Post Adoption Contact

Early on in my own trying to understand adoption journey (both parents were adoptees), I read a book recommended in my all things adoption group titled The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. I continue to learn almost every day and in this blog, I continue to try and share what I learn along the way. Today’s new concept was Post Adoption Contact Agreements. I already knew that open adoptions have been the more common approach over the previously totally closed adoption where often the child is lied to about their own origins and that lie is protected by closing and sealing the adoption records and changing the child’s birth certificate to make it look like the child was actually born to the adoptive parents. That was the way my parents’ adoptions were concluded, though thankfully, neither of my parents were lied to about having been adopted – at least that.

I have come across complaints that adoptive parents often renege on open adoption agreements. This is a reality, even today, even when promises are made to the expectant mother that she will be given updates, photos and even contact with her child post adoption. This is why my heart is more inclined towards doing what we can as a society to preserve children within the family they were born into. But it isn’t always possible and like war, adoption remains a reality that won’t end in my lifetime – if ever.

In trying to learn a bit more about post adoption contact agreements I did read In some states, when adoptive parents and birth parents sign an agreement called a “Post Adoption Contact Agreement,” it is filed with along with the adoption papers and becomes a legal, enforceable part of the adoption. However, in other states, it isn’t recognized as a legally binding contract. Therefore, the first thing to learn about is whether it will be enforceable in the state where the proposed adoption will take place.

According to one adoption attorney, Michael Belfonte, Missouri currently does not allow for enforceable post-adoption contact agreements. If either a birth parent or an adoptive parent breaks their post-adoption contact promise, there are no legal consequences that could be addressed in court. This is what he has to say about open adoptions –

You should not let this deter you from choosing an open adoption. In the majority of cases, both birth mothers and adoptive parents will keep the contact promise they made — as it’s just as important to them as it is to the other party. In fact, for many birth mothers, the possibility of an open adoption is why they made their adoption choice in the first place. They will want to see their child grow up and, more likely than not, will do everything they can to continue their contact.

Likewise, once they are fully educated about open adoption, adoptive parents will understand the importance of open communication for their adopted child throughout the years — and will do all they can to honor the choice the birth mother made and support her through her healing process. If you’re worried about a birth or adoptive parent continuing to stay in contact with you, there are some things you can do:

Choose a professional who will mediate post-adoption contact. When a parent begins to decrease the frequency of their contact, you may feel frustrated. Things can get complicated if you try to fix it by yourself, and you may end up doing more harm than good. If your contact is mediated by a professional, they will know the best way to speak to the other party about their lapse in communication and handle the situation going forward — without harming the relationship you already have.

Establish a solid relationship with the birth or adoptive parents. Open adoption can be more than just an agreement to send and receive pictures and letters every couple of months; before placement, it gives you the chance to get to know your adopted child’s birth parents or adoptive parents in a way that will be highly beneficial for the future. If you have the chance to build a strong friendship with the birth or adoptive parents before placement, it’s highly recommended. The more you understand, respect and trust each other, the less likely it will be that the other parents will break their agreement to keep in touch as the years go by.

Make your expectations known. While you cannot create a legally binding post-adoption contact agreement in Missouri, you can certainly create a written agreement that outlines contact expectations throughout your adoption process. In fact, this kind of written document is encouraged in any open adoption.

Remember, just because an open adoption contact agreement is not legally binding in Missouri doesn’t mean that you can’t have a successful open adoption relationship with your child’s birth or adoptive parents. More often than not, a prospective birth mother chooses adoption because she can watch her child grow up through open adoption — and has no intention of ever going back on her open adoption agreement. Similarly, adoptive parents understand how important open adoption communication can be and will likely do all they can to honor your contact agreement.

However, if a birth parent does break their post-adoption contact agreement, it’s important that adoptive parents continue to send the pictures, letters, emails, etc. that you agreed to. In many cases, if a birth parent decreases their contact frequency, it may be because they’re at a difficult point in their life — and fully intend to return to their previous contact frequency as soon as they can. It will mean a great deal to them that you continue to honor your agreement and give them updates on their adopted child during this time.

On the other hand, if adoptive parents miss a scheduled contact with you as a birth parent, it’s important that you do not jump to conclusions about their intentions. Like anyone else, unforeseen situations can come up that may delay their contact with you. If you’re concerned about them holding up their end of the agreement, we recommend you reach out to your adoption professional, who can approach them professionally and non-confrontationally about honoring their contact agreement.

I find this law on the books in the state of Missouri dated August 28 2018 – it is vague however about enforcement in my opinion. Still this is an example of one state in which I happen to be living. You should look into the legal decisions in your own state before agreeing to an adoption based upon promises that it will be open and you will be allowed ongoing contact.

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

Stuff Happens And It Goes Horribly Wrong

Today’s story is so long, I will NOT try to convey it all. If I do this well, I can summarize it to make the relevant point.

There is a mom with 2 children at home ages 9 and 3. There is a 15 month old boy at the center of a custody battle. He was NOT removed by child welfare authorities. The circumstances of the pregnancy are complicated. This child’s father is a married man with a wife and newborn (she was pregnant at the same time this woman was). Paternity was assessed during the pregnancy which led to her separation from the older children’s father.

All of this turmoil, left the expectant mother vulnerable to a coercive adoption agency that stands to make $35,000 if the adoption can be finalized. The biological father will not relinquish, which is the obstacle for the hopeful adoptive parents who have had custody of the boy almost continuously since birth.

Though heroic for a husband faced with these circumstances, he came to the hospital when she went into labor.  The baby arrived at a time that there was NO hospital staff in the room. Her husband caught baby, otherwise he would have ended up on the floor.  Her daughter was instantly in love with the baby and wanted to hold him every second. The biological father, while remaining with his wife and newborn, offered to financially support the mother.

She is dealing with so many emotional issues, she has been on anti-depressants the whole pregnancy. Her therapist asked her what is she going to do about her situation ? She tells him she is thinking about adoption because she doesn’t feel she can raise another baby without help. He wants her to call and talk to 2 agencies before their next session. She admits that she was clueless and had NOOOO idea about adoption or agency red flags etc.

So she meets with a social worker (who actually was the Director of the agency). For the first time, she felt like she was able to share her story without the other person judging her or making her feel worse for what she had done. Talking to her felt like such a relief. So, they agree that she’ll contact their available families and see if any are comfortable with her situation. At the time, there were only 2 families waiting and 1 was not comfortable with her situation.

So, she looks at the profile of this couple, and she sees how important family is to them. She cries reading about their issues and many attempts to carry a pregnancy, even with adopted eggs. It makes her even feel so guilty. Here she is with an unplanned pregnancy, and not even science can help this couple. 3 weeks later, they meet for the first time over dinner.  Long story shorter, that couple leaves the hospital with her baby and she goes home without him.

However . . . bear with me, I am trying to get to the heart of this story as it stands now.

She made it very clear that first night that she was going to be very involved in her son’s life. Openness was a must and the couple agreed to it. I cannot relate how many “open” adoptions go bad once the adoption is finalized. No expectant mother relinquishing custody of her newborn should ever rely upon it. It is never legally enforceable and the adoption parents will have all of the leverage. They treated her like an outsider, like she was no more than a surrogate.

When her son was 1 week old, the social worker insisted that the hopeful adoptive parents allow her to visit. By that weekend, she told her social worker that she wanted to regain custody of her son and she didn’t want to proceed with the adoption. The hopeful adoptive parents begged her not to take him away but later that day, she picked her son up from the agency and brought him home.  Her son’s biological father was saying he would leave his wife and come back
to help her raise the baby. Then admitted he couldn’t do it. Conflicted parents all the way around.

She was coerced into signing the termination of parental rights by the hopeful adoptive parents, when she decided again to give up the idea she could raise the baby based on her current circumstances. Yet, there was a sticking point when a letter from her psychiatrist was required to prove that she was mentally capable of understanding the adoption plan. The psychiatrist refused – twice. So often an agency will exploit the post-partum period of a new mother. She wants her baby back now and she is fighting to achieve that. The biological father won’t consent, so that is in her favor. She’s concerned about causing trauma for her son by uprooting him.

The most reassuring, personal experience response was this – “As a child that was with the same caregiver from birth to 2 years and then moved.  That experience was not horribly traumatic for me. The trauma for me was losing my mother in the first place. I don’t call what I had a transition because it was less than a handful of quick visits. I have zero recollection of the family I spent those 2 years with. The bond is not your child to the hopeful adoptive parents, it is the hopeful adoptive parents who are bonded to your child.  Please don’t let anyone’s words about trauma change your course. There may be a slight adjustment period – or none – since your son will be back with the person who’s loss initially was experienced as trauma. Mother/child separation is the true wound. My suggestion is listen to those that have lived it, not those speculating about its effects.”

So this has been today’s cautionary tale.  The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mothers to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets for the rest of her life giving her baby up too quickly. It is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem.

 

The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mother to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets giving her baby up too quickly for the rest of h

The Legal Rights Of Siblings

This from someone with experience – If you are adopting a child or children in who have siblings being adopted into other homes, make sure you have a quality attorney, NOT one of the ones that are contracted with through the state. Know the laws in your state in regards to sibling rights post adoption. Your attorney needs to go over this in great detail. Sibling separation agreements, continued contact agreements, etc are just RECOMMENDATIONS and not legally binding, unless they are worded in a certain way. This means that even though they are telling you these things will have to be agreed to and take place in order to adopt, any adoptive parent can choose to cut contact without punishment – at any time – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Don’t be like me. Don’t think that just because the agreements are there and someone is verbally telling you this has to be done is going to mean that it will prove legally binding. It may not. Don’t be ignorant like me. KNOW THE LAWS. Have an attorney who is well versed in these matters. And make sure that continued sibling contact is legally required and can be enforced. I learned a valuable lesson about this, but it may be too late and sadly at the expense of 3 children who shouldn’t have to be denied contact. 3 children who will carry scars and wounds because of my ignorance in this area. I don’t know – what the fuck was I thinking ? But undeniably, I fucked up. I preach and preach about us being educated and I failed to educate myself in regard what may possibly be the most important aspect of adoption. Don’t be like me. Don’t fuck this up. Make sure your kids and their siblings if they have been separated by adoption have legal rights to remain in contact with each other. Please. Don’t put your kids and their siblings in the situation my stupidity put mine in.

The truth is the best intentions in adoption often fall through. Adoptive parents can just say “it is not in best interests of our child” and get judge and court order to close contact. A common tactic is to move so far away, it’s no longer feasible to have physical contact. Even in the case of agreed to open adoptions, the intentions are often not followed through. Then, there is the less visible problem – if an adoptive parent does not want contact, the child is placed into an impossible situation. The child has to choose between loyalty to their adoptive parents or to their separated siblings – it’s a no win situation. When I became a non-custodial mother and my daughter was older, I provided her with a calling card so that she could call me at no charge, when doing so was not going to complicate her life with a step-mother and half and step siblings. She was in control.

These kids are human beings and should have the right to maintain contact with their siblings, at the very least, after adoption. It is increasingly known that genetic connections are better for the child than the loss of them.

Another woman shares her experiences –

I have played this game for 25 years with my daughter’s adoptive parents. I would suggest not pushing back at them at full force. The more you push the more they will close down. Tt’s not about twiddling your thumbs ….. it’s about playing the long game. Sigh. And I understand this as regards my daughter. It was very hard to be an absentee mother but now that she is in her mid-forties and her step-mother died quite a few years ago now, I am grateful I have managed to retain a good relationship, a loving relationship, with her. She often mourns her mom who died. I would never ever criticize the woman who raised her. That is totally misguided for anyone caught on the outside.

Reform work currently taking place in the state of Ohio seeks to establish the lawful connection for siblings in foster care. There is more work that needs to be done, so that the right to maintaining a connection isn’t terminated, if an adoption occurs.

Here is the view from a person who became separated – I read my sibling agreement contract. I was supposed to see three of my older siblings (the ones I lived in the house with before foster care) 3 times a year. I have no clue how it fell apart, but I never saw my siblings again – until I found my biological family at 17. We were all able to get together once last year after 15 years apart. Then again, I read the open adoption contract too and that also fell apart. I was supposed to know my family but it seems like nobody cared enough.

Evolving Approaches

There may come a day when adoption is a rare occurrence but that day isn’t here yet.  What is happening is that adoption is experiencing a more honest, truthful and open approach to the reality where adoption has already occurred.  And there is at least one group (I know because I belong to it) where the members seek to convince mothers-to-be who may be considering a surrender of their baby for adoption to at least try parenting first.  That is one of the ways that adoption may become rare someday.

One question may be – how young is too young to tell a child they are adopted ?  Some advice is – not to ever wait.  Putting off talking with your adopted child about how they came to live with you often becomes a never good time to tell.  I know of one case where that situation has become very very complicated and the truth is still not shared with young adult adoptees.  It has become difficult in an unusual way, so understanding this, I am not judging it, but it is an example of what can happen when telling is put off until the child is “older”.

One adoptee shares – I had an adoption story that was bare bones to start with, as I got older, more information and whys were added, discussions evolved from that retelling. So, create a short TRUE story of how you came to adopt your child – 4 or 5 sentences long at a very young age. Practice telling the story to a friend, in the mirror so YOU are comfortable telling it. Then ask your child if they want to hear about when you adopted them….and tell your child that story.

Waiting until the child is older means they’ve lived that many years without you being truthful with them about who the child is. Just don’t wait.  You want your child to trust you and they will if you are always telling them the truth. Set a date on the calendar to do it soon, a very short story of how you came to adopt them…

Another issue that often comes up with transracial adoptions is about teaching these children about their culture of origin.  It’s never too early to start introducing things from the child’s heritage. 

For example, a Puerto Rican child adopted by a white family. Some suggestions – Introduce Spanish as a normal part of your household, even if that means everyone learning it. Watch as much cultural content about Puerto Rico and its history as possible, and try to find opportunities to connect the child with their culture. Connect with the child’s biological family’s religious traditions – if that is a possibility – so it isn’t foreign to them. Always speak positively about their family, heritage, and culture. Plan a family trip to Puerto Rico when the child is of elementary school age, and then return as frequently as your finances allow. Bonus – learn about your child’s roots and connect to them in tangible ways. Try making some local friends who are Puerto Rican and see them regularly. If this all feels like too much, just recognize that your child is currently surrounded by American culture 24/7.

It goes without saying that this advice applies to all other ethnic groups and countries from which Americans adopted children on an international scale.

Even in those situations where the biological parents are addicted and may even be violent, or maybe the mother never wanted to keep her child, leaving the hospital as soon as she gave birth . . .

There is likely to be some extended family somewhere who would be open to some form of contact. Every child should have those biological ties as much as it is safe and of course, desired by the child themselves.  And don’t forget – people DO often change over time.  How they were at one point in their lives evolves and they become more conventional in their lifestyle and behavior.

Finally, it’s okay if a young child doesn’t understand what being adopted actually means.  An adoptive parent should openly talk about it anyway.  The child will always remember being told their story, about their birth or whatever is known and can be shared in a positive manner.  Adopted children will talk about being adopted, if they have always heard that, even before the child fully understands what it means. Truly, it IS simply a part of who the child is.