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 | 20 Comments

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

  1. Avatar Chris Pederson says:

    I had no idea that an adoption agency handles infant domestic adoption, international, adoption, and foster care adoption. My wife and I just found out that we are sterile but we aren’t going to let it stop us from having kids. We don’t really know what to do so we’ll look for an agency that can help us with all that experience.

  2. Avatar Kit Hannigan says:

    It sure is nice that you talked about how adoption agencies can handle infant domestic adoption and international adoptions. My cousin and his husband recently came back from a trip to Asia for a humanitarian organization. They are expressing their intent for adopting a child they met on the trip, and I think an adoption agency can really help them out. I’ll be sure to share this really informative article about adoption options with them.

  3. Avatar Mayra says:

    Hello. My sister in law is having a baby in Indiana I’m in Illinois what are the steps I have to take to adopt my baby niece or nephew? I’m also a single mother and I feel this will be a problem. My SIL (sister in law) and my brother both agree on me having their child. I’m very excited but I feel like I’m not what every agency is looking for. I’m 24 single month er of one 5 year old little girl. Still in school. And I was planning on moving next year around April 2018 and the baby is due this year in November so in about four months. Also they are both not stable at all… both had drug problems in the past. As of right now I know my SIL IS CLEAN because I just don’t want CPS to be involved and maybe taking “our” baby away. That will be very devastating as it HAS happened in the past 5 and 4 years ago.. soo they are stupid for not taking care of themselves sorry this is long… anyways quick Question: Do I look for an attorney here in Illinois? Or Indiana? I’d it POSSIBLE I can pay the attorney in payments? (I feel that’s a red flag of not being able to care for a child which is not true.) Or will it be easier if my brother and my SIL Come to Chicago and have their baby and have an attorney here and do all the paper work? Very new to this. And I’ve been doing my research just not talked to an attorney. THANK YOU -mayra

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      We cannot give you legal advice as we are not adoption attorneys but it sounds to us as if you both (you and your sister-in-law) need to find attorneys who know the laws of your individual states in order to ethically and legally proceed. We would also highly suggest that your sister-in-law seek counseling to help her walk through the idea of and/or her plans to place the baby with you – or with anyone at all. There are many organizations that can offer her unbiased counsel and help to parent if that is what she chooses. Please remember, until she legally surrenders a child to the process of adoption and terminates her rights, that child is hers and she ought to have all the resources supporting her that she needs to have to make the right decision for her and for the child’s best interest.

      This is a page from our website, listing how to find attorneys from the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys:

  4. Avatar Derek Mcdoogle says:

    My best friends have been trying so hard to have a baby but haven’t been successful and are looking to adopt. You stated that adoption agencies can handle infant domestic adoption, international adoptions, and foster care adoptions, and sometimes all three at the same agency. Can they find a baby that doesn’t have cat allergies so they don’t have to get rid of their cat?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Not sure if this is a “for real” question, but I’ll treat it that way. I know of no way to determine ahead of time what allergies a child might have. If your friend is not sure that they would be willing to give their cat to another home if it was in the best interest of their child, then they should stick with being cat parents.

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

  6. Avatar 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.

  7. 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????

  8. Avatar 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!

  9. Avatar Rich says:

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

  10. Avatar 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.

  11. Avatar 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.

  12. 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?

  13. Avatar 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.

  14. Avatar 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.