When a Cooperative Adoption Makes Sense

Submitted by PeterAKenny on January 16, 2018

A cooperative adoption allows for some continuing post-adoption contact. This usually involves a nominal offering of information about the child and/or the exchange of cards, letters and photos. Less frequently, personal visits may be permitted on special occasions. In actual fact, my experience has been that the contact tends to decrease over time as the birth parent tends to lose interest.

In Marion County, to save bureaucratic delays, the prosecutor refers many cases awaiting a court hearing for the termination of parental rights to mediation. The birth parents and the foster/adopt parents with their lawyers are requested to meet with a court-appointed mediator to see if some agreement is possible. When the adopting parents already know and have interacted with the biological parents, they have some idea of what a continuing relationship might involve. They can use that knowledge to develop a workable plan.

Cooperative adoptions differ from open adoptions. An open adoption recognizes the need to share personal information but does not in itself give the birth parent any legal right of continuing contact or visitation.

A cooperative adoption is not allowed where felony child abuse is possible. Other red flags are raised when the two families cannot get along or work together.

In over 22 years of practice, I have helped my clients complete approximately 100 cooperative adoptions. Although the birth parent may file a complaint if the adoptive parents fail to honor the agreement, this has never occurred to my knowledge. Even in that case, Indiana law makes clear that the adoption itself is irrevocable.

An agreement for continuing contact after the adoption has several advantages. Knowing they do not have to relinquish their child totally, the birth parents may feel more accepting and comfortable with the adoption. Fighting is minimized. The time before and after the termination of parental rights can be considerably shortened.

The child benefits by having to spend less time in limbo. The abrupt rupture of relationships between homes is softened. And the child is not left to construct a fantasy, good or bad, about the birth parent. Reality may be easier to handle than one’s imagination.

If details of post-adoption contacts can be worked out, cooperative adoptions have permitted hundreds of foster children to obtain permanent homes through adoption with minimal delay and without a court fight.

Cooperative adoptions are not for everyone. About one in six of my clients have been able to pursue that option. Only you can determine if that choice is best for you and your child-to-be.

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