May 6th was an important day in Georgia state law: HB 21 was signed into law by Governor Deal, making post adoption contract agreements legal in the state of Georgia. This endeavor began earlier this year when Representative Mary Margaret Oliver introduced the bill after being approached by Judge Michael Key of Troupe County. There was much controversy in the adoption community over this bill in the beginning. However, after much discussion, research and testimony, it gained acceptance and understanding, passing the House and Senate before becoming law.
There are numerous advantages to having legally enforceable post adoption contracts, while the disadvantages are hard to determine. Adding a legal backing to the agreement between adoptive parents and birthparents validates their commitment to each other and helps ensure the genuine commitment to an open adoption plan. Adoptive parents will have peace of mind, knowing the commitment that their child’s birthparents have made and having an outline of what the contact will look like filed with the courts. Birthparents are often skeptical that the adoptive parents they choose will cut them out of their lives after the placement. Having their contact agreement filed in the courts and seen as a legally enforceable contract will solidify the commitment the adoptive parents are making with the birthparents. The children of open adoption are going to benefit knowing that all their parents cared about them and loved them enough to take the time to outline their commitment to each other. Birthparents will likely be more willing to choose Georgia adoptive parents, creating more families in Georgia. In addition, this bill helps validate and protect the work that open adoption agencies perform.
In cases where the children are older when placed for adoption, such as when in the care of the State, this new law may make the transition easier for birthparents to relinquish their rights. More birthparents may be willing to make an adoption plan that is in the best interest of their child if they know that they will not lose contact with their child. Representative Oliver is currently working with the Department of Family and Children Services to find the best methods to implement this new law into practice.
Within the law, there is room for modification and enforcement. It specifically outlines who may be a party to the agreement, who can request it be altered, and who can request it be enforced. As it currently stands, only the adoptive parents can file a petition seeking modification. In the future, this may be one area that is asked to be altered. The law also outlines that any party, as defined in the bill, may seek enforcement or termination of the contract. Any changes to the post adoption contract agreement must be found to be in the best interest of the child. If the agreement is not followed or is altered, an adoption cannot be overturned. Having a post adoption contract agreement is optional; not all agencies, adoptive parents, and birthparents will choose to engage in this contract. However, if they do, and it’s filed with the courts, it will be legally enforced.
You can read the full text of the law here: http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/view_online.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.legis.ga.gov%2FLegislation%2F20132014%2F136914.pdf