Adoption Law Centers: A Guide for Families
Should You Work with One?
This guide should help you determine if an adoption law center is the best professional to guide you through the adoption journey. We’ll break down what adoption law centers are and what potential advantages and disadvantages they have when you work with one.
If you're a prospective birth mother wanting to know more about adoption law centers, you can fill out this form to connect with one of our adoption specialists today.
What Are Adoption Law Centers?
Adoption law centers are attorney-owned corporations that act similarly to adoption agencies and have become more prevalent in the last several years. But they are not licensed or regulated the same way (more on this below).
The services adoption law centers offer can also vary. Unlike an adoption law firm, most adoption law centers don’t provide legal adoption services. They often refer clients to separate attorneys for the legal work needed to complete the adoption.
Adoption law firms, on the other hand, 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).
Most adoption law centers operate like an adoption facilitator, which is an organization that advertises to locate a birth parent on behalf of their adoptive family clients. It should be noted that adoption facilitators are illegal in almost all 50 states, which is why most adoption law centers are based in a small handful of states.
While some adoption law centers stay with families after finding a match, and through most of the adoption process, many tell families to find outside counsel once they’ve reached a certain point in the adoption process.
To help you determine if an adoption law center is right for you, below are the most common pros and cons of adoption law centers that many hopeful adoptive parents have faced when working with them.
Advantages of Adoption Law Centers
Although it may look as though cons outweigh the pros after reading through this guide, many families look into an adoption law center because they:
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 the 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
Disadvantages of Adoption Law Centers
When it comes to the cons of adoption law centers, many hopeful adoptive families find there are too much to start or continue a relationship with a law center. Some reasons include:
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 parents through the adoption process.
As a result, families are often matched with birth parents 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.
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, which 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, they 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 the potential for legal or ethical issues in an adoption.
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:
The prospective birth parent
The hopeful adoptive family
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.
Can You Find a Reputable Adoption Law Center?
Because of the lack of regulation, it can be difficult to find a good adoption law center. Since it’s difficult to verify the trustworthiness of an adoption law center, a family will have to ask a lot of questions.
This can be tiring. But, 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 want more free information now about whether an adoption law center or an agency is right for you, you can call us at 1-800-ADOPTION today or have this handy adoption professional tool with you when you’re speaking with an adoption professional.
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