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Adoption Agency, Adoption Attorney & Adoption Facilitators

Adoption is a beautiful process. However, this beautiful process can also be very challenging at times. Regardless of whether you are pregnant and seeking to make an adoption plan for your child or you are looking to adopt a child, it is important that you understand how the process will work, and how your experience might vary depending on the adoption professional(s) you decide to work with. Most people commonly lump everyone who works in adoption into one group which they refer to as “adoption agencies.” The truth of the matter is that there are adoption agencies, adoption attorneys and adoption facilitators. All three have different policies and practices to try and make you successful in your adoption plan.

Adoption is a beautiful process. However, this beautiful process can also be very challenging at times. Regardless of whether you are pregnant and seeking to make an adoption plan for your child or you are looking to adopt a child, it is important that you understand how the process will work, and how your experience might vary depending on the adoption professional(s) you decide to work with. Most people commonly lump everyone who works in adoption into one group which they refer to as “adoption agencies.” The truth of the matter is that there are adoption agencies, adoption attorneys and adoption facilitators. All three have different policies and practices to try and make you successful in your adoption plan.

Adoption agencies are typically licensed by the state as “licensed child placement agencies.” Adoption agencies can range from small, private, for-profit, organizations to large, international not-for-profit organizations. The larger organizations are typically aligned with certain religious groups. Each organization is different and has different policies. It is important that you carefully screen any agency you choose to work with so you understand their particular process. Adoption agencies may have boards of directors which make decisions that could dictate the outcome of your success. Adoption agencies are not sole advocates for adoptive parents or biological parents in an adoption; typically the goal of adoption agencies is to help both sides to work successfully together.

Adoption attorneys are different from adoption agencies in that they are not “licensed child placement agencies,” but rather they are licensed attorneys. Attorneys who promote themselves as “adoption” attorneys typically do not limit their practice to working only in adoption. Most attorneys that handle adoptions are family law attorneys who also do divorce, wills, trusts & estates, and other family-related areas of law. Some attorneys are general practitioners who may work on an adoption today, a real estate development tomorrow, and then criminal defense the next day. It is important to ask the attorney what specific areas of law they practice to determine how much focus of their practice is specific to adoption. If they allude to practicing any other areas of law other than just adoption you should proceed with caution. Adoption is a very sensitive area of the law. You want to make sure that if someone is a general practitioner working on adoptions that they fully understand the law of your state relating to adoption. For more on this topic read a previous blog post titled “If You Think it is Expensive to Hire an Expert, Try Hiring an Amateur.”

If an attorney claims to limit their practice to adoption only, be sure to ask them how many adoptions they have completed year-to-date, annually for the past 5 years, and even many they have done this month. Their answer will be very telling. In the world of adoptions, if the attorney is completing around 100 adoptions a year or more, this very likely means they know what they are doing. Anything much below that number means they are probably practicing other areas of the law as well. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to run a law practice limited to adoption if they are doing anything less than approximately 100 adoptions a year.

Adoption Facilitators:

If you were to ask an adoption attorney and an adoption agency whether or not working with an adoption facilitator is a good option, both would answer with an unequivocal “NO!” Adoption facilitators are unlicensed and unregulated companies and individuals who only match women considering adoption with prospective adoptive families, then have nothing to do with the actual legal process of the adoption. Adoption facilitators can be extremely costly for prospective adoptive parents, and many clients experience multiple failures and disruptions before an adoption succeeds, if it ever does. Over the years, adoption facilitators have earned the negative title of “Baby Brokers” Their interest is casting a huge net for the purpose of identifying as many women looking to place their children for adoption and then selling those adoption leads to perspective adoptive parents. They tend to spend large amounts of money on phonebook and newspaper ads and have catchy names and ads designed to attract more phone calls. Under Indiana law it is a Class A misdemeanor for anyone who is not an Indiana licensed attorney or Indiana licensed child placement agency to provide adoption services in the State of Indiana or to solicit anyone in The State of Indiana to facilitate their adoption plan.

Where to begin if you are interested in making an adoption plan for your child:

If you or a loved one is pregnant and interested in exploring an adoption plan, use these questions as a starting point when speaking to an adoption professional:

  1. Are you a licensed child placement agency or a licensed attorney? If so, in what state(s)?
    If they are not licensed do not work with them.
  2. How many years have you been in business?
    If they do not have years of experience proceed with caution.
  3. How many adoptions do you complete a year?
    If the answer is anywhere close to 100 per year you know you are speaking to a professional.
  4. (For an attorney) Do you do practice any other areas of law?
    You need to feel comfortable with how much adoption work they do versus other work.
  5. (For an attorney) Are you a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys?
    You should want them to be a member of this organization if they are an attorney.
  6. How much in living expenses are allowed to be provided to me, as the birth mother?
    Under Indiana law the statutory amount is $3,000. If they offer you anything more than that, or if they make any reference to buying/selling a child, then they could be exposing you to very serious legal issues which could result in going to jail.
  7. Do I have to identify the birth father?
    This is a trick question. Under Indiana Law a birth mother does not have to identify the birth father. She does not have to lie; she can simply state that she is not identifying the birth father. If they tell you do have to identify him, then they are not familiar with Indiana adoption law.
  8. Do you have referrals of other biological parents whom I could speak with about how your firm or agency treats birth parents?
    Ask for 3-5 referrals, especially if they do not do many adoptions a year. You want to know how the process is going to work from someone who has been in your shoes.
  9. Do you provide counseling at no cost?
    If they do not provide counseling and/or they do not pay for counseling, do not work with them. You are making an impossible decision and you need all of the support you can get.
  10. If you provide me with counseling and/or living expenses, prior to signing a consent to adoption, can I still change my mind about proceeding with the adoption? If I can change my mind, would I have to pay back the money given to me?
    This is another trick question. If they put pressure on you that you must proceed if you received counseling and/or living expenses, know that they either do not know Indiana law or they are using living expenses as an inducement to getting you to proceed, which is ILLEGAL.
  11. Can I deliver at any hospital I choose or do I need to travel somewhere else?
    This is another trick question. If they tell you that you must travel to another state, for anything, or that you cannot deliver at the hospital of your choosing, they are most likely doing something either illegal or just wrong.

Where to begin if you are interested in adopting a child:

If you are looking to adopt and are at the beginning of your adoption journey, use these questions about the adoption process as a starting point to build upon when speaking to an adoption professional:

  1. Are you a licensed child placement agency or a licensed attorney? If so, in what state(s)?
    If they are not licensed do not work with them.
  2. How many years have you been in business?
    If they do not have years of experience proceed with caution.
  3. How many adoptions do you complete a year?
    If the answer is anywhere close to 100 per year you know you are speaking to a professional.
  4. (For an attorney) Do you do practice any other areas of law?
    You need to feel comfortable with how much adoption work they do versus other work.
  5. (For an attorney) Are you a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys?
    You should want them to be a member of this organization if they are an attorney.
  6. How long will it take me to be successful in my adoption plan?
    There is no clear cut answer as to whether working with an adoption attorney or an adoption agency will produce the fastest results in terms of a successful adoption for you. You can work with either and be successful in weeks or years. How the matching process works for the given adoption attorney or agency, as well as what your threshold of risk is in the adoption process, will play largely into how soon you will be successful. Make sure to ask if there are any board approvals or other approvals that are needed in order for you to be successful. You want to make sure that you have as much control over the decision making process as you feel you require. You also want to avoid any situations where others are making decisions for you or which will affect your likelihood of success.

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