For many of you reading this blog, this may be the first adoption related website you’ve ever visited. You may find yourselves in the very beginning stages of adoption research and trying to make heads or tails of the plethora of information available on-line. While this is an exciting part of the process, the “information gathering” stage can also be an overwhelming one. The internet has made adoption information accessible to everyone, but has propagated a good deal of conflicting (or misinformation), as well. Some of the most common questions people have when making an initial inquiry is about the type of agency they should use. They also want to know the difference between using an adoption attorney, facilitator or an adoption agency. Wading through all of these details can be tedious and confusing, so in this blog I will do my best to define three of the most common adoption entities that exist, as well as to offer guidance as to how you can best know what you are getting into and ultimately, what is the best choice for your family.
Let’s begin with perhaps the most common adoption resource: the adoption agency. Whether large or small, there are many similar traits to be found across the board when working with an adoption agency. First of all, this is the primary place for getting your adoption home study completed. Without a home study, you cannot adopt a child. Once this important step is finished, many adoption agencies will then attempt to match you with a birthparent from their existing pool of pregnant birthmothers or they will work on your behalf to find a placement from an outside resource, perhaps a national or out-of-state agency, depending on the situation. An adoption agency will be responsible for walking you through placement, completing necessary adoption paperwork, helping you to negotiate the terms of an open adoption, performing post-placement duties, and ultimately submitting reports leading to finalization of your adoption. Some of the advantages to working with an agency include greater representation, someone holding your hand throughout the entire process, available counseling to birthparents regarding their adoption decision, and the assurance that an accredited, licensed agency is being held accountable to certain laws and standards governing adoption.
First of all, you will always need to retain an attorney in order to finalize your adoption. Whether or not you speak to an attorney before that point depends on the state you live in and the particulars of the adoption situation you are involved in. Some folks engage in what we call a private adoption, which in its simplest form means that the adoptive parents have been matched with the birthparents privately, outside of an agency, and desire to complete an adoption by mutual consent. Sometimes the attorney will refer the birthmother to an agency for a minimum number of counseling sessions or at the least, an assessment prior to signing relinquishments. Oftentimes, the case will be referred to an adoption agency for post-placement supervision and finalization. These types of adoptions occur frequently and are successful; however, a few things to be aware of are that not all attorneys, even a family law attorney, is familiar with and understanding of the unique nuances of adoption. We recommend using an attorney who is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Additionally, not all attorneys or adoptive families are taking into consideration the best interests of birthparents, so they do not always advocate for a birthmother receiving counseling prior to her adoption decision.
Technically, an adoption facilitator is a person who assists with, or “facilitates,” the matching of a birthmother with an adoptive family. Unlike a licensed child placing agency or even a licensed attorney, however, adoption facilitators are not licensed. In fact, if they accept payment for their services it is illegal in some states, including North Carolina. If a person is voluntarily acting as a facilitator, without compensation, then most states accept their role. Some examples include nurses, ministers, family members, and friends. Most states prohibit the compensation of an adoption facilitator and in states like California or Ohio where it is allowed, there are strict laws governing payment to these individuals.
While the potential dangers of this scenario may appear obvious, unfortunately it is not always obvious to the prospective client that this person or entity is indeed a facilitator. Many facilitators have sophisticated websites and brochures that give the impression of being an agency, when in fact, they are not. The improper use of a facilitator can cause a multitude of problems and could negatively impact the finalization of your adoption. As an adoptive parent, therefore, be sure to do your homework and know what kinds of questions to ask.
In closing, it is important to do your research and to ask a lot of questions as you gather information about the best adoption route for your family. Adoption Matters, Inc. would love to answer any questions you may have and to assist you in your adoption journey.