5 Questions You Have About Open Adoption in NY & NJ
When you place your child for adoption in New York or New Jersey, it’s doesn’t have to be a permanent goodbye. Today many birth parents have an open adoption with the adoptive family which allows them to receive updates and photographs of the child through the child’s 18th birthday. In fact, some birth parents have the opportunity to visit directly with the adoptive family, which allows them to remain an ongoing part of the child’s life.
If you are interested in an open adoption in New York or New Jersey, we will assist you in finding an adoptive family who will support that desire and honor and embrace your communication preferences. Many adoptive families believe that an open adoption is best for the child and, because of that, they will embrace your desire to remain in contact after the adoption has been finalized. If you have questions about what open adoption means for you, you can contact us at any time by calling 914-779-1050 or submitting our online form.
To help you get a better idea of what an open adoption may look like for you, we’ve answered some of the most common questions people have about open adoption.
1. What is open adoption?
In an open adoption the birth parents and adoptive parents communicate with one another before, during and after the adoption process is complete. Contact can take place in the way you’re most comfortable, whether that’s emails, letters, photos, phone calls or in-person visits. Many birth parents find that open adoption allows them to watch their child grow and it eliminates many of the “what if” questions that come with closed adoptions.
Open adoption also allows you to get to know the adoptive family before you make a commitment to them. That contact will likely give you the confidence of knowing that you’ve selected the best family for your child. As your attorneys, Rumbold & Seidelman will provide you with the resources you need to identify potential adoptive families. We will also assist you to obtain the information you need to select the best family for your child. This process typically includes your being able to learn about the adoptive parents through reading the “profile books” they have prepared to introduce themselves to you. You can also speak with the adoptive parent(s) by telephone or Skype and, if you choose, meet with them in-person before making a commitment to an adoption plan. You have the right to get to know the adoptive parents, their lifestyle, how they plan to raise your child, their family traditions and interests or anything else you feel would be important to know about the family before making your decision.
That being said, an open adoption is not co-parenting. While you will have the opportunity to develop a relationship with your child after the adoption is finalized, you will not be the child’s legal parent. That means you will not have a say in the child’s upbringing or the adoptive family’s parenting styles. That’s why it is so important for you select an adoptive family in whom you have complete trust to love and support your child and provide for all of his or her needs. If you wish to enter into open adoption in New York or New Jersey, we can guide you through that process to help you to structure a healthy and trusting relationship with the adoptive family.
2. Can open adoption be legally enforceable?
We can help you to create a post-adoption contact agreement between you and the adoptive parents which will be legally enforceable in New York. This agreement will detail how often and in what ways you, the adoptive parents and your child will keep in touch over the years. Post-adoption contact agreements are legally enforceable in New York if you’re placing your baby through a New York authorized adoption agency. There are also many New York judges who will enforce post-adoption contact agreements in the context of a private placement adoption (where an adoption agency is not involved in the placement.) Either way, we can help you create a post-adoption contact agreement that details how often and in what ways you, the adoptive parents and your baby will keep in touch over the years.
Once you and the adoptive parents agree to the terms of the post-adoption contact agreement, that agreement will have to be approved by the judge. The judge will approve the agreement if they decide that enforcing the agreement is in the best interests of the child. Once the agreement is approved by the court and your adoption is finalized, you have the right to seek court enforcement of the agreement if the adoptive parents fail to honor the terms they’ve agreed to. While the adoptive parents’ failure to comply with post-adoption contact agreement will never be a basis for setting aside the adoption decree, the court does have the power to hold the adoptive parents in contempt if they refuse to honor the agreement.
Unfortunately, New Jersey law does not provide for the legal enforcement of post-adoption contact agreements. However, because many birth and adoptive parents agree that post-adoption contact is healthy for the child, many enter into “good faith” agreements which outline everyone’s expectations regarding future contact. While you do not have the right to seek court enforcement of the agreement, that is typically not necessary because most adoptive parents understand the importance of honoring the commitments they’ve made to the birth parents. As your lawyers, we will draft the Good Faith Agreement between you and the adoptive family. If you need us, we are happy to be a resource for you after placement to help facilitate a healthy ongoing relationship between you and the adoptive family.
Since individual situations vary, we recommend that you reach out to us directly to obtain our legal advice tailored to your particular circumstances, including your desire for an open adoption.
3. Can I change my open adoption preferences after my baby is adopted?
In many cases, a birth parent’s desire for open adoption communication changes over time as their life circumstances change. Perhaps, as your child grows older, you may be more comfortable with less frequent updates or, by contrast, you, the adoptive parents and child may desire more in-person contact. Many times a post-adoption contact agreement outlines the minimum agreed-upon contact, but there is nothing which would prevent you and the adoptive parents from having more contact if everyone agrees that would be best for the child.
It’s important for you to honestly discuss your feelings with the adoptive family to make sure everyone is comfortable with the anticipated changes and that everyone is on the same page. If you and the adoptive family establish a healthy and respectful open adoption relationship at the outset, it’s more likely that adoptive parents will be receptive to changes in communication down the line.
The professionals you worked with on your adoption should be willing to remain a resource for you even after your adoption has been finalized.
4. What are the benefits of open vs. closed adoption?
The term “closed adoption” means different things to different people. In most closed adoptions, the birth parents have received some information about the adoptive family and they may even have spoken with or met the adoptive parents before the baby was born. However, in a typical closed adoption, the expectation is that the birth parents will not have any contact or communication with the child after he or she is placed in the care of the adoptive parents.
Some birth parents prefer a closed adoption because they believe it will be emotionally easier for them. They believe that, if they don’t have contact with the child, they will be able to more easily put the adoption process behind them and move on with their lives. Others seek to have a closed adoption because they may not have shared the fact of the adoption with family or friends, and they fear that this sensitive information would come to light if they had an open adoption. Given the importance of this decision, we strongly suggest that you obtain counseling and legal advice on this issue as part of your adoption plan. What may have initially seemed like the best plan may not turn out right for you in the long run.
The benefits of an open adoption include:
- The ability to choose and meet the adoptive family
- The ability to watch your child grow up through pictures and letters
- The possibility of meeting your child or even having an ongoing relationship with your child
- The ability to directly share medical information important to your child
- The ability to share family information that will bolster your child’s sense of personal identity
- The ability of your child to gain a better understanding of your personal circumstances and the love that went into your decision to place him or her for adoption
5. How do I get started with an open adoption in New York or New Jersey?
Whether you’re sure about your adoption decision or would just like more information about your options, feel free to give us a call at: 914-779-1050. We can assist you in finding the adoptive family you trust to provide the best life for your child, who will also respect your wishes with regard to post-placement contact.