Should open adoption agreements be enforceable?

There is a bill that was drafted by Sen. Lyle Hillyard (R. Utah) - SB155 - that would provide a mechanism to make open adoption agreements enforceable.  

The intent behind the legislation is to initially effect foster-to-adopt families, but I strongly believe that it should also include private domestic infant adoption.  See article here.

Not surprisingly, the NCFA (National Council for Adoption) is against this legislation. They are the number one opposer of adoptee rights, so it’s not a big stretch to see they don’t care about original families having continued contact with their children.

David Hardy, a past president of the Utah Adoption Council, said there is no consensus on the issue among adoptive parents and he goes on to say:

"There's certainly concern we're cheapening the parental relationship if you have an enforceable agreement.”

Cheapening the parental relationship?  I think what he really means is adoptive parents will finally have to be held accountable.  Those who already honor their word will not need to be held accountable.  Only those who later decide they don’t feel like honoring their original agreement, will be subject to the law.

Many women who place their children for adoption agree to do so because they were promised an open adoption.  Adoption agencies routinely use this “promise” to ensure placing mothers that they will have continued contact. 

Many women make their decision because of these promises and later find out that the adoptive parents have unilaterally closed the adoption, by moving, changing phone numbers or otherwise just disappearing into the sunset.  Currently, there is no legal remedy for original families in this situation.

Many adoptive parents honor the original agreement because they know how important it is to their child’s well-being.   

What is the point of a promise if there is no legal remedy to back it up?   

It is no different than custody and visitation orders post-divorce.  You either follow the Order or you are in contempt.  One parent doesn't get to unilaterally decide something against the agreement without being held accountable.  

The problem as I see it is that those in the adoption industry who benefit the most from it are finally being told that their rights are lopsided.  This isn’t just about rights for original families.  These are the rights of the children to see their families.   

A couple comments on the original article by adult adoptees raised in closed adoption say that they didn’t want original families medaling into their lives.  I was raised in closed adoption and I would have welcomed an extra adult or two who loved me.   

My daughter is adopted and her original father is like another uncle to her.  I am not threatened in any way by his involvement and I would never cut him out on a whim. Why?  Because it would hurt my child first and foremost and because I absolutely believe it is her right to see him.  Period.

What kind of example are adoptive parents setting for their child when they agree to allow the original family to have contact and then go back on their word?  

If there is truly a danger to the child’s mental or emotional health, you can bring that issue to the Court, mediation or adoption agency. 

However, if it’s just your whim that you don’t feel like dealing with “those people” any more . .. you are dead wrong and I hope and pray that other attorneys who work in the system will have the courage and ethics to follow Mr. Hillyard’s example.


  1. Some people will howl but I agree these agreements must be enforced. It is cruel and unethical to promise a mother that she will get to have contact with her child and then slam the door in her face. Does anyone know what happens under the following circumstances when there is an enforced agreement?

    - the original mother begins closing the adoption
    - visits with the original family upset the child and he or she declines contact

    Know these situations are in the minority but just wondered about everybody's rights and obligations in those situations.

    1. Those are some great questions . . . I don't have any answers however in custody law, if a parent refuses to visit, you can't force them. I've seen cases where the other parent will request to end the visits of the non-visiting parent when they aren't being taken advantage of and I've seen Judge's agree to it. For the most part in custody law, the parents are expected to send the child even when they don't want to go visit; however, I'm sure once a child is a certain age, or under certain circumstances, Judges will not force a child. Sadly, from what I've experienced in the legal field, most kids don't get much say in visitation.

    2. yes I convinced my 15 yr old daughter to agree to openadoption, never again, they deceived us from day 1 convinced us they would honor our wishes then use every excuse possible to not let us see her

    3. judges only listen to lawyers, and to make matters worse they were supposed to give me a copy of the home study, and the background chec, we never got it. now I find out the adoptive mother had ms the whole time. im devastated at the selfishness.

    4. so how do we legally hold them accountable?

  2. I definitely think that these agreements should be enforceable. Otherwise, they can just be used as a ruse to get the natural mother to surrender. I do wonder though about the practicality. If the n-mother has to pay an attorney to ensure her rights, this may not be economically feasible. After all, one of the main reasons for giving up the child in the first place is the n-mother's financial situation.

    1. I agree about the financial situation. Most average earners can't afford attorneys, which is why the adoption agency and/or a mediation center would be a better venue.

    2. There is also Legal Aid and lawyers who volunteer their time through the Bar Associations.

  3. Absolutely open adoption agreements should be enforceable. As you say, it would present no threat to honorable people.

  4. I have a foster to adopt 13 yr old with an open adoption though her birth mom doesn't stay in contact much, she could. My new daughter is being adopted with an open private adoption and her entire birth family is involved, we are even going to go there for holidays. I am not threatened by this at all and it just means more people to love her. They do not expect me to do things there way i am her mother but so is her birth mom. I believe that they are giving me a huge gift by letting them raise this beautiful little girl and I feel it would be cruel to them to just disapear with her, how would that benefit anyone. She will grow up knowing that she is loved and wanted and always has been, and that she is loved and cared about by many people. I am not threatened by this she will still know my husband and I are the ones that were there for her day by day, she is our little princess.

    1. I know another family who honor the grand parents and the birth mom and live across the country, but I really got taken the laws hav to tighten

    2. The bottom line is and truth is.. open adoption is a joke if u dnt hav a lawyer, im mad can u tell

  5. Here is my blog about my son who was adopted I was told it was very much going to be an open adoption and the couple swore on god we have a part in his life we even signed the papers but the min they had him we never see him again please help get this law passed so i can see my sweet baby again

  6. Thanks for sharing, Cathy and Connie. . . .it saddens me that open adoptions close after promises have been made. It's not right.

  7. I'm an adoptee... I honestly would NOT have wanted my bio family in my life. How confusing and uncomfortable that would have been growing up! Emotionally, it would have been too much for me. I was MAD that they were somehow able to find me after I turned 18. It's not that they are bad people, it's just that I have a life and a family of my own. Sometimes we have to think about what is REALLY best for adopted children... and open adoptions, in my opinion, are not what is best for the children. I completely understand wanting photos and updates, but to be a part of their lives?? That's so difficult for EVERYONE involved, most importantly, the children.

  8. I have to disagree with you Anon -- not that open adoption can be difficult, because I'm sure many times it is difficult; however if a child grows up knowing his/her bio family, how it is any different than knowing a cousin or uncle? One more person to love you (assuming they are a positive influence). Can you see how closed adoption contributed to your feelings of being MAD your bio family found you? Had you not been kept secret from them, knowing them would have been natural and not a big deal. There would have been no finding. We can all choose who we want and don't want in our lives as adults; however, we should not assume children (who are naturally accepting of all people) would feel confused or uncomfortable knowing their original families. It's natural and normal to know biological family. For every adoptee who feels like you, there are plenty who wish they had known their biological family.

    However, this blog post is not about personal preference or your or my opinion about what is "best for children". People enter into open adoption agreements and then back out of them. If you make a promise to enter into an open adoption, there should be recourse if you then decide to change your mind. These agreements should be legally binding -- not just some half-witted promise made because you want somebody else's baby.

    I'm certain there are some open adoptions that are not positive for children, but each case and family is different and neither you or I have a right to deem what is best for ALL children. I know for MY child, knowing where she comes from is a positive. For myself, knowing where I come from and meeting my birth mother was something I needed. Do I know how it would have been had they been in my life? No -- because that ship has sailed.

    But your opinion is coming from a limited view -- closed adoption. Many children are adopted later when they already know biological family and/or are adopted by relatives (as in my daughter's case).


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Narcissism and Adoption -- Very Likely Bedfellows

Common Traits of Adoptees

When Your Adoption Reunion Goes Bust (Hold on to the Good)