What to Expect from Your Adoption Attorney
Q: When using an adoption attorney who provides full adoption services, how can you tell what type of services they offer to expectant parents before the adoption and after the adoption? What types of services should we expect?
A: Adoption is a hybrid of law and social work. Offering birth parent counseling is, in the long run, best for all members of the adoption triad: birth parents, adopting parents, and the child. Asking an adoption attorney about his or her process in working with expectant parents and birth parents can provide some good indicators of the quality of services provided. Unfortunately, working with birth parents is sometimes handled in a perfunctory way, without the necessary commitment made to “options counseling” and third-party private counseling provided by professionals who have experience in working with the expectant parent population. When looking at the services offered to expectant parents, an attorney should be able to provide an in-depth description of the work they do with an expectant parent as well as who carries out those services (ie. a social worker on staff, a licensed counselor trained in adoption, etc). Well-rounded services often include options counseling with the expectant mother regarding her pregnancy, adoption education, and helping expectant parents determine what type of family they envision for their child, as well as the type of on-going contact with the family after placement.
These discussions should include the differences between public and private adoptions and what types of contact the expectant parent may have with the child and adoptive family after placement, whether it will be mediated through the attorney’s office or if the parties will communicate directly and share identifying information.
Once an expectant mother has selected and been matched with an adoptive family, the attorney or counselor should act as the liaison between both parties to mediate the flow of information leading up to placement. If an expectant mother chooses to place her child in a semi-open situation, often the counselor acts as the conduit for pictures, updates, and progress reports over time.
Other services should include an investigation of the expectant parents’ medical and social history,and a needs assessment to determine how the expectant parent can be helped during her pregnancy. Financial assistance would be determined by state laws. As an expectant mother prepares for delivery, an adoption counselor should also work with her to establish what her expectations are for the hospital and to communicate those expectations with the hospital in advance.
Another important factor to discuss would be to determine what type of contact and support is maintained with the birth parents after placement. As birth parents typically experience ongoing times of grief due to the loss, it is important that they feel they are supported and that the placing entity is able to provide this support or make appropriate referrals.
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