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What should parents know about post-adoption communication?

For many years, the vast majority of adoptions were closed—meaning “secret.” The adoptive parents didn’t know who the birth mothers were, and the birth mothers didn’t know who were raising their child.

However, as people became more aware of the advantages of open adoptions, these became the norm. Most adoptions are now open or semi-open, meaning that birth mothers and adoptive parents can learn about each other and communicate after the adoption.

How much contact is enough?

As you might expect, one of the first questions parents find themselves asking is where to draw the line. How much contact do birth mothers and adoptive parents want to have with each other? What forms of communication are acceptable?

These issues can be addressed both by the choice of an open or semi-open adoption and by the language of a post-adoption contact agreement.

As the Child Welfare Information Gateway notes in its open adoption booklet, open and semi-open adoptions start with different expectations:

  • In fully open adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive parents gain direct information about each other. They may communicate directly through the channels of their choice.
  • In semi-open adoptions, parents don’t share their names or addresses with each other. Instead, they arrange for communication through a third party, such as a caseworker or lawyer.

In both cases, the birth mother and adoptive parents will want to address their desires for post-adoption contact. These agreements often address both the different forms of contact that are acceptable—such as emails, telephone calls and visits—as well as any concerns either side may have about the frequency or timing of the contact.

Post-adoption contact agreements are enforceable in Florida

The contracts parents sign for post-adoption contact are not legally enforceable in every state, but they are in Florida. This means that if one side breaks the terms of the contract, the other can ask the court to step in. This typically happens if one side doesn’t send photographs or emails as scheduled, but the terms of an agreement could also put limits on the contact.

The result is that birth mothers and adoptive parents should think clearly about the type of contact they may want after the adoption. Are visits okay? What about video calls or recordings? Just because both sides agree to a fully open adoption doesn’t mean they’ll have the same expectations for future contact. A good post-adoption contact agreement can help everyone move forward with a concrete understanding of the boundaries.

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