When deciding on adoption, one of the first things to consider is choosing an adoption professional who you will work with to find an adoptive family for your child. Based on the adoption professional you choose, different adoption services will be available. Each type of adoption professional has their pros and cons. They are divided into four categories:
Adoption agencies are licensed and regulated by state authorities. This means they must follow certain standards to be able to continue providing adoption services. State authorities review their files to make sure agency standards are kept at a very high level. Adoption agencies usually handle the entire adoption process for you and can be divided into three categories:
- Small adoption agencies usually employ one or two staff members. Their advantage is that you can become very intimate with the staff. However, small agencies usually serve only a specific city, county or state. If state laws change, small agencies can be put out of business. Because the families will be local, this can limit the number you have to select from. Additionally, you will not have access to the agency’s adoption services if you move since small agencies typically serve only their geographic area.
Furthermore, small agencies rarely provide support after regular business hours, which can be frustrating to many pregnant women. Their few staff members can be overworked, and a staff turnover can really affect the whole organization. You should also check the agency’s religious affiliation as this can be uncomfortable if you don’t share their religious views.
- Medium adoption agencies usually employ five or more staff members. Medium agencies have a larger geographic area of service, usually a region or several states, and more support and options. But it is still important to determine the areas served by the agency because you may not receive support services if you move out of the area. And you’ll still face many of the same risks in terms of staff availability and turnover and the agency’s susceptibility to law changes.
- National adoption agencies usually employ 20 or more staff members. One advantage to national agencies is that they typically serve all 50 states. National adoption agencies are more financially secure and, therefore, less susceptible to law changes. If you move, national agencies will either continue to provide services to you or arrange for services to be provided. This is especially beneficial for adopted children, who, as they grow, can get answers to questions about adoption.
National agencies also provide around-the-clock adoption services and often have one adoption professional who is your guide throughout the entire process. Most national adoption agencies will be able to work with you from the beginning to the end of the adoption process, offering staff members trained in social work and a better overall experience. Because they’re more likely to be financially stable, national adoption agencies are often able to provide additional services, such as a scholarship program. They often have a wide selection of adoptive families who they screen and educate more thoroughly than medium or small agencies. This allows you to feel more secure in selecting the right set of parents for your child.
American Adoptions is a national adoption agency. You can review the wide selection of American Adoptions adoptive family profiles here.
Adoption Attorney/ Law Firm
Some birth mothers prefer to work with an adoption attorney or group of attorneys. If you choose an attorney, it is important to educate yourself about the pros and cons and to select an attorney whose specialty is adoption law. Attorneys are a functional choice if you are simply looking for an adoption professional to process legal work. On the other hand, since attorneys typically handle the legal part of the adoption process such as going to court, reaching them can be a challenge.
Attorneys employ other attorneys and paralegals and rarely have a counselor or social worker to provide you with adoption services or support during the adoption process. Often they do not facilitate a match with an adoptive family, either. If you want someone to build an adoption plan around your needs, you should consider an adoption agency. If, however, you just need someone to provide sound legal work, an attorney may be a good choice.
Adoption facilitators are unlicensed adoption professionals who often try to appear to be an adoption agency. Many are found in the states of California, Utah and Iowa. Since facilitators are not regulated by state authorities, no one can close them down if they are providing poor adoption services. Likewise, they can go out of business with no repercussions. Many states even have laws against adoption facilitators.
Adoption facilitators may arrange a match but usually lack a social services department and offer no further services, causing a birth mother or adoptive family to seek the aid of another adoption professional. Since they lack expertise in the complexities of adoption law, they may even authorize services that aren’t legal and could jeopardize an adoption. The lack of consistency and support can lead to a failed adoption as well. They may also encourage you to move to the states where they operate (often California, Utah or Iowa), enticing you with promises of additional living expenses during your pregnancy.
Many pregnant women discover they have been working with a bad organization when it is too late. Since most pregnant women want to find the best family for their babies, they often prefer to work with attorneys or adoption agencies who they can count on for better adoption services. If you aren’t sure if you’re working with an adoption facilitator, ask for a license number and the name of the organization that regulates them. If the only answer they offer is the Better Business Bureau, you’re working with an adoption facilitator who is not being monitored or regulated for good adoption practice. Before working with an adoption law center, you should also contact the attorney general’s office in the state where the organization resides to determine if they are or have been under investigation.
Adoption Law Center
Adoption law centers are similar to other unlicensed adoption professionals and are frequently found in California, Utah and Iowa as well. They may try to appear to be an adoption attorney, when in fact they are corporations simply owned by an attorney. Adoption law centers are usually licensed in one state and often are not experts in adoption law, especially in the state in which they reside. They, too, have been known to authorize ill-advised adoption services.
Law centers operate much like facilitators. Like facilitators, they may encourage you to move to the states where they operate (again, California, Utah or Iowa) for enticing additional living expenses during your pregnancy. They also often lack social services and counseling staff and often overlook the complexities of adoption law. And as facilitators do, they are likely to remove themselves from the adoption process after a match, often referring birth mothers and adoptive families to other attorneys.
Before working with an adoption law center, contact the attorney general’s office in the state where the law center resides to determine if the organization is or has been under investigation. It doesn’t hurt to check with your own state’s attorney general’s office as well. Again, most pregnant women prefer more reliable and comprehensive adoption services and choose to work with attorneys or adoption agencies instead.
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