As Susan Edwards and Scott Cargle last month held their adopted newborn daughter Lydia in the hospital in Greenbrae, Calif., like all parents, they wondered what her future would hold.Well, the oh-so-cynical me says only the adoptive parents can say so comfortably "it's not even about its enforceability," when talking about an open adoption agreement. To the birth mother -- the person NOT in possession -- it should be ALL about the enforceability. As in, you shouldn't consider it an "agreement" unless it's enforceable. Without enforceability, your open adoption agreement means only what the adoptive parents want it to mean.
But some things they knew for certain: With an open adoption, they will visit with their daughter's birth mother at least once a year, phone her at least twice a year and exchange a minimum of two emails a year with photos and updates. They will also take a group picture every time they meet.
As opposed to closed or confidential adoptions, open adoptions allow the adoptive and birth families some degree of contact, which can range from a single, in-person meeting to sharing photos and news periodically, to frequent reunions. In a shift over the past 30 years, the vast majority of domestic adoptions are now open. The phenomenon has become more visible over the past few years thanks, in part, to the popular MTV series "Teen Mom," which prominently features an open adoption.
In about half of U.S. states, including California, families can choose an enforceable contract agreement that firms up the relationship's parameters. Adoptions aren't reversed, but if a dispute arises, it can be settled using the court that completed the adoption or through mediation.
Ms. Edwards and Mr. Cargle say hashing out the details of how to keep in touch with the birth mother, Sarah Raetzloff, 26, helped them understand open adoption and build trust.
"It's a good thing to have the agreement, and it's not even about its enforceability," says Ms. Edwards. "Because of the contract, we all know what to expect….Having that agreement does a lot to take away the nervousness or anxiety."
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