Post Adoption Contact Agreements: What DCS Foster Parents Need To Know
There is solid general information about Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACAs) prepared by Dawn Coppock on this site.
But, foster families face special issues and risks in PACAs.
Post Adoption Contact Issues and Risks for Foster Parents
Consider some common circumstances:
- The child is in state custody because the parent presented a danger to them.
- DCS or the foster agency may want the birth parents to agree to termination of parental rights without a contested trial because settlement uses less state resources.
- The birth parents, the child and DCS all have lawyers on the case well before any conversation about termination of parental rights.
- The foster parent(s) generally don’t have a lawyer, and can’t get a lawyer at DCS expense, until adoption is the plan for the child.
- The birth parent(s) and the foster parent(s), and if the child is 14 or older, the child, are the people who must sign any PACA, and the foster parents are the people who must make it work.
- Under these circumstances, foster parents may be pressured to enter into a PACA that offers too much contact with the birth parents and is not in the child’s best interest. It is reasonable and even advisable for foster parents to want their own lawyer to advise them before they enter into a PACA. For many foster parents, the barrier to obtaining counsel at this point in the process is legal fees. There may be a solution to get at least some private legal advice for no additional cost.
Options If You Are Feeling PACA Pressure
What can you as a foster family do if you feel pressured to accept a PACA that you believe is not in your foster child’s best interest.
- Ask the child’s Guardian ad Litem to stand up for the child’s interests.
- Clearly, specifically, and in writing, (email is fine) raise and document your concerns with DCS and the GAL, if you feel like they have the power and opportunity to do so.
- If you want representation, call the attorney you intend to ask to represent you in the adoption finalization, and ask the attorney if they would be willing to include legal advice about the PACA in the fees the attorney will be paid to finalize the adoption.
- A few lawyers, including Ms. Coppock, include an hour of adoption related legal services in the flat fee paid by the state for adoption finalization. In many cases, an hour of attorney’s time will be sufficient to answer the foster parent’s questions and often sufficient to help work out an acceptable PACA.
Sample Post Adoption Contact Agreements
Click to access the sample PACA agreements for adoptions in Tennessee below.
Sample Enforceable Contract for Post Adoption Contact
Sample Moral Agreement for Post Adoption Contact
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