For expectant or new mothers considering adoption, this page presents information that will not be shared with you in options counseling. Separation trauma and your rights in an open adoption must be presented in order for you to make an informed choice.

Adoption Studies, Maternal Separation, and Knowing Your Rights in an Open Adoption

First/Birth Mom Studies

Adoptee Studies

Maternal Separation

Know Your Rights

Examples of Post Adoption Contact Agreements

*Warning- Clicking on external links will open a new browser tab and send you to a website outside of The Family Preservation Project. The Family Preservation Project cannot be responsible for the accuracy of the information contained within other websites.

Adoption Studies

First/Birth Mother


“The results of this analysis demonstrate that for many birth mothers, satisfaction is not static. Rather, time (measured by years since relinquishment) was found to have a significant inverse relationship with birth mothers’ satisfaction regarding their decision to place their child for adoption.”

Culmination of Studies. Research Article: The Relationship Between Time and Birth Mother Satisfaction With Relinquishment


“Landmark Donaldson Adoption Institute Study reveals financial difficulties, social pressures and lack of support all factors in decision-making for expectant mothers.”

Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption: A Qualitative Analysis of Birth Parents and Professionals


“Among women motivated to avoid parenthood, as evidenced by abortion seeking, adoption is considered or chosen infrequently. Political promotion of adoption as an alternative to abortion is likely not grounded in the reality of women’s decision making.”

Adoption Decision Making among Women Seeking Abortion.


“Birth parents express repressed feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and sadness from placement that may manifest as subsequent infertility, disruptive marriage relationships, addiction, clinical depression, and overprotectiveness of any additional children”…”Some clinicians identify grief as the dominant emotion driving such pathological behavior and call for consideration of grief as a major indicator of the posttraumatic stress disorder created by adoptive placement.”

“birth mother grief is like taking the continuous grief over the loss of a child and then adding Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD) AND Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) AND Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) while being expected to deal with it all silently because it was a choice.”

Birth Mother Grief and the Challenge of Adoption Reunion Contact


“Relinquishing their child has meant losing their only opportunity to parent a birth child, and that has bought tremendous anguish. Women considering relinquishing a child need to be made aware that secondary infertility is a real and present possibility.”

Secondary Infertility and Birth Mothers


“They found that the effects of the loss of the child on the mother were both negative and long lasting. All of the mothers who participated in the study reported a sense of loss, which did not diminish over time. In fact, approximately half of the mothers surveyed reported an increase in the sense of loss over time.”

Long term outcomes of losing a child through adoption: the impact of disenfranchised grief


Counselors are directed to encourage mothers in vulnerable situations to relinquish:

“Counselors must be trained to give women sound reasons that will counter the desire to keep their babies. One example is to reinforce the notion that it takes a strong, mature woman to place a child for adoption. Arguments about financial survival can be compelling as well. Counselors must communicate that adoption can be the heroic, responsible choice and that the child benefits tremendously.”

THE MISSING PIECE Adoption Advocacy and Pregnancy Resource Centers


“comparable to losing an infant through death, it is a very stressful event for the relinquishing mother. This stress, combined with a powerful grief reaction, can predispose these women to a number of long-term adverse effects”

A Collection of Birth Mother Studies over a 30 year span


Study selection: Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis.

Data synthesis: A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief.

Conclusions: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.

Postadoptive reactions of the relinquishing mother: a review



“When we used regression analysis to adjust the academic performance indicators for disparities across groups in related factors like parent education, family income, and age, sex, and race of the students, we found that adopted students continued to have significantly higher problem rates. Indeed, because adoptive families tend to be well above average in income and educational attainment, the statistical adjustments sometimes magnified the differences in problem frequencies.”

National Household Education Survey, Parent and Family Involvement Component


“While openness in adoption has become more common in the United  States, little research has examined contact between birth and adoptive  families as adoptees become adults…few studies about adoption openness have targeted adult adoptees…Crea and Barth  (2009), in their longitudinal study of adoptive families (N = 469 adoptees),  found that the overall number of adoptive families in contact with birth families decreased between 8 and 14 years post-adoption, consistent with earlier  research (e.g., Frasch, Brooks, & Barth, 2000).”

Adoptees’ Contact with Birth Relatives in Emerging Adulthood


“Assume that all children who have been adopted or fostered have experienced trauma. Just as not every child exposed to tuberculosis develops hemoptysis, fevers, and weight loss, not every child exposed to stress will develop trauma symptoms…The pediatrician must assume that such exposure could have profoundly impacted the child, and must use history taking, surveillance questions, and screening tools to accurately assess trauma’s impact.”

Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope With Trauma


“One of the most significant findings within this respondent group appears to be that, regardless
of whether they had a positive or more challenging experience growing up within their
adoptive family (roughly equal proportions of each participated in this study), most participants
identified issues relating to problems with attachment, identity, abandonment and the parenting
of their own children.
Compared to Australian population estimates, adoptees responding to our survey had lower
levels of wellbeing and higher levels of psychological distress, and almost 70% of adoptee
survey respondents agreed that being adopted had resulted in some level of negative effect on
their health, behaviours or wellbeing while growing up.”

Past Adoption Experiences


“Nonetheless, being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having contact with a mental health professional and of having a disruptive behavior disorder. Relative to international adoptees, domestic adoptees had higher odds of having an externalizing disorder.”

The Mental Health of U.S. Adolescents Adopted in Infancy


“The odds of a reported suicide attempt were ∼4 times greater in adoptees compared with nonadoptees.”

Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring


“The attachment bond between a mother and her child is first formed in the womb, where fetuses have been found to develop preferential responses to maternal scents and sounds that persist after birth, explains Myron Hofer, who was director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychology at Columbia University until his retirement in 2011.”

How Mother-Child Separation Causes Neurobiological Vulnerability Into Adulthood


“Adolescence, especially, is a crucial period in the development of one’s identity. For example, knowing about one’s medical background, why one was adopted, where one’s red hair came from, or who else in the family was artistic is a basic human need; it is a need that is taken for granted by most nonadopted people because it is always there. Denying adopted children this information is seen as an infringement upon basic human rights, and can lead to an array of emotional and identity problems (Neil 2000a).”

Adolescents’ Satisfaction with Contact in Adoption


“Although most adopted adolescents are psychologically healthy, they may be at elevated risk for some externalizing disorders, especially among those domestically placed.”

The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy


“Attempted suicide is more common among adolescents who live with adoptive parents than among adolescents who live with biological parents.”

Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence

Maternal Separation


“Keeping mothers and newborns together during the perinatal period is so critical to the safety and health of mothers and newborns, that Bergman, a specialist in perinatal neuroscience, called for promoting, supporting, and protecting a policy of “zero separation” at all costs. Bergman emphasized that SSC [skin to skin care] with zero separation is the biologic norm and the one intervention above any other that can improve maternal and neonatal outcomes and the quality of survival.”

Healthy Birth Practice: Keep Mother and Newborn Together


“The attachment bond between a mother and her child is first formed in the womb, where fetuses have been found to develop preferential responses to maternal scents and sounds that persist after birth, explains Myron Hofer, who was director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychology at Columbia University until his retirement in 2011.”

How Mother-Child Separation Causes Neurobiological Vulnerability Into Adulthood


“The early life of most mammals is expended in near contact with the mother and for the newborn. Early MS [Maternal Separation] is a traumatic occurrence that, conditioning on the different situations, can form its behavioral and neurochemical phenotype in adulthood. Studies in rodents exhibited that a  very short separation cooled by a greater maternal care can completely affect the development of offspring. Nevertheless, prolonged MS [Maternal Separation] origins stress.”

Early Life Experience: Maternal separation, involvement of GABA and Glutamate transporters


“Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented on the study’s findings: “This paper highlights the profound impact of maternal separation on the infant. We knew that this was stressful, but the current study suggests that this is major physiologic stressor for the infant.”

Maternal separation stresses the baby, research finds


“When we hold our babies for the first time, we might imagine that they’re clean slates, unmarked by life, when in fact, they’ve already been shaped by us and by the particular world we live in.”

What We Learn Before We’re Born

Knowing Your Rights in an Open Adoption

Open Adoption is the most popular form of domestic infant adoption (DIA) today, yet there is no standard legal definition for Open Adoption. Laws and Terms vary by state. Know your rights, or lack thereof, before terminating your parental rights over your child.

You could possibly never see your child again. Open adoptions are often closed and courts will seldom undermine the decisions of legal (adoptive) parents in order to serve parents (biological) who have voluntarily terminated their parental rights. *This page does not provide legal advice.

For more informative videos about adoption practices and nuances, please visit The Family Preservation Project’s TikTok page.

The following quotes about Open Adoptions are from various adoption professionals and publications:

“The majority of states don’t consider these written agreements (often called Open Adoption Agreements or Post-Adoption Contracts) as true contracts, so the terms aren’t usually enforceable under the law. The system, in most parts, operates on the basis of trust and good will. Moreover, in those states where Post-Adoption Contracts are considered legally enforceable, they are also considered “voidable.” In the event that a judge considers the arrangement to be against the child’s best interests, he or she can alter its terms or nullify it entirely.” – Maxine Chalker, MSW / LSW is the founder and executive director at Adoptions From The Heart

“There is not really a template for what these agreements should entail as open adoption agreements are a fairly new concept and not legally enforceable in many states. Even those states that do state they legally enforce their open adoption agreements, there are many loopholes, stipulations, and faults with the law.”- The Reality of Open Adoption Agreements, Adoption.com 2018

“The problem is, in most states open adoption agreements aren’t legally binding. If the adoptive parents- or you,- for that matter- decide to take a step back or shut down the adoption entirely, there is very little the other side can do stop it.”- 9 Signs the Adoptive Parents Will Close Your Adoption and What You Can Do About It Before Placement, America Adopts

“Many parents are participating in open adoptions, which is where the biological and adoptive parents create a written agreement that allows visitation and regular updates on the child. Not all states will enforce these contracts…”- Rights of Birth Parents and Grandparents After Adoption, Lawyers.com

“Rights are often sparse when adopting a child out to another family.”- Birth Parents’ Rights After an Open Adoption, HG.com Legal Resources

“A Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) is an agreement that allows for certain, specified contact between the Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents. Laws on PACAs will vary from state to state. Some states will enforce them so long as they serve the best interest of the child and other states will either prohibit or not enforce them”- Types of Adoption Options, Adoption Network

“If a relationship between a set of birth parents and adoptive parents sours after the adoption has taken place, the adoptive parents may decide to eliminate any visits from the biological parents that were agreed upon beforehand. Even though these visitation agreements normally find their way into legal adoption papers, the biological parents have little to no legal recourse to continue their visits to the child.”- Open Adoption FAQ, FindLaw.com

“It is possible for the adoptive parents to cut off all access even in the open process…There is little the biological mother and father can do unless they seek to reacquire the youth.”- Birth Parents’ Rights After Open Adoption, HG.com Legal Resources

“Some adoptive parents may say they want an open adoption…Or, pressured by their agency, they may say they want one because they know that it will increase their chances of finding a match. But talking the talk is one thing. Walking the walk is another…But if you find that can’t penetrate it, it could be a bad omen for what’s to come later.”- 9 Signs the Adoptive Parents Will Close Your Adoption and What You Can Do About It Before Placement, America Adopts

“If the post-adoption contact is an agreement through an open adoption, it is not a true contract in the legal sense. The agreement exists to provide contact between birth and adoptive parents. However, without an actual contract in place to legally enforce the communication with the child, the birth parents may see little or nothing come to fruition.”- Open Adoption Agreements, Are They Legally Enforceable?, HG.org

“If the birth parents use a contract to create an agreement with the adoptive parents, they can use the contract in the courts to enforce contact if the other mother and father refuse which could violate the terms in the legal agreement…however, even the judge may determine that this will need to wait if the youth is too young to understand the situation. Additionally, the judge will do what is in the best interest of the child even if that is to disregard the contract at that specific time.”- Open Adoption Agreements, Are They Legally Enforceable?, HG.org

“A large reason open adoption agreements are largely not legally enforceable is for the simple fact that no one knows what the future holds. Ultimately, adoptive parents have the power in these situations to make decisions based on their child’s best interest. Often, it is the unintended abuse of that power in the form of unrealistic promises that can make or break a trusting relationship between adoptive and birth parents.”- The Reality of Open Adoption Agreements, Adoption.com 2018

“If you have an official open adoption contract, it is technically illegal to close the adoption completely. However these contracts are difficult to enforce, so even a contracted open adoption can be closed.”- Can I Close My Open Adoption?, Adoption.org

“The majority of the time, an open adoption is simply a verbal agreement between adoptive and birth parents to maintain contact. There is typically not concrete documentation of an agreement to openness; therefore, the level of openness can change at any time, whether the decision is mutual or not.”- Can I Close My Open Adoption?, Adoption.org

“In most states, post-adoption contact agreements are not true contracts. That is, they are not legally enforceable. Even if both parties sign an agreement with the agency to an open adoption, the contract can be broken at any time without legal consequences.”- Are Open Adoption Agreements Legally Enforceable?, Adoption.org

“In fact, the courts generally only enforce an open adoption agreement if it clearly benefits the minor child. Although the courts often side with the adoptive parents…At the end of the day, they have the final say over who they let into their child’s life.”- 5 Open Adoption Legal Issues Adopting Parents Need to Know, America Adopts

“Open adoptions vary depending on the type of relationship that the birth parents and the adoptive parents have agreed to…In open adoption there is never any guarantee that the adopting family will keep their side of the agreement to stay in contact.”- USLegal.com

“When adoptive parents are surprised by the incidence, frequency, or duration of postplacement contact, they express more discomfort and dissatisfaction with openness. Surveys do suggest that many adoptive parents feel pressured to agree to an open arrangement in order to receive a child.”- Risks and Benefits of Open Adoption, Marianne Berry

“If the adoptive family refuses to make contact even after a judge has ordered it, there are potential charges and fines. Even so, most of the time adoptive parents are not punished for breaking the contract…when the adoptive family feels that openness is harmful to the child, they can appeal to the courts to have the contract annulled. This way they are not held responsible when they refuse the contract they had initially agreed to.”- Are Open Adoption Agreements Legally Enforceable?, Adoption.org 2018

“PACAs (Post Adoption Contract Agreements) are NOT custody agreements…In most states, PACAs are not legally enforceable…the PACA is only as good as the parties who abide by it.”- Post Adoption Communication Agreements, Thompson McMullan PC

“A Petition to Modify- In many jurisdictions, only the adoptive parents or the child can file a petition to modify. A Petition to Terminate- This would be a request to do away with the PACA altogether. Again, in many jurisdictions, only the adoptive parents or the child can file this petition.”- What is a Post Adoption Contact Agreement and How Does It Work?, Willig Williams Davidson

“An open adoption agreement can specify frequency and manner of contact between adoptive and birth families…However, while it may be drawn up in the form of a contract and signed by both parties, it is not legally binding.” –Adoption Laws, Adopt.org

“…Adoptive parents are the legal parents once an adoption has been finalized and do have the right to change their minds about how to raise their child, which may make enforcement of open adoption contracts impossible in some situations.”- The Adoption Option, Center for American Progress

“The burden of proof is on the party seeking enforcement, and the standard of proof is a preponderance of evidence.”- Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACAs) and Open Adoption, DawnCoppock.com, Adoption Attorney

Examples of Post Adoption Contact Agreements

Most Post Adoption Contact Agreements give adoptive parents the option to close an open adoption. Your connection with your child is at stake. Please consider what recourse you have, and the affordability of that recourse, if the adoptive parents choose to close an open adoption. Open adoptions are rarely enforced and most states do not recognize Post Adoption Contact Agreements.
*This page does not provide legal advice.

Georgia Post Adoption Contact Agreement Example:

“As legal parents, the adoptive parent(s) have the right to make all decisions that they determine to be in the best interest of the child, including WHETHER COMPLIANCE WITH ANY CONDITIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD.” (bold for emphasis)

Adoptive parents CAN CLOSE open adoptions. Read the fine print in your contract.

Tennessee Post Adoption Contact Agreement Example:

“All parties agree that the adoptive parents are empowered to make life decisions to support their child’s best interest…the adoptive parents may alter or end the contact agreement in order to protect the interests of the child.” (bold for emphasis)