Agency vs Independent
With an agency adoption, a birth mother signs documents that relinquish her parental rights to her baby to a licensed adoption agency that then holds legal custody of the baby until the adoption is finalized through court action. The agency acts as the placing party and signs the documents that formally place the baby with the adoptive family. An independent domestic adoption is handled differently as the birth mother signs the documents that place her baby directly with the adoptive parents. An attorney usually coordinates the independent adoption placement process, however a social worker is often utilized for the purpose of birth mother advisement and counseling. Each state handles this process in its own way, and some states require that a licensed agency be involved in the placement process, while others do not.
Concerned about adoption agencies' costs, wait times, staff size, locale, or financial protection?
All adoption agencies and professionals can help hopeful Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers on their adoption journeys. However, there are distinctions among the different types of adoption entities. Continue reading below to get a better understanding about the services each type of entity provides and the distinctions between them.
Adoption Agencies (Private Adoption)
Private adoption agencies assist Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers in the United States, typically with newborn adoptions. Some are also accredited and approved to assist Adoptive Parents looking to adopt internationally.
For US adoptions, agencies are licensed and regulated by their respective state’s Health and Human Services Departments and are staffed by social workers who will perform services such as completing a home study, providing counseling for Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents and conducting post placement visits.
Private adoption agencies may be selective when it comes to the Adoptive Parents they work with so it will be important for Adoptive Parents to research whether or not they meet with an agency’s requirements. Some common screening factors include: age, marital status, income, health, religion, sexual orientation, personal history and family size.
Local Adoption Agencies
A local agency is usually a smaller adoption professional regulated by the laws of the state in which they operate.
Potential advantages of a local adoption agency
- Location: A local agency may only provide adoption services for Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers within a certain geographic location. The close proximity will likely help reduce travel costs and expenses for the AdoptiveParents.
- In person: A local agency’s staff is usually small and can meet their Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers in person as opposed to national entities that typically communicate via email and phone.
- Cost: Local agencies operate on smaller budgets which may help reduce initial costs for Adoptive Parents.
Potential disadvantages of a local agency:
- Size: Local agencies are usually smaller and not as financially stable as national adoption professionals.
- Staff: Local agencies employ a smaller staff than national adoption professionals and any turnover will greatly impact the stability of the agency. They also cannot personally answer Birth Mother phone calls 24/7 as a national adoption professional can and this impersonal approach may cause a prospective Birth Mother to seek help elsewhere.
- Laws: Local agencies will be vulnerable to changes in adoption laws. In the past, many have struggled to keep up with changes in laws and have had to shut their doors, while national adoption professionals have not been affected to that degree.
- Advertising: Local adoption agencies are not as efficient or effective as national adoption professionals when it comes to marketing and advertising for Birth Mothers. Birth Mother outreach is a significant component of an adoption in the US and this can place a local agency at a great disadvantage.
- Wait Times: Local agencies are limited by their geographic location which limits their outreach to potential Birth Mothers and this may result in longer wait times for families hoping to adopt.
National Adoption Agencies
Potential advantages of a national adoption agency:
- Size: National agencies have more resources than local agencies and are often more stable.
- Staff: most national agencies have good facilities with an expert social services team. National agencies have a larger staff, are more available and provide more comprehensive services to Birth Mothers and Adoptive Parents than local agencies.
- Wait Times: National agencies have more Adoptive Families waiting to adopt so Birth Mothers are able to search and find the right family for her child rather than being limited by the smaller number of waiting families at a smaller agency, which can help reduce wait times for hopeful Adoptive Parents.
Potential disadvantages of a national adoption agency
- Phone/Email Based: Face to face meetings may not always be possible depending on where the Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers live and where the adoption agency is located.
- Cost: Extensive advertising for Birth Mother outreach can result in higher upfront fees. The advertising services are more comprehensive and efficient compared to a local agency or adoption professional so the total amount that Adoptive Parents may be asked to pay could be higher. However, many Adoptive Parents will look to tax credits, employer/military benefits, loans, grants and fundraising options to help finance their adoptions.
- Financial Protection: Only a few national adoption professionals offer some sort of financial protection to Adoptive Parents in the case of a disrupted adoption.
Adoption Attorneys and Law Centers
Families looking to adopt and Birth Mothers looking to create an adoption plan can also turn to attorneys and law centers like Adoption Network Law Center for help. It is estimated that over 50% of all US adoption of newborns are placed through the independent adoption process and not through an adoption agency.
Adoption Network Law Center guides Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents throughout their entire adoption journeys, ensuring that Birth Mothers are supported and providing legal oversight to Adoptive Parents.
Foster Care Adoption Agencies (Public Adoption)
Families in the US looking to adopt may also turn to an adoption agency that is able to assist them with a foster care adoption.
When a child cannot live with his/her family because of abuse, neglect or abandonment, they will enter their state’s foster care system. When a child enters the foster care system, the goal is to reunify the child with their Birth Parents or family. They may live with relatives or with unrelated parents and if they cannot be safely reunited with their birth families, adoption becomes the most desirable goal. Some states encourage hopeful Adoptive Parents to receive foster parent training and get approved to foster prior to adopting.
Potential advantages of foster care
- Qualifying: Most adults will qualify to foster and adopt. This means that while marital status, age, income and sexual orientation may be factors that disqualify someone from adopting a child through a private adoption agency, it will not automatically disqualify someone from adopting a child through foster care.
- Wait Times: There are more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting for permanent, secure and loving homes. Adopting a child from foster care can be a great way to help a child and grow a family.
- Cost: Adopting from foster care costs little to no money.
Potential disadvantages of foster care
- Age of Children: While it is possible to adopt a baby through foster care, the children available for adoption will typically range from toddler to 21, with the median age being 8.
- Trauma: Through no fault of their own, all children in foster care have entered the system due to some sort of trauma. Therefore, all Adoptive Parents must undergo specified training so that they are better equipped to help their children heal.
International Adoption Agencies
For hopeful Adoptive Parents looking to adopt internationally, they will need to reach out to an accredited adoption agency or adoption service provider for assistance. Adoption service providers that provide any of these services must be accredited, approved, supervised or exempted:
- Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption
- Securing necessary consents to terminate parental rights and to adopt
- Performing a background study on a child or a home study on Adoptive Parents and reporting on such study
- Making a non judicial determination of the best interest of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child
- Monitoring a case after the child has been placed with the Adoptive Parents until the final adoption
- Assuming custody of a child and providing childcare or any other social service when necessary because of a disruption before final adoption
The Council on Accreditation performs accreditation functions such as accrediting and approving adoption agencies and service providers, monitoring and overseeing compliance with regulations, investigating complaints received about an adoption service provider, reporting on substantiated complaints and taking adverse action against adoption service providers that are no longer in substantial compliance with regulations.
To be able to adopt a child from another country, hopeful Adoptive Parents must first be eligible to adopt under US law and must also qualify to adopt in their state as well as comply with all requirements from the country they are adopting from. Some of the basic requirements will include: be a US citizen; if unmarried, be at least 25 years old; if married, both spouses must jointly adopt the child and both spouses must be US citizens or in legal status in the US; meet certain requirements that will determine suitability as a prospective Adoptive Parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting and a home study. Each country will also have its own specific requirements, which vary depending on the country.
Potential advantages of international adoption
- Need: Around the world, there are many children that are awaiting their permanent families. The Hague Convention entered into force for the US on April 1, 2008 to safeguard intercountry adoptions. The Convention process provides additional protections to children, prospective Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents. The primary principles of the Convention are to ensure that each adoption is in the best interest of the child and to prevent the abduction, sale and trafficking of children.
Potential disadvantages of international adoption
- Declining Number of International Adoptions: According to Intercountry Adoption statistics, the number of yearly international adoptions has dropped every year from 2004 (22,989 adoptions) to 2015 (5,647 adoptions).
- Age of children: International adoption is for families who are looking to adopt children who are 6 months to 16 years old.
- Wait Times: International or intercountry adoption wait times will vary depending on country, adoption service provider and child involved. It has been reported that it generally will take 1 to 5 years to complete an intercountry adoption.
How to Find the Right Adoption Agency or Professional
Every adoption is unique for every Adoptive Parent and Birth Mother. Both Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers should do their research, ask questions and make sure that they are comfortable with the adoption professional they are relying on. Adoption can seem overwhelming but the right adoption professional will be a trusted partner and will help guide all parties through the entire process.
It helps to speak with friends and relatives that have adopted or know of someone that has adopted and have them share their experiences. Once an adoption professional is chosen, it is good practice to verify their reputation and certification.