Birth parents, did you know that choosing adoption does not mean you’ll never see your child again?
Adoptive parents, did you know that there are ways to continue having a healthy relationship with your adopted child’s birth family, even after the adoption is complete?
When you choose adoption, whether as a birth parent or as an adoptive parent, you can choose what kind of post-adoption contact you have with the other members of the adoption triad.
For decades, closed adoptions were the only option that could be chosen, leaving many adopted children with more questions than answers. Today, open adoption and semi-open adoption exist so that everyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee) can benefit. This can be strengthened through a Post Adoption Contact Agreement.
This agreement, also shortened to PACA, may not be a familiar term to you yet, and that’s OK. We know the adoption process is already filled with lots of details and information. So, we wanted to take some time to tell you about PACAs, what they are, and how they can best serve your adoption.
What is a Post Adoption Contact Agreement?
A PACA is an arrangement that allows the child, the adoptive family, and members of the birth family to continue contact or communication after the adoption has been finalized.
There is no set way these agreements have to be, so they can be informal and mutual understandings or formal, written contracts between the adoptive family and the birth family.
Communication in a PACA will differ, depending on what the birth family and the adoptive family are comfortable with. Communication could include:
- Written letters
- Phone calls
- In-person visits
- And more
The frequency of the communication is also specific in a PACA, as it will detail what to expect one, five, and fifteen years down the road.
It’s important to note that a PACA is not a custody agreement. When a birth parent places a child for adoption, they relinquish any and all parental rights when everything is finalized. A PACA is only focused on the contact and communication post-adoption that is agreed upon by all parties in the adoption. Choosing an open adoption does not mean co-parenting.
What is the purpose of a PACA?
The overall purpose of a PACA is having the best interest of the child at heart when the birth parents and adoptive parents agree to an open or semi-open adoption. By agreeing to a PACA, both sides are agreeing to maintain the frequency and type of contact or communication over the next several years as the child grows up.
For many birth parents who choose adoption for their child, they may not be doing so because they don’t want anything to do with the child. In fact, more birth parents are choosing open or semi-open adoptions more frequently than closed adoptions because they want to remain a part of the child’s life in some way. Having a PACA in place can help with that.
Is a PACA legally enforceable?
Post Adoption Contact Agreements are legally enforceable in many states, but not in every state across the country.
For states that do enforce an agreement, these are allowed to be written and specify the type of contact agreed upon by all parties, as well as how often contact or communication will occur. Adoptive parents and birth parents all agree to these matters, and contact and communication can range from different ways. Some agreements involve the birth and adoptive parents exchanging information, while other agreements may even allow the child to have visits with their birth parents or relatives.
Once a PACA is agreed upon by all parties, it must be approved by the court next. As long as the agreement is being done in the best interest of the child, the judge will approve for it to be enforced.
If you live in a state that does not enforce a PACA but want there to be continued contact and communication after placement, there may be the option to enter into a “Good Faith Agreement.” Though not as detailed as a PACA can be, a Good Faith Agreement has the benefit of making sure that everyone’s expectations about the contact or communication that will remain is clearly understood.
Good Faith Agreements are not enforceable, but the importance of having one if a PACA is not available should be treated with the same respect as a PACA.
How does a PACA benefit birth parents?
One of the biggest benefits many birth parents find with having a PACA is reassurance. Adoption is not an easy choice for any birth parent to make. Knowing that through an open or semi-open adoption there is an agreement allowing a birth parent to have contact or communication with the adoptive family and the child can often provide peace of mind.
Birth parents may also find reassurance in that they’ve selected the best family for their child as they continue the contact or communication agreed upon by the birth and the adoptive family over the years.
How does a PACA benefit adoptive parents?
For adoptive parents, having a PACA in place can help as you raise the child. As the child grows, they may have questions about their adoption or the birth family. Adoptive parents may find that they need information on the birth family’s medical history. Without a PACA in place between the adoptive parents and the birth parents, those questions may be harder to answer. Getting medical and basic background information may not be possible.
A PACA can also help the adoptive parents and the birth parents build a healthy and lasting friendship, so adoptive parents and birth parents always know they have the support of the other.
How does a PACA benefit adopted children?
When a child is placed for adoption by their birth parents, it’s done out of love and care the parents have for the child and want to be able to give the child the best chance at life. As children grow, they ask a lot of questions. They do this because they want to understand. It’s OK and important for an adopted child to know they can ask questions of their adoptive parents about their adoption.
By putting a PACA in place, though it is agreed upon earlier in the adoption process often before the child is born, the birth parents and adoptive parents are all choosing to properly support the child’s best interest.
For a child, being able to know where they come from and having information about their heritage and background can help build more confidence in being themselves and knowing being afraid or worried to say they’re adopted.