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How are Adoption Organizations Regulated?

And Why You Should Work with a Licensed Adoption Agency

The adoption process is complex. There’s a lot going on and a lot of people involved. It requires involvement from state and federal government, medical professionals, legal professionals, social workers and more. All of these moving parts come together to serve the three members of the adoption triad: the adoptive parents, birth parents and child.

Something this important can’t be done haphazardly. There have to be procedures, practices and proven methods of completing adoption in a responsible and ethical way. That’s why adoption regulations are of the utmost importance.

Because adoption concerns the placement and wellbeing of an infant or child, these regulations help protect all parties involved and ensure that adoption placements are legal and safe. Without accountability or adherence to adoption agency regulations, an organization has the ability to operate in the adoption process in a harmful or even unsafe way. That’s why any family considering adoption is strongly advised to look for a licensed adoption agency bound by adoption regulations and held accountable by an objective reviewer.

How do these adoption regulations work, and how can you find licensed adoption agencies that are held to the highest legal and ethical standards? We’ll take a look at those questions in this guide to adoption agency regulations.

Prospective birth mothers reading this, you can get more information about adoption organizations by filling out this online form to connect with one of our adoption professionals today.

How Are Adoption Organizations Regulated?

There are several different types of adoption professionals. Choosing the right one to work with is one of the first choices for a family considering adoption. As you can see, the different types of adoption professionals are regulated in different ways:

Adoption organization types

Are they licensed or certified? By whom?

Are their files periodically reviewed by the government to ensure they are serving their clients by following adoption regulations and state law?

Law firms

Yes, by state bar


Law centers

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





Local adoption agencies



National adoption agencies



An outside, objective 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 is conducting itself according to the right adoption regulations.

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. While the foundation of each state’s laws will be similar, there can be distinct differences that impact 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 other organizations that do not adhere to adoption regulations in multiple states are not familiar with these laws. In some instances, an adoption professional acting without knowledge of a state’s specific adoption regulations can put the success of the placement in jeopardy.

What Is a State Bar License or Certification?

In your research, you may come across claims from an organization that it is regulated by a state bar. Typically, this claim is made by adoption law centers. It is important to note that a state bar and adoption agency regulations are two 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 to perform legal services in that state only. If the attorney provides poor services in the state where he or she holds a bar license, then a bar complaint can be filed. However, an attorney certification or license requires no periodic reviews by state licensing unless a complaint is filed. Put another way: there is no consistent overview from an objective third party for this type of license.

If your adoption occurs outside of the state where the attorney resides, they are usually not licensed to practice law or provide legal services in another state and must refer you to another law firm or law center located in that state. Unless you are located in the state where the organization resides and holds certification, the law firm or center you first hired has to step out of the picture. This last-minute change can cause confusion and anxiety for everyone involved in the process.

Sometimes, an adoption professional may make up for this lack of oversight by citing experience. While having many years of experience in adoption is a good thing, it’s not a substitute for being a licensed adoption agency.

How Are Licensed Adoption Agencies' Files Reviewed?

Every year, a professional from a state’s licensing agency or department looks over a licensed adoption agency’s files and operations. They review client case files, personnel files, financial audits, informational materials and verify regulatory and state law compliance. State licensing ensures agencies are compliant with state laws and adoption regulations so that they are able to properly serve the families, birth parents and children who are impacted by their work.

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

Some adoption agencies are only licensed in one state. These are known as local or regional adoption agencies. Others are licensed private adoption agencies in multiple states, and these are known as national adoption agencies. While any licensing is better than none, there are noticeable advantages to an agency being licensed in multiple states.

A national adoption agency can operate in multiple states, meaning they can assist both adoptive parents and birth mothers from all over the country. This also means that national adoption agencies are reviewed by each state multiple times annually. This creates more holistic guidelines to follow, as adoption regulations vary by state. Although multiple licenses mean more attention to detail for adoption professionals, most families like the extra safety and dependability it creates. When it comes to something as important as adoption, every extra layer of safety is extremely important.

As one of the largest licensed private adoption agencies in the United States, American Adoptions works with pregnant women considering adoption and families looking to adopt across the U.S. Our agency is licensed in multiple states to provide additional services, including home studies for adoptive families, and is regularly reviewed by these various states’ licensing authorities. All of this creates additional security in every adoption we complete — which is just one of the benefits of working with our agency.

If you have more questions about adoption regulations or how to find the right licensed adoption agency, you can request free information online.

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.