I guess you could call it “Mother’s Intuition.” When I opened my eyes from a difficult sleep, I knew this day was the day my baby girl Hope would make her grand appearance. Initially, I did not share with anyone that I may (or may not) be in labor, because I had experienced false labor for weeks now. But, today was different and I began to prepare myself emotionally in a way that had played over and over in my mind ever since the day I decided to make an adoption plan with ANA Adoptions. Continue reading
Several years ago, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted several amendments to the Pennsylvania Adoption Code, one of which now allows for an option for adoptive parents and birth parents, and certain of their relatives, to enter into voluntary agreements for ongoing communication or contact between themselves and the adopted child. These agreements must be subject to approval by the court prior to or at the finalization of the adoption.
In order for the Post Adoption Contact Agreement (commonly referred to as a “PACA”) to be legally enforceable it must be in writing. Additionally, if the child is 12 years of age or older, the child must also consent to the agreement.
Prior to the enactment of this legislation, similar agreements, whether oral or written, were legally unenforceable in the event that the adoptive parents refused to abide by the terms of the agreement. The court approved PACA now allows for either party to enforce the agreement by court action, but the court is only able to order that the parties carry out the terms of the agreement. No monetary damages are allowed. Further, before a court will enforce a PACA it must determine that the party seeking enforcement is substantially in compliance with the agreement and that the agreement continues to serve the best interest of the child.
Once approved, only the adoptive parents, or the child if over the age of 12 years, may petition the court to modify the agreement. Further, the agreement can only be modified with less contact than in the original PACA. Any of the parties can petition to discontinue the PACA, and by law, unless agreed to otherwise, any PACA will cease at 18 years of age.
A PACA can benefit all parties in an adoption, by allowing birth families to stay in contact with the adoptive family. Contact can be as little as pictures and letters over the years, or as much as visits with the child. PACA’s are tailored to each individual situation, and there is no boilerplate agreement for anyone. There can be as little or as much contact as the parties wish.
Where there is a possibility of an adoption, PACA’s can be an extremely beneficial tool for both birth parents and adoptive parents involved. However, you should proceed with caution in creating such an agreement, and at all times, an attorney should be consulted.
Samuel C. Totaro, Jr., Esquire, Curtin and Heefner, LLP www.curtinheefner.com
Recently, ANA’s Executive Director, Andrea Totaro, and Sam Totaro, ANA’s attorney, met with two members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Katherine M. Watson of the 144th District and Rep. Scott Petri, of the 178th District to discuss adoption issues that are important to all of us living and adopting in Pennsylvania. Donald Petrille, the Register of Wills-Clerk of the Orphans Court (the division under which our adoptions are processed) was also in attendance.
The purpose of the meeting was to express our concerns regarding adoption laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our chief concern is that current laws prohibit any assistance with a Birthmother’s living expenses for a period of time during her pregnancy and until she is able to provide for herself and her family after the birth, generally four to six weeks. At the present time, Pennsylvania women considering adoption for their unborn child very often ‘look elsewhere’ for adoptive families – selecting couples from New Jersey or New York, or beyond, because those states do allow financial assistance to a Birthmother. In Pennsylvania, an adoptive family cannot even cover the cost of a pregnant woman’s maternity clothing, her electricity bill or the cost of monthly cell phone minutes. This law forces Pennsylvania couples seeking to adopt to travel across the country where they might be chosen by a birthmother and, under the laws of her state, they can then pay for pregnancy-related necessities.
We also discussed the time frame for the signing of the Adoption Consent and the period of time that adoptive couples are “at risk” in a Pennsylvania adoption as compared to that time frame in other states. Both of these legislators were extremely attentive and have asked us to prepare a “wish list” for ways in which the laws might be changed that would be beneficial to both birthparents contemplating adoption and those couples seeking to adopt. We are certain that our voices were heard and are excited that changes might be on the horizon! When these changes are presented to the full House, we will be sure to let you know so that you can contact your Representatives to voice your concern as well.