Whether you are an expectant/birth mother who has just selected a family for her baby, or a waiting adoptive parent who is considering open adoption, the topic of an “open adoption agreement” is sure to arise as you make your adoption plan.
An open adoption agreement is a formal, post-adoption contract that outlines expectations and boundaries for ongoing contact between birth parents and an adoptive family. In other words, it is a detailed guide stating if, how, and how much the birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child will stay in touch after the adoption takes place. This agreement is typically developed by the birth parents and adoptive parents together, but written by a licensed adoption agency. It begins when the adoption is finalized, and lasts until the child turns 18. At that point, the child (as a young adult) can make decisions independently regarding the amount of contact he or she would like with the birth family.
Many adoption agencies today offer open adoption agreements because of the benefits they bring. Open adoption agreements can ease many anxieties that arise during the adoption process, such as: What if the adoptive parents want to meet in-person, but I am not ready for that? Or, what if I want more (or less) contact with my child’s birth family? What if the other party changes their phone number or address? What happens then? Open adoption contracts can also ensure that everyone stays happy, and that promises are kept.
In an open adoption agreement, there are less unknowns. This is because the birth parents and adoptive parents have come together to make a plan. They have discussed, whether directly or through an agency, the amount of communication they are comfortable having with one another post-placement. They share a mutual, unconditional love for their child and understand that, above all, the open adoption agreement was made in the best interest of their baby.
Like every adoption plan, every open adoption agreement is unique. They are based on the needs and wishes of each family involved. Some open adoption agreements, for example, will require letters and pictures to be sent to the birth mother once a year or more often. Other open adoption agreements will involve more intimate interactions, whether through phone calls, emails, texting, video chats, or in-person visits.
If you are an expectant/birth mother considering open adoption, know that this level of contact (and its frequency) are choices that you can make. Your open adoption plan and post-adoption contract will be completely based on your needs and comfort level. There is no minimum or maximum amount of contact you must have: Adoptions With Love can help you define the perfect amount of “openness” in your adoption plan. Rest assured that all our families have agreed to at least a semi-open adoption, meaning you can receive letters and pictures from the family through our adoption agency, if and when you wish.
An open adoption agreement gives both birth and adoptive families the opportunity to share their wishes, set clear boundaries, and establish expectations for the future: what form of contact they will have, how much contact they will have, how frequently they will be in touch, how the child will be involved, and also if that contact will be mediated by an adoption agency. Having this plan in place, and understanding it on both sides, will help ensure that communication and relationships stay consistent over the years.
It is important to note that open adoption agreements are usually written in accordance with the laws of each state. In many states, these post-adoption contracts are legal and binding. However, some leave room for renegotiation over the years. Open adoptions agreements usually include language that all parties take into consideration the best interests of the child throughout the longevity of the agreement. At Adoptions With Love, for example, you will always have the opportunity to adjust the amount of openness in your contract as your family’s needs change. Please do not hesitate to contact Adoptions With Love to find out more about open adoption laws in your area.
Whether you are pregnant, have just given birth, or are an adoptive family considering open adoption, Adoptions With Love can help you create an open adoption agreement that works for everyone involved. Please call us at 800-722-7731 or visit adoptionswithlove.org/contact-us to learn more.