An open adoption refers broadly to any adoption where the birth and adoptive parents have some level of knowledge about each other’s identity and/or will have some type of contact after the adoption. There is a spectrum of openness and each birth and adoptive parent needs to determine what level of openness they are comfortable with. Openness can take various forms, such as any combination of the following:
- Knowing each other’s first and/or last names
- Meeting each other before and/or at the hospital
- Exchanging photos
- Adoptive parents providing photos and/or updates to the birth parent
- Birth parents sending pictures, updates, cards, and/or gifts for the child
- Exchanging text messages, emails, or phone calls
- Visits (in person or electronic)
For a successful open adoption, it is important that everyone involved is comfortable with the level of openness that is agreed upon. It is important to involve agency caseworkers and/or adoption counselors and attorneys in these discussions. Once the level of openness has been agreed upon, it is memorialized in a Post-Adoption Contact Agreement (“PACA”) that is signed by the birth parent and the adoptive parents after the baby is born. An Attorney for the Child is subsequently appointed by the Court to represent the baby’s interests and that attorney will meet with the baby at the adoptive parents’ home and then sign the PACA. The PACA is then incorporated into the final Order of Adoption and is enforceable in the future, as long as the contact is still in the child’s best interest.
Grandparents and siblings can also have contact after an adoption is finalized if there is an agreement or if they had an established relationship with the adopted child prior to the adoption.
Under New York law, the Court must seal the adoption file after the adoption is finalized and can only unseal it in the future under certain limited circumstances. The Department of Health also seals the original birth certificate and that may not later be obtained by anyone, including the adoptee.
New York has an Adoption Information Registry that allows birth parents and adoptees to be connected if they both so choose. For more information on New York’s Adoption Information Registry, please visit https://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/adoption.htm.
Although they are rare, there are still some adoptions that are completely closed, meaning that the adoptive parents and birth parents do not meet each other and have no knowledge of each other’s names or identities. Before deciding to pursue a completely closed adoption, all parties involved should discuss these issues with a counselor who specializes in adoption and as part of those discussions, consider how a completely closed adoption will affect the adopted child in the future.