, Inc. is an authorized New York State adoption agency that supports birth parents in open adoption and advocates for Post Adoption Contact Agreements.  To learn more about open adoption, please contact our staff at 607-756-6574 or info@adoptfamilyconnections.org or download our agency's Adoption Guide below.

 

Get a free adoption guide  for birth families here.

 

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