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How Do Adoption Agency Regulations Work?

And Why You Should Work with a Licensed Adoption Agency

Adoption is complex, which is why regulations exist to ensure that your process is fair, ethical and legal.

But, how do these regulations even work in the first place? How can you find licensed adoption agencies that comply with the highest legal and ethical standards?

We’ll answer those questions in this thorough guide on adoption agency regulations.

If you would like to get more adoption information now, then you can contact us online whenever you need to speak with us. In the meantime, though, learn all that you need to know about working with a licensed adoption agency.

How Are Adoption Organizations Regulated?

Choosing the right adoption professional to work with is one of the first steps of your adoption process. As you can see in the table below, different types of adoption professionals have different regulations:

Adoption organization types

Are they licensed or certified? By whom?

Are their files periodically reviewed by the government to ensure they follow regulations and state laws?

Law firms

Yes, by state bar


Law centers

The attorney who owns the company is licensed, and the company may be certified.


Facilitators and consultants



Local adoption agencies



National adoption agencies



An outside, third-party review of an agency’s practices is vital. This is the best way to verify that an adoption professional is operating in an ethical and legal way. Without this outside review, there is very low accountability and no promise that an organization follows adoption regulations, putting you at unnecessary risk.

Are There Different Adoption Regulations by State?

Each state has its own laws and adoption regulations that an adoption professional must meet to be licensed. Although the foundation of each state’s laws is similar, there can be some differences that affect the adoption process.

As a hopeful adoptive family, it’s not your job to understand these nuances. It is, however, the job of the adoption professional to be able to navigate the adoption regulations in each state.

Some types of adoption agencies, like national adoption agencies, are better equipped for this. National adoption agencies typically have staff members who are experts in each state’s adoption laws, whereas local organizations are familiar with only one state’s laws.

In some instances, an adoption professional that doesn’t understand your state’s specific adoption regulations can jeopardize the entire process.

What Is a State Bar License or Certification?

While you research adoption regulations, you may come across an organization that boasts a state bar license. In most cases, these organizations are adoption law centers. But, a state bar certification and adoption agency regulations are two vastly different things.

When an organization is regulated by state bar standards, it means the firm or the attorneys who practice at the firm are licensed by their state and that state only. If the attorney provides poor services in the state where they’re licensed, then you can file a bar complaint.

But, an attorney certification or license requires no periodic reviews unless a complaint is filed. In other words, there is no consistent overview from a third party.

If your adoption occurs outside of the state where the attorney practices, then they are usually not licensed to provide legal services in another state. So, they must refer you to another law firm or law center located in that state.

Unless you live in the state where the organization is certified, the law firm or center you first hired has to step out of the picture. This last-minute change can be confusing and stressful for everyone involved.

Sometimes, an adoption professional tries to make up for this lack of oversight by citing experience. Although experience is great, it’s not a substitute for being a licensed, regulated adoption agency.

How Are Licensed Adoption Agencies' Files Reviewed?

Every year, a state licensing professional reviews files from licensed private adoption agencies. They look over:

·         Client case files

·         Personnel files

·         Financial audits

·         Informational materials

·         And much more

State licensing ensures agencies follow state laws and adoption regulations so they can properly serve everyone in the adoption triad: adoptive families, birth parents and children.

Is it Better for an Adoption Agency to be Licensed in Multiple States?

Some adoption agencies are licensed in only one state. These are known as local or regional adoption agencies. Others are licensed private adoption agencies in many states, and these are known as national adoption agencies.

Although any licensing is better than none, there are noticeable advantages to an agency being licensed in many states. In other words, there are benefits specific to national adoption agencies.

A national adoption agency operates in plenty of states, meaning they can complete adoptions all over the country. This also means that national adoption agencies are reviewed by each state several times on an annual basis.

Adoption regulations vary by state, but national agencies abide by federal laws. So, there is a clearer set of guidelines they must abide by. Many families appreciate the extra layer of safety and dependability this creates. When it comes to something as important as adoption, reliability is a priority.


As one of the largest licensed private adoption agencies in the United States, American Adoptions works with families across the country. Our agency is licensed in many states to provide necessary services. As such, we’re regularly reviewed by these states’ licensing authorities.

All of this creates additional security in every adoption we complete. In fact, it’s just one of the many benefits of working with us.

If you have more questions about adoption regulations, then you can fill out our online contact form to get more free information now. We would love to hear from you soon!


Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American 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 does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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