Are You Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption?
Series: Factsheets for Families|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2007|
Staying in touch with your child after adoption
After the adoption, the birth mother and adoptive family often exchange pictures and letters. An adopted child may grow up knowing his or her birth parents through letters or email or, in some cases, through visits. Sometimes, this is called "open adoption" or "postadoption communication." Of course, the type of communication and how often it occurs vary greatly from adoption to adoption, depending on the people involved.11
When birth parents decide that they don't want contact with their child after the adoption, they may arrange a "closed" adoption. In closed adoptions, the birth parents and the adoptive parents never know each other. Adoptive parents receive nonidentifying information from the agency or lawyer about the birth mother and father that they might need to help them take care of the child, such as medical information or family history, but they don't know your name or where you live.
In most States, the court seals the adoption records of all adoptions (open and closed) at the time of the adoption, and no one is permitted to read them. The records remain sealed unless an interested party, such as the adopted person who has reached adulthood, petitions the court and can show good cause to have the records opened. Laws vary from State to State, so check with a lawyer if you have questions about access to adoption information.12
If You Want to Be in Touch With Your Child
If it's important to you to be in touch with your child after the adoption, you should find adoptive parents who will agree to an open adoption and who truly believe that it will be best for the child. You and they should work out in advance how you will keep in touch, how often, who will be involved, and how you might change this agreement later. Sometimes, lawyers or mediators can write up a 'communication agreement' for you and the adoptive parents to sign.
Your lawyer or agency should be able to tell you the laws in your State about these agreements, what they can include, and if they can be enforced in any way. In most cases, these agreements cannot be enforced. There is no State that lets an adoption be overturned if adoptive parents refuse to allow contact between their child and the child's birth mother.13
Finding Your Child Later
If you place your baby through an agency or an independent adoption that is closed, you will not be given the adoptive parents' names or address, nor will they have this information about you. This will make it harder to find out about your baby later in life, if you decide you want to know how your child is doing. Many birth parents do search for their children after the children are grown, just like many adopted people search for their birth families.14
Many States and some private organizations have set up mutual consent adoption registries to help birth relatives find each other. More than 30 States have adoption registries, where a birth parent or other family member (such as a brother or sister) can register to find the adopted person. If the adopted person also registers, then the registry can provide information to let them find each other.15
There is another way to allow your child to contact you later in life. Some adoption agencies and lawyers who arrange independent adoptions will hold a letter from you in their files. Usually, the letter says why you chose adoption and how to get in touch with you if the child ever wants to do so. If you move to a new address, it is your responsibility to contact the lawyer or agency so that your contact information remains up to date.
11 For more information, see Child Welfare Information Gateway's Open Adoption: Building Relationships Between Adoptive and Birth Families at www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_openadopt.cfm. back
12 For more information, see Child Welfare Information Gateway's Access to Adoption Records at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/infoaccessap.cfm. back
13 For more information, see Child Welfare Information Gateway's Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/cooperative.cfm. back
14 For more information, see Child Welfare Information Gateway's Searching for Birth Relatives at www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_search.cfm. back
15 For more information, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway's National Foster Care and Adoption Directory at www.childwelfare.gov/nfcad/. back
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