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Independent Adoption as an Option

Posted by Denise Seidelman, Esq. on with 0 Comments

After deciding to pursue domestic adoption as the way to build a  family, adoptive parents will confront the question of whether they  should try to locate their child through an adoption agency, or  independently, without the assistance of an adoption agency.

 Independent (sometimes called private-placement or direct placement)  adoption is an attractive choice for many reasons.  Too often prospective adoptive parents– feeling understandably overwhelmed– just  assume that pursuing adoption “on their own” will be too difficult.  Despite its name suggesting that adoptive parents are “on their own” in  an independent adoption, this is far from true. There are many  professionals who will work closely with you to help you achieve your  goal of becoming a family.

 Independent adoption attracts adoptive parents for various reasons:  some choose it because an independent adoption may be accomplished more  quickly than an agency adoption; some choose this  method because it provides them with the ability to have more control over the process; some non- traditional families select independent  adoption because they may have difficulty locating an agency willing to  work with them.

 If you are going to adopt independently, your first and most  important step should be to locate an attorney who can advise you.   Adoption is highly regulated and there are many laws and requirements which vary dramatically from state to state. You need to work with an  attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in independent adoptions.   Your attorney, rather than an adoption agency, will be your primary  guide in this process and should be your partner in your search for a  child.  Some of what you should expect from your attorney is: help to  budget your resources, assistance in developing a networking plan to  locate a child, obtaining assistance from other professionals as needed  and, not least of all, advice regarding the legal, financial and  emotional risks presented by a potential adoptive placement.  Your  attorney should truly be your  “counselor”, someone you can rely on to  help you make an important lifelong decision.  With a good attorney to  guide you, you are not alone and you are well on your way in your  adoption journey. Your attorney will inform you of your state’s requirements to become  qualified to adopt.  Typically requirements include that a home study be conducted. The home study usually includes a summary of your background and medical history, your financial ability to parent, and an  assessment of whether there are any factors which could place a child  at risk such as a criminal history or a history of child abuse.

 Once you are qualified to adopt, you can begin the search for your  child.  Your search is  a networking effort in which you hope to connect  with an expectant parent(s) considering adoption.  There are basically  three methods: 1) communicating your desire to adopt among extended  family and friends; 2) newspaper advertising; and 3) posting your desire  to adopt on the internet.  Each method has costs and benefits.  For  example, some may prefer to keep their desire to adopt private from  family and friends until they are successful. On the other hand, a  surprisingly large number of placements occur through such connections.   Some people feel posting their desire to adopt on the internet is too  public and makes them too vulnerable, while others see the internet as  an invaluable and extremely cost effective tool for reaching expectant  parents throughout the country.

 Finally, while newspaper advertising is  expensive, it has the benefit of reaching expectant parents without  access to the internet or the inclination to use it.  There are  advertising consultants who can assist you to develop a plan for  advertising and who can place your advertisements in newspapers and  online. Your attorney can help you to decide how you want to network and  who can be paid to assist you.

 In your networking efforts you will need a way to introduce yourself  so that  an expectant parent(s) considering adoption can contact you.   In the vast majority of cases, adoptive parents create an “adoption  profile” which is really a letter of introduction to the expectant  parent.  The profile should be a portrait of who you are and your vision  for your child.  There is no required format, but your profile should  include information about your relationship with extended family, the  kind of community you live in, your values, and how you spend your free  time. As a rule, your profile should not include identifying information  about you. In order for an expectant parent to contact you; you should  provide a toll free (and unlisted) telephone number so expectant parents  can communicate with you, free of charge, from any part of the  country.  As with advertising, there are people who can assist you to  create a profile if you need help with this.

 People have dramatically different experiences in terms of the time  it takes for them to receive a communication from an expectant parent.   When you are first contacted, you should not feel as if it is your job  to learn everything about the expectant parent. Be a good listener, be  empathic to her/his situation and try to answer questions about you that  the expectant parent may have.  Your only goal during your initial  communication is for you and the expectant parent to get to know one  another in the hope that you will decide to create an adoption plan  together.  Before committing to an adoption plan, you may choose to meet  the expectant parent(s) or the expectant parent may feel they want to  meet you.  You should look to your attorney to  provide you with  guidance and coaching regarding your ongoing relationship with any  expectant parent.

 Once the expectant parent(s) expresses a desire to move forward  towards an adoption plan, your attorney should take immediate steps to  verify that the woman is pregnant, obtain copies of her  medical  records; and have her and the father complete a comprehensive social/  medical history form.  A parent placing a child for adoption always has a  right to independent legal counsel.  However, depending on your state’s  laws, the expectant parent’s desires and your particular attorney’s  practice this is not always required.  Nevertheless, it is advisable for  the expectant parent(s) to meet with an adoption professional (either  an attorney or agency case worker).  The adoption professional can:  obtain valuable information regarding the expectant parents’ emotional  and financial needs; verify that the expectant parent(s) have a bona  fide interest in adoption; and  help to discover whether there are any  legal  impediments to the adoption.   The issue of the expectant  parents’ desire for post adoption contact may also be raised during this  meeting.  Armed with this information, you, in consultation with your  attorney, can decide whether this potential placement is a good “match”  for you. 

Assuming you wish to proceed, you can plan the adoption.  If the  expectant parent needs assistance in obtaining housing, medical  coverage, supportive counseling, or whatever the case may be, your  attorney and the adoption professional assisting the expectant parent  will be able to arrange for the assistance as needed.  Again no expense  should be paid until your attorney has approved it. Typically payments  are paid through the attorney’s escrow account.  Your attorney should  also advise you about ongoing contact with the expectant parent during  the time you are waiting for the baby to be born.  During this time you  should receive updated medical records and decide on a plan for what  will happen at the hospital when the baby is born.

 If the placing parent(s) remain committed to the adoption after the  baby is born, consent documents can be executed after any state required  waiting periods.  Procedures governing the consent process vary  dramatically by state.   In some states, the birth parents’ right to  revoke their consent is extinguished by the time the adoptive parents  take custody of the child, while in other states the birth parents may  have a right to revoke their consent for varying periods of time, even  after the adoptive parent(s) take physical custody of the child.   Adoptive parents adopting outside their state of residence typically  have to obtain permission from the Interstate Compact on the Placement  of Children before they are permitted to take the baby home to their  state of residence.  The time this takes varies from only a few days to  as long as several weeks.

 Once you take custody of your child, your attorney will file the  paperwork required for you to obtain a court order declaring you the  legal parent.  The time this takes also varies dramatically from state  to state.  Once the Order of Adoption issues, the court will notify the  vital records office in the state where the baby was born. The vital  records office will issue an amended birth certificate naming the  adoptive parents as the parents on the child birth certificate.

 If you choose to adopt independently you will not be alone; you will  be supported and assisted throughout the process.  No matter which path  to adoption you choose, if you stay focused on your goal and committed  in your belief that you will be successful; your child will find you.

 Denise Seidelman, Esq. is a partner in the firm of Rumbold and  Seidelman, LLP

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