Missouri Adoption Legislation HB 252: Letters Needed Stat

Adoptee Rights and Open Adoption Agreements on the Agenda!

Missouri Adoptee Rights Legisaltion and OBC accessI was alerted the other day that Missouri has  new adoption legislation in the House of Representatives. While we like to see adoption laws updated, there are a few issues with HB 252. The full  text of Missouri Adoption legislation Bill HB 252 can be found here.

A Contact Preference for Original Birth Certificate Access

While the contact preferences for OBC access are often included in any Adoptee Rights legislation in order to make the legislators feel warm and cozy, allowing one party  to deny another their legal documentation is not treating ALL adoptees equally. I’m not going to spell out all the details here; but  say that you can read the summery of HB 252 here.   There is a Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement Website, but please refer to the Facebook page for ways to help: Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement on Facebook. There is a good letter there that you can use to send regarding the Adoptee Rights  OBC access aspect of this bill.

UN-Enforceable Open Adoption Agreements

This is the portion of the bill having to do with Open Adoption Agreements. In essence, the issue is not that they are saying that there can be enforceable open adoption agreements, it is in the enforcement aspect that the language gets a bit too vague.

“4. Before the completion of an adoption, the exchange of information among the parties shall be at the discretion of the parties. Prospective adoptive parents and parents of a prospective adoptee may enter into a written post adoption contract agreement to allow contact after the adoption between the parents, siblings, or other relatives of the adoptee and the adoptee and the adoptive parents. Upon completion of an adoption, further contact among the parties shall be at the discretion of the adoptive parents, and such adoptive parents may exercise their discretion to enter into a written post adoption contract agreement with the former parents of an adoptee to allow contact between a former parent, sibling, or other relative of the adoptee and the adoptee or adoptive parents. The agreement shall be in writing, signed by the parties thereto, and be made a part of the court record.

The agreement shall include:

(1) An acknowledgment by the former parents that the adoption is irrevocable, even if the adoptive parents do not abide by the post adoption contract agreement;

(2) An acknowledgment by the adoptive parents that the agreement grants the former parents the right to seek to enforce the post adoption privileges set forth in the agreement.

The court shall enforce a written post adoption contract agreement made in accordance with this subsection unless enforcement is not in the best interest of the adoptee. The court shall not have jurisdiction to deny continuing contact between the adopted person and the birth parent, or an adoptive parent and a birth parent. Additionally, the court shall not have jurisdiction to deny an exchange of identifying information between an adoptive parent and a birth parent.

What’s the Issue with Missouri’s Adoption Bill HB 252?

I shall list the ones that immediately come to mind:

  1. The use of “may enter” an agreement  and  the “discretion of the parties”; The parties are not spelled out. Do they mean between the original family and the adoptive family? Are the adoption agencies and professionals involved in using “their discretion”? The issue is; that IF an open adoption is promised then an open adoption agreement MUST be entered with the court. No if, ands or buts. As we know, part of the relinquishment process as facilitated all too often by the agencies is a great measure of trust. The expectant mothers are often emotionally attached to the prospective adoptive parents and believe them. Plus, most mothers have never done this before, so they follow the lead of the adoption professionals. If the agency in question does not inform them of the option to have the open agreement in writing or leaves it up to the trust of the mothers, I expect that we will not see many original families opt for the written enforceable agreement.
  2. While I applaud the bill for spelling out the often denied truth that ” Upon completion of an adoption, further contact among the parties shall be at the discretion of the adoptive parents,”: I would like to see this information mandatorily attached to any mention of Missouri adoptions in reference to Open adoptions;  A law is only effective if the parties it effects are aware of it and we know that open adoption is used as a marketing ploy to get mothers to relinquish. Many mothers would NOT relinquish if they knew that the ongoing contact was in question.
  3. On that note; I do like that both parties must sign off and what the agreements shall include the real information  that does say that Open Adoption Agreements are completely controlled by the Adoptive parents.
  4. My biggest issue is this however: “The court shall enforce a written post adoption contract agreement made in accordance with this subsection unless enforcement is not in the best interest of the adoptee.” How shall this be enforced? What constitutes “in the best interest”?  In many “open adoptions” the adoptive parents often close off contact by time the child is age 5 citing “confusion”.  I have seen the number as high as 80% of open adoptions are closed by this time. I have heard of adoptions closing because the adoptive parents have found the birthmothers grief “too upsetting”. I have known of adoptions closing because the child desired to call the original mothers “mommy” or because the adoptive parents have disproved of a mother’s boyfriend, or living situation, or even the clothes she wears. I have seen adoptions closed because the mom has gotten pregnant again “too soon”. Bottom line, ” in the best interest of the adoptee” is all too vague for me to feel 100% comfortable.

A Call to Action: Let’s LOBBY this Adoption Bill!

So while we can applaud Missouri for taking on the challenge of updating their adoption legislation, they need to take it a bit farther. This is an example of how the  lobbing of the adoption agencies and legal professionals have used their power to make it seem like an improvement, but it still isn’t 100% true.

Many times, changes go through in adoption legislation based on the desires of the adoption industry and not those who know is best: the people that live it! SO I call on your to help educated the Missouri legislators about what issues are NOT in the best interest of adoption. This is our chance to fight fire with fire and play their reindeer games!

Here’s My bit. As always feel free to take what you choose and edit away to make it your own. IF you had an open adoption promised and it a closed, I suggest you tell them about it!

Dear Missouri Representive XXX:

My name is Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy and I am writing to you as an Adoption Reform Advocate and an Adoptee Rights Activist in regards to HB 252. As a birthmother myself for over 25 years and as part of the extensive adoption community for over a decade, I do applaud you for tackling the complexities of adoption legislation; yet, I do have a few concerns.

Currently, the majority of infants that are relinquished in this day and age through voluntary domestic infant adoptions are done so by mothers who have been promised some form on ongoing contact with their children. While ongoing contact is more beneficial for this children involved, unfortunately, the promises of ongoing contact are just that..promises.

As part of the relinquishment process as facilitated all too often by the agencies is a great measure of trust. The expectant mothers are often emotionally attached to the prospective adoptive parents and believe them. Plus, most mothers have never done this before, so they follow the lead of the adoption professionals. If the agency in question does not inform them of the option to have the open agreement in writing or leaves it up to the trust of the mothers, I expect that we will not see many original families opt for the written enforceable agreement not because they do not want to, but because the language of this bill  makes the written open agreements optional.

Currently, Missouri legislation does not address the enforcement or aspects of written agreements, but under law, once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have all the control. The reality of this piece of legislation is not adequately addresses by the great majority of Adoption Agencies operating in Missouri. I offer to you proof of this misleading behavior by adoption professionals, these are but three examples, but I beg you to look further into this:

From American Adoption: “One of the biggest advantages of choosing adoption is the ability to still be a part of your child’s life. Semi-open and open adoptions allow birth mothers the opportunity to stay in contact with the adoptive family and their child through pictures, letters, emails, phone calls and sometimes even visits. You’ll be able to see firsthand that your child is happy and cared for and can help to reassure him or her that you chose adoption out of love.”

From I HeartAdoption: “Choose the amount of contact you want with the adoptive family as your baby grows up”

From The Adoption Network: It is very important to make an adoption plan that is comfortable for both you and the adoptive parents. Many Birthparents receive letters and photos from the adoptive parents on an ongoing basis, some just periodically. Others have phone conversations and a few actually visit one another. It is important to choose parents whose ideas about ongoing contact are similar to your own. Sometimes adopting couples are initially fearful about continued contact, but your Adoption Advisor can help them with this and help you make a plan that works for everyone.

I strongly suggest that the wording in the bill be changed to make Written Open Adoption MANDATORY for any adoption that can be considered open and adding in that Adoption Agencies and professional make this information available on their main websites in obvious places. Otherwise mothers considering adoption are not making true informed decisions about the best options for their babies and themselves.

In addition, I am concerned about the language use regarding the court enforcement of the agreements. “the best interest of the adoptee” has been used all too often in the history of adoption with often disastrous results as individuals involved do not understand the true complexity of adoption and the live long affects on the adoptee in question. In the many years I have researched adoption practices and talking to hundreds of other birthmothers in adoption adoptions; the “reasons” why they were shut out of their child’s lives often are not valid. Often, the closing of an adoption is seen by the adoptive parents as the “best interest” of the child, but really were to make them more comfortable. These are just a few examples of why some adoptive parents have closed adoptions that were promised to be open:

  • because the adoptive parents have found the birthmothers grief “too upsetting”
  • because the child desired to call the original mothers “mommy”
  • because the adoptive parents have disproved of a mother’s boyfriend or living situation, or even the clothes she wears.
  • because the mom has gotten pregnant again “too soon”
  • because the mothers blogs or discusses her feelings online
  • because the grief experienced by the adoptee when saying goodbye to the original family is not understood or acknowledged by the adoptive parents who view it as “upsetting or acting out” rather than a normal reaction to separation form a loved one.

I would urge you to alter the bill so that the reasoning to not uphold an open adoption agreement is PROVEN to be detrimental to the child in question and can be later addressed when the child is at an age when they can make their own feelings known.

I thank you again, for addressing these matters and if you would like an additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely, etc.

Lobby the Missouri House Representatives

Contact information for the Missouri HB 252 sponsors and co-sponsors.:

Representative  Bill Sponsor  Jeanie Lauer District 032

  • MO House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 412C
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • Legislative Assistant:      Kelsey Logston
  • Phone: 573-751-1487
  • E-Mail:  Jeanie.Lauer@house.mo.gov

Representative Bill co-sponsor  Lindell Shumake District 005MO

  • House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 407B
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • 573-751-3613
  • E-Mail:  Lindell.Shumake@house.mo.gov

Representative Bill co-sponsor  Anne Zerr District 065

  • MO House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 315
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • Legislative Assistant:      Clarissa Denkler
  • Phone: 573-751-3717
  • E-Mail:  Anne.Zerr@house.mo.gov

Representative Bill co-sponsor  Genise Montecillo District 092

  • MO House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 102BA
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • Legislative Assistant:      Patrick Mulcahy
  • Phone: 573-751-9472
  • E-Mail:  Genise.Montecillo@house.mo.gov

Representative Bill co-sponsor  Stanley Cox District 052

  • MO House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 200A
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • Legislative Assistant:      Karen Henry
  • Phone: 573-751-9774
  • E-Mail:  Stanley.Cox@house.mo.gov

Representative Bill co-sponsor  John McCaherty District 097

  • MO House of Representatives
  • 201 West Capitol Avenue
  • Room 304A
  • Jefferson City MO 65101
  • Legislative Assistant:      Carrie Burcham
  • Phone: 573-751-3751
  • E-Mail:  John.McCaherty@house.mo.gov

In addition, the bill has been referred to the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities committee and the legislative members for that committee could also probably use a letter or email informing them of what SHOULD happen and be changed on this piece of legislation.

 

As always, share and feel free to post wherever you want! Let’s not let Missouri pretend to improve adoption, without really making it a true improvement to the adoption process.

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Claudia Corrigan DArcy

About Claudia Corrigan DArcy

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.
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5 Responses to Missouri Adoption Legislation HB 252: Letters Needed Stat

  1. Pingback: Adoptee Rights Bills to Support in 2013: Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio |

  2. Anna Isabel Orendain says:

    Thank you Claudia for helping us in Missouri, for the sample letter and the contact info, this makes it a lot easier to write to them.

  3. Pingback: Adoptee Rights Bills to Support in 2015; IN,PA,NY,TX, MA | Musings of the Lame

  4. Cindy A. says:

    I don’t know if this bill has still got any life to it or not. Either way, I found the wording ”former” parent a despicable twisting of truth. Some women find out they are pregnant after the man who fathered the child is out of the picture or is unknown. Some women don’t ever tell the man who fathered the child that they are a father. Some women, even today, as attitudes and practices don’t change or go away completely, did not/do not know the gender of their child or were/are told wrong gender…… as such, if father should end up marrying daughter (distinct possibility as men sometimes do marry a woman 10-15+ years their junior. ) or mother marrying son (not as likely)…would they really be “former” parents? No. Simple point in -truth- (also know as fact or reality), father is father and mother is mother. Doesn’t matter how you try to twist it.

    I also have a concern with the vague language of the bill.
    “4. Before the completion of an adoption, the exchange of information among the parties, shall be at the discretion of the parties.”
    (Does ‘completion’ mean finalization or are they referring to placement?)
    The bill language then goes on to say,
    “Prospective adoptive parents and parents of a prospective adoptee may enter into a written post adoption contract to allow contact after the adoption…” (when? after the p.a.p.s have custody/day of birth? prior to finalization? They need to use consistent language. Adoption and completion can be shown to be two entirely different things. Does it mean that the parents, siblings, etc. can have contact prior to ”’completion [if it means finalization]”’ with or without the ”POST” adoption agreement? Define the words. Give the exact period of time and reference points for clarity.

    “..between the parents, siblings, or other relatives of the adoptee, the adoptee, and the adoptive parents.” (In this sentence “parents, siblings and other relatives” are referred to what they are -in fact-. However the wording changes in 4 (1) to ”former” parent. Does that also mean the siblings and other relatives are ”former” as well? or do they stay ‘current’? Since it seems the contact agreement can be made and entered into “prior to completion” and the wording preceding and including 4 (1) says, The agreement shall include: “An acknowledgement by the former parents that the adoption is irrevocable, even if the adoptive parents do not abide by the post adoption contract agreement…” If the agreement **MUST** include this language at whatever point the agreement is ‘written out’ prior to birth, at birth, before the p.a.p.s have physical custody… ummm… 1). How could it be irrevocable if the adoption has not been ‘completed or finalized’? Is this a slick way to get into written law what they have been doing to natural mothers/parents anyway? As in, ”rotsa ruck gettin’ your baby back after it comes out of your womb whether or not the adoption is ”finalized”. 2). If they have this written out even prior to birth, or at birth or within the day or a few days of birth.. and the p.a.p.s get/have custody.. I don’t see how a mother could **legally** ”change her mind”/come to full reality) as –they– have a document showing ”that the ‘former’ parents acknowledge that the adoption is ****irrevocable**** even if not ”completed or finalized. I just see way too many loopholes for the agencies/lawyers/p.a.p.s/a.p.s.

    Adoption should not be a ‘game plan’ until at least 6 months after the baby is born. Then any open adoption agreement needs to be entered into and filed -PRIOR- to the p.a.p.s gaining ANY kind of physical custody. It needs to be fully enforceable with any necessary court costs paid by the party attempting to back out of the agreement… unless closing the adoption is willingly accepted and agreed upon by all concerned parties. At a later time the child’s interests need to be considered as well. As in, close it only until such time as the child may express their own wishes to have contact- or not. They are, after all, the one who’s ”best interest” the whole thing is supposed to be about. So footy poot on what any of the parents want or don’t want. Or else change the wording and say ”best interest of the____________” (parents/adoptive parents).

    • Ana says:

      The new bill introduced this year is HB647, please go to Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement page on Facebook to find more information on this bill, it is a clean bill and calls to legislators are needed.

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