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What is an Adoption Law Center?

And What You Should Know About Working with One

There are several different types of adoption professionals who can help hopeful parents complete the adoption process. This is one of the first thing a family realizes when they consider adoption, and the amount of choices can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to find the specific organization who will serve you best, you also have to decide why type of organization that will be.

While doing their research, many families will run across the term “adoption law centers.” In most cases, it will be the first time a family encounters this term. What are adoption law centers, and should you work with one to complete your adoption? Ultimately, only you can answer the second question based on your unique situation. However, this guide to adoption law centers will help.

We’re going to break down what adoption law centers are and how they differ from other adoption professionals and look at the potential advantages and disadvantages of working with one. If you have more specific questions at any point while reading, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time to speak with an adoption professional.

What Are Adoption Law Centers?

Adoption law centers are corporations that are owned by a licensed attorney, and they have become more prevalent in the last several years. Unlike a law firm, most adoption law centers don’t actually provide legal adoption services — they often refer their clients to separate attorneys for the legal work needed to complete the adoption.

The services offered by adoption law centers can vary. Some will stay with families through most of the adoption process. However, most adoption law centers operate like an adoption facilitator, which is an organization that advertises to locate a birth mother on behalf of their adoptive clients. While some adoption law centers stick with families after finding a match, many tell families to find retain outside counsel once they’ve reached a certain point in the adoption process.

The Difference Between Adoption Law Firms and Adoption Law Centers

Adoption law firms are organizations comprised of two or more attorneys who specialize in family law. In most cases, adoption law firms meet the legal needs of adoption while working alongside an adoption agency, although in some cases adoption attorneys will lead the adoption process (this is known as independent adoption).

Adoption law centers, on the other hand, are corporations owned by an attorney who act similarly to adoption agencies, but are not licensed or regulated in the same way. While some argue this lack of regulation can be a good thing, it can also result in an adoption process that doesn’t adhere to the regulations put in place to protect the members of the adoption triad.

Advantages of Adoption Law Centers:

  • Advertising services: Law centers, like facilitators, often have large advertising budgets devoted to reaching out to birth mothers across all 50 states.

  • Potential for shorter wait times: Waiting times can be lower than most adoption professionals.

  • Sense of comfort: The words “adoption law center” in the company title provides comfort to their clients (though this term can be misleading when a law center doesn’t actually provide legal services).

Disadvantages of Adoption Law Centers:

  • Lack of regulation and oversight: Adoption law centers are not regulated like other adoption professionals. Workers are usually held to the standard of the legal bar in whichever state they are in. This standard comes with less oversight than an adoption agency license, when means that an adoption law center’s files are not annually or periodically reviewed by an objective person, government or organization. While a law center may be certified by a state bar association, they will only review the work of the attorney who owns the practice if a complaint is filed. Since the attorney who owns the law center does not provide legal services in other states, he or she may not be reviewed. So, if attorneys in other states do not properly do their job for a law center’s clients, it will not adversely affect the law center’s certification. With no objective file review, the law center’s services cannot be properly monitored or regulated — which can create potential for legal or ethical issues in an adoption.

  • Greater potential for disruptions: Most adoption law centers are involved in the early stages of the adoption process, but may pass a family off later on. This inconsistency creates circumstances that can lead to more failed adoptions, as well as emotional and financial disappointments.

  • Lack of counseling and support: Adoption law centers do not have a social service department trained in evaluating, educating and guiding prospective birth mothers through the adoption process. As a result, families are often matched with birth mothers who aren’t strongly committed to adoption, aren’t emotionally prepared or don’t understand the process — leading to higher disruption rates and fewer successful placements. While adoption law centers can be experts in the legal side of adoption, they often miss the social work side of adoption.

  • Inaccurate fee estimates: Some adoption law centers’ cost estimates are based on the best-case scenario, which can result in families reeling from unexpected fees when the price ends up being much higher than estimated.

  • Lack of clear laws: Some states feel that adoption law centers try to provide services in states where they are not licensed to do so.  You should check with each state's attorney general's office to determine if investigations are ongoing. Some states, such as California, have passed laws that could help regulate adoption law centers, but it is unclear how these laws will be followed or enforced.

A Family May Look Into an Adoption Law Center If They:

  • Want to adopt quickly.

  • Are not worried about financial budget or losses.

  • Are willing to handle several stages of the adoption process.

  • Want to be gender-specific.

  • Want control of counseling and legal aspects of the adoption process.

  • Want an organization to advertise for them nationally.

  • Are comfortable with the lack of social work expertise.

How Can You Find a Good Adoption Law Center?

Due to the lack of regulation, it can be difficult to find a good adoption law center. Since there are no certifications from objective sources that testify to the trustworthiness of the law center, a family will have to ask a lot of questions and verify the answers themselves. This can be tiring. However, this choice is too important to make without knowing for sure that the adoption professional you will work with is conducting adoptions in a safe, ethical and legal way.

For these reasons, working with a national adoption agency is a choice many adoptive families make. The portion of the adoption process that adoption law centers do excel at is national advertising. With a national adoption agency, a family can still benefit from top-notch nationwide advertising efforts while experiencing the support of a social work department and the peace of mind that comes from working with a regulated, licensed professional.

If you are interested in the possibility of working with a trusted national adoption agency, you can request free information online or call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time to speak with an adoption specialist. 

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions accepts a limited number of families into our gender-specific program. Please contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION to learn whether we are currently accepting families into this program. With this option, families pay an additional Gender-Specific Fee to help our agency locate and work with birth mothers meeting this additional criterion. This fee is in addition to other program fees and covers additional advertising. The fee is not considered part of your adoption budget. Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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