The Salt Lake Tribune recently wrote an article about open adoption agreements. The author quoted several adoption experts and families, including IAC’s own Kathleen Silber, citing their views on whether open adoption agreements should be legally enforceable. Here are some additional thoughts from Kathleen on the subject:
Open adoption agreements are legally enforceable in an increasing number of states. The IAC led the way in California many years ago with legislation making written open adoption agreements enforceable in CA. Of course, the relationship between adoptive parents and birthparents is built on trust, not contracts. The written (and enforceable) agreement simply outlines what the parties to the adoption have agreed upon for the lifetime of their adoption. It helps both sides to have clear boundaries and expectations.
If there is a dispute down the line that can’t be resolved between the parties to the adoption, the court would get involved to enforce the agreement (such as, for example, a yearly visit). The court would never vacate the adoption. The adoptive parents are legally the parents of the child, and that will never change, regardless of whether or not the agreement is adhered to. The adoptive parents also have the right to determine what is in their child’s best interest. For example, if at a certain age, the visits were upsetting to the child, they could be suspended.
So, with open adoption agreements, the adoptive parents retain their full legal rights as parents. They simply must also comply with whatever agreement they made with the birthparents about contact and visits. This provides protection for all parties, especially birthparents, who have no legal rights once an adoption is finalized.
Open adoption is about trust and honesty, as well as an ongoing relationship. Open adoption agreements don’t hinder the relationship in any way; they simply outline what the parties themselves have agreed to.
What do you think about open adoption agreements?