Communication After Adoption
Children are placed for adoption for a number of reasons and sometimes it may be in the best interest of the child to keep them in contact with the Placing Parents (birth parents). In the past, a good number of adoptions were done by keeping both sets of parents anonymous. However, when they did know each other the Adoptive Parents and the Placing Parents would enter into a good faith agreement. This good faith agreement was basically a verbal handshake that could not be enforced. So, if an Adoptive Parent failed to adhere to the agreement there was little a Placing Parent could do.
Now as more and more adoptions are open, there is a more enforceable option that both parties can enter into that allows the Placing Parent(s) to keep in contact with the child. A Post Adoption Contact and Communication Agreement, otherwise known as a PACCA, can create specific ways in which a Placing Parent may keep in contact with the adopted child. A PACCA can be very broad or very restrictive. What is in a PACCA depends on what both sets of Parents agree to. They can agree for the Adoptive Parents to just send the Placing Parents pictures and an update of the child. They could even agree to phone calls and visits. The main point is that both sets off Parents have to agree and taken into consideration the best interest of the child.
PACCAs were introduced by Social Services who had found in instances where a child had to be involuntarily take from the home due to abandonment, neglect, or other reasons, presenting the Placing Parents with an option to maintain communication with the child, they were less likely to fight as hard or more likely to agree to a voluntary adoption. PACCA are now an available option under VA Code § 63.2-1220.2 (2014), however the the Petitioner for the adoption must petition the court to agree to the PACCA.
Unlike the good faith agreements of the past, if either set of Parents is not following the agreement, it can be enforced similar to a contract. Though monetary damages are not available a court may order the failing party to adhere to the agreement. For example, if the Adoptive Parents agreed to give the Placing Parent a picture and an update twice a year and have failed to do so, the Court may order Placing Parent to do so.
There are limitations to a PACCA and the agreement is not set in stone. If circumstance have changed, the PACCA might be modified or vacated all together. The main focus of a PACCA is the best interest of the child. Knowing the Placing Parent and why they were put up for adoption could allow the child to come to terms with their adoption sooner. However, if keeping in contact with Placing Parent becomes more toxic and less helpful for the child the PACCA can be modified to limit contact or even take it away all together.
Like many aspects of the adoption process, an Attorney can make things go smoother as well as maintain your interests. An Attorney can make sure that the PACCA takes into consideration the desires of both sets of Parents, the best interest of the child, and any possible future events that could affect the agreement. If you think a PACCA is something for you please consult an attorney.