Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Navigating Open Adoption

Another article about open adoption:
Four-year-old Ella Varner sits between two women in a busy park in central Pennsylvania. On her left is her birth mother; on her right is her adoptive mother. The two women talk of cartwheels and preschool as they watch Ella with her sticky fingers and her face painted, one half a cheetah and the other half a tiger.
Ella has known both her birth mother and her adoptive mother since the day she became part of her adoptive family. As she grows into adulthood, her mother, Susan Varner, hopes to continue this level of openness, which as it turns out, is a rapidly growing trend, according to research published recently by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
"The era of truly closed adoptions is probably coming to a quick end," said Adam Pertman, the institute's executive director.
Oh, and I wanted to point out this comment from adoptee blogger, The Adopted One,  about the Salt Lake Tribune article on enforceability of open adoption agreements that I posted about yesterday:
Quite frankly in my opinion - if an open adoption agreement isn’t enforceable in the state where the agency operates and the adoption will take place, then it should not be part of the advertisements to the mothers – once a mother contacts them they can tell her about an openness option – but must also clearly (and repeatedly) indicate can be closed at any time by the [adoptive] parents, and should not factor into her choice of either parenting or adoption.
No kidding, right? No way would an adoption agency advertise openness in a state where such agreements are not enforceable, right?!  Wrong.  I posted this before in a part of the article I'm working on, but you might have missed it in the midst of all the verbiage (!), so I thought I'd slap it up again, this time with footnotes:
It is still common practice in states without enforceable open-adoption agreements, however, for agencies and adoptive parents to enter into such unenforceable “agreements.”[1]  For example, Amazing Grace Adoption Agency, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers the following services to birth parents:  “Choosing and meeting with an adoptive family; Receiving information and pictures of your baby following an adoptive placement; Different levels of openness with the adoptive family.”[2]  If you visit the website of Missouri Adoption Agency, a page will describe open adoptions, and includes a testament by a birth mother describing her contact with her relinquished child: “It was my desire to have an open adoption and this has worked beautifully for all of us.”[3]  At Spirit of Faith Adoption Agency in Ohio, the agency describes open adoption as an option: “Most importantly, because of openness, there can be contact in the future and an ongoing story to share of your child’s life; a story that is based on love. When there is openness, or on-going communication between adults, your child will know that the decision you made was not an easy one, and made out of love for him/her.” [4] The birth parents may not be aware that the openness promised by these agencies will not be legally binding.

[1] Six states have statutes that explicitly provide that while open adoption agreements may be entered into, they are not enforceable by the court:  Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. Yet, in those states, adoption agencies still offer “open adoption agreements.” 
[2] http://www.agadoptions.org/bparents.php (last visited by author July 21, 2012).  No mention is made that open adoption agreements are not enforceable in North Carolina. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §48-3-610 (2010).
[3] http://www.allblessings.org/birthparent/typesofadoption.shtml (last visited by author July 21, 2012).  The website does not mention that open adoption agreements are unenforceable in Missouri. See Missouri Ann. Stat. §453.080(4) (2010)(upon completion of an adoption, further contact is solely at the discretion of the adoptive parents).
[4] http://www.spiritoffaithadoptions.org/faq_birthparent.html (visited by author July 21, 2012).  Ohio does not provide for enforcement of open adoption agreements. See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§3107.62, 3107.65 (2010)(All terms of open adoption are voluntary, and any party can withdraw at any time).


Stephanie said...

Open adoption "agreements" are nothing but a lure to get a vulnerable woman unsure of her decision to relinquish her rights to her child. Once she does and the adopters make off with her child, there is not one thing she can do if and when they shut her out. The law is most often on the side of the paying customers. People who do this to a young woman are despicable.

How they look at themselves in the mirror every day and call themselves "parents" of a child they basically stole via fraud is beyond me.

-J.D. Humenay said...

I wonder - are the adoptive parents even aware that such agreements are being made? I'm not 100% sure what happened in my case. I know it's legally a "closed adoption" (as most were back then), but I also have copies of letters my bio mom wrote the social worker to try to get information/pictures on me. The social worker basically gave her the run around ("They moved", "They changed their phone number," etc - which were all BS - I lived at the same address for over 13 years and to this day my parents have the same phone number they've had since before I was even born). My parents were under the impression this was a "closed adoption" and made no such "agreements" to send information on me. I wonder if the same people pulling this scam on the bio parents are pulling the opposite scam on the adoptive ones...
I agree though - don't advertise something that isn't enforcible.