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    Should You Adopt Using an Adoption Agency or Adoption Lawyer

    Dawn Davenport

    Differences between an adoption agency and an adoption atttorney

    Should you adopt with an adoption agency or adoption lawyer? Well, it depends…

    Are you confused about the differences between adopting a baby from adoption agencies or an adoption lawyers (also known as an independent adoptions)? You’re not alone–people new to adoption are often confused about how these two types of adoption differ and which one to use. In all but four states you have a choice between using an adoption attorney and an adoption agency when adopting an infant in the US.

    It is hard to make hard and fast distinctions between adopting through an adoption agency and adopting through an adoption attorney because there is a great deal of variation amongst adoption agencies and amongst adoption lawyers. Some agencies provide few of the resources expected of adoption agencies, while some attorneys provide more. I do think there are some general distinctions and what follows applies to the typical, not the exceptions.

    Ten Differences between Adopting through an Adoption Agency and an Adoption Lawyer

    1. In a typical independent adoption, the prospective parents take an active role in finding a birthmother, usually by networking, advertising, or by using the Internet. While adoptive parents may choose to do this in an adoption agency adoption, they may have the option of having the adoption agency do this for them.
    2. In some states (in some circumstances) infant adopted through an adoption agency must first go to a foster home before being placed with their adoptive parents. (This is not always the case.)
    3. Adoption agencies can handle infant domestic adoption, international adoptions, and foster care adoptions, and sometimes all three at the same agency. Adoption attorneys usually only handle independent domestic infant adoptions through birth parent relinquishment.
    4. Not all states allow adoption lawyers to help adoptive parents locate and screen expectant women who are considering placing their child for adoption.
    5. Usually the expectant woman or birthmother selects the adoptive family in both adoption agency adoptions and independent adoption attorney adoptions, but sometimes in an agency adoption, the agency will choose if the birth mother does not want to. This seldom happens with adoptions through adoption lawyers.
    6. As a general rule, adoption lawyers have fewer restrictions for adoptive parents (age, marital status, sexual orientation, # of divorces, religion), although it restrictions depend upon the agency and not all agencies have them.
    7. Adoption lawyers often do not have and do not require the same level of pre-adoption education as most adoption agencies. (I believe all adoptive parents should be well educated on the adoption and adoptive parenting before the adoption.)
    8. Most adoption agencies provide counseling to the expectant woman and the father and even her extended family throughout the pregnancy and after the adoption. Few adoption lawyer provide counseling as part of their service although they should be able to refer the expectant woman to a counselor and bill the adoptive parents.
    9. Most adoption attorneys do not provide ongoing support for adoptive families after the adoption has been finalized, although some are able to refer families to a therapist specializing in adoption issues or other resources. Not all adoption agencies have post adoption support, but many do and adoptive parents can choose to select one that provides this service.
    10. It is possible to find an adoption agency that charges on a sliding fee scale or does not charge birth mother medical expenses directly to the adoptive family, thus saving the adoptive family money. These payment options are seldom available with independent adoptions via an adoption attorney. Average cost, however, for adoptions are about the same regardless whether you adopt through an adoption agency or lawyer.

    What would you add? How did you decide whether to adopt from an adoption agency or adoption lawyer?

    Image credit:  l0s71

    20/11/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 14 Comments

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    14 Responses to Should You Adopt Using an Adoption Agency or Adoption Lawyer

    1. Pingback: Joy’s 31 Days on Adoption–Different Ways to Adopt Option #3 | Joy's Soapbox

    2. Maura says:

      We are still early in the home study process, but for us going with an agency was an easy decision. We are not confident about find a birth mother on our own. We wanted the guidance of the agency. We have also spent lots of money on fertility treatment to no avail. When we started the adoption process we want to be sure of just how much we would be spending and know that we would not completely deplete our resources and still have no child. For this reason we were not comfortable with a situation in which we paid the birth mother expenses out of pocket. We liked the shared risk aspect of the agency. It is also important to me that the expectant mothers are given counseling and make an informed decision and so we chose an agency we feel confident does a good job of this.
      Jody- I have researched Amara is Seattle WA and they seem like a very reputable agency which does sliding scale adoption without passing through expenses. We decided not to go with them only because their primary focus is foster to adopt which is not what we were looking for. But, if we decide to go that route in the future it will likely be with Amara.

    3. A big discussion among professionals state regulators and agencies is the complete by-passing of ICPC when facilitators or some attorneys are assisting cross state placements.

      • Robin, how is it possible to legally bypass the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)? No matter whether you go through an adoption agency or adoption lawyer, the ICPC regs must by followed. Right????

    4. Robyn says:

      We adopted using facilitators, which is another type of independent adoption. I don’t recommend it. Unfortunately, with so many agencies discriminating on the basis of religion and/or sexual orientation, and charging race-based fees, it can be difficult to find an agency to work with.

      I know that the lawyer who handled DS’s adoption was excellent, and I would recommend him in a minute. However, he doesn’t do outreach; you’d have to find an expectant mother as an identified match and go to him. The lawyer who did DD’s adoption should be disbarred. Both are AAAA attorneys. It’s such a crap shoot!

    5. Rich says:

      To me it’s what is right for each family. Do your research and decide which way is best for you.

    6. Greg says:

      It seems like while you have more freedom with an Independent Private Adoption thorough an attorney there is a lot more work involved on the Prospective Adoptive Parent end of things. As with anything it’s going to come down to what the couple is most comfortable doing.

    7. Suzanne says:

      As an adoptee and adoptive stepmom: An agency because in general they are better able to preserve records for your adopted person. There are a few exceptions, but loss and mismanagement are less than when left to a lone lawyer.

    8. Confusing, this adoption thing is. Dawn, do you know of any specific agencies that using the sliding fee scale and do not pass costs through to adoptive parents? Thanks!

      • Yes Jody, there are definitely agencies that do that. I hesitate to list any because there are many and I’ll leave many out. Anyone care to list the agencies that they know of who have a sliding fee scale?

    9. Jessica says:

      I’ll tell you one thing, unless I already have found a birth mother match before starting the process, I will NOT use an attorney again. Their approach is completely hands off and a waste of money.

    10. marilynn says:

      It seems like its more ethical to have a child be placed in intermediate care even for a short while just so that its clear the mother and father are willingly placing and that there is never any kind of dispute between the parents and the people wishing to adopt. The people who do the adopting don’t want it ever looking like they wanted the child separated from the parents or family that puts a cloud over their adoptive parenthood later. The best relationships I’ve seen between adoptive parents and adopted kids seems to be when the adoptive parents had nothing at all to do with the parents decision to relinquish or with their loss of rights over their child.

      Seems like adoptive parents can really be in charge of making themselves available to a child that is truly in need of an adoptive family – not situations where the jury is still out as it were. I think domestic adoptions you could be much more confident that poverty was not a reason for giving up their child for adoption as well because this country does have a comprehensive welfare program for families below the poverty line specifically so they don’t have to loose their children to adoption. In other countries the reason for giving a child up for adoption might well be abject poverty and many of the adopted people I’ve helped from other countries, love their American adoptive parents but will say behind their backs that the money it cost to adopt them could have been given to their parents so that they could remain with their families. That seems like it just would not be an issue adopting a child domestically.

      Dawn shouldn’t the law here change so that all fees to attorneys are paid by the state? Why on earth should people willing to raise an abandoned/relinquished child have to pay anything other than the cost of raising the child? Is it not in the state’s best interest to invest in the screening efforts and invest in finding qualified individuals to raise children whose families can’t? I would not mind that my tax dollars paid for adoption expenses as part of a comprehensive child welfare system especially because it is needed to ensure that children are not basically the object of contracts. If there are jobs to do and money to be made it really should pass from the state to the facilitators so that it is only disinterested third parties exchanging cash in order to ensure ethical transfer of custody. These are just my thoughts but I’m concerned with weeding out the corruption and opportunities for profiteering.

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