Sunday, June 17, 2018

How Good is Your Adoption Agency?

I often am asked if a particular agency is a reputable agency.  The number one piece of advice that I offer is to always use a licensed adoption agency if you are considering placing a child for adoption OR if you are seeking to adopt.


Over the years, I've seen countless expectant parents suffer heartbreak when they have innocently connected with an adoption facilitator online instead of a licensed adoption agency with a physical address in their area.  The facilitator makes big promises and develops a phone relationship.  But, there are no on the ground services to the expectant parent,such as referrals for housing or job assistance, or pregnancy support centers, or doctors or clinics in her area.  And, no real pregnancy counseling.  As a result, the expectant parent is often unprepared to make an informed adoption decision when she gives birth.

This same issue of lack of training and on the ground services leads many expectant parents to "change their minds" about the placement in the hospital.  The prospective adoptive parent she has been matched with then experiences the heartbreak of a failed adoption.

So overall, I strongly encourage you to make sure that any adoption "agency" is truly that.  A state licensed agency, not an adoption facilitator.  For more information, the FAQs below will be helpful:

Question: What is a Facilitator?

Answer: A facilitator is a person or organization whose only task is to make an introduction between  expectant parents and adoptive parents, in exchange for a large, nonrefundable fee paid in advance.

Question: Are facilitators regulated?

Answer: In some states they are, but in most states, facilitators are prohibited.

***Note: Expectant parents considering adoption as well as prospective adoptive parents should exercise GREAT CAUTION, as it can be difficult to determine whether an entity is licensed as an adoption agency or acting solely as a facilitator.

Question: Are adoptions arranged by facilitators successful?

Answer: Adoptions arranged by facilitators often fail for many different reasons.  Facilitators do not have the training, skill, or experience to ensure a safe and legal outcome.

Question: What if they (facilitators) say they are experts?

Answer: While they do often present themselves as "adoption experts", they are typically unsupervised and unregulated, and may have little to no experience providing adoption services.  They are not required to adhere to set standards in terms of education or best practices in most states, and thus have little accountability when it comes to providing pre-adoption training and counseling or post-adoption services.

***Note: The essential services that goes along with the adoption process are best provided by experienced, licensed adoption professionals who will promise to partner for the long-term success of a family and help meet the often unpredictable, long-term needs of children. 

Question: If we are to exercise great caution, then why are facilitators so popular and easy to find?

Answer: There are many different reasons as to why prospective adoptive families and expectant parents are using facilitators. A facilitator can expand the pool of potential expectant parents who can be matched with an adoptive family, which is attractive to adoptive families and pulls them in.  Also, in some cases it is difficult for older and/or "nontraditional" families to meet the criteria established by local licensed agencies for being matched with an expectant family; this may lead them to choose a facilitator who will help them locate out-of-state expectant parents. 
Some expectant parents considering adoption choose to work with a facilitator out of desire for privacy.  Sometimes their prenatal and/or adoption-related expenses cannot be fully compensated according to the law of their state. Simply, people go to facilitators because they do not understand the difference between a facilitator and an agency, and do not know that they are legally entitled to more comprehensive services. 

Question: Why is there so much advertising for facilitators and very little for agencies?

Answer: This is one of the biggest risks, because they are so easily available. Facilitators typically have enormous advertising budgets and pay top dollar for search engine optimization.  As a result, an expectant parent or adoptive parent often finds a facilitator by performing a basic search online, before consulting with a licensed agency or experienced adoption attorney.
Many nonprofit adoption agencies are struggling to find the resources for search engine optimization and online advertising, as they cannot compromise the quality of services provided to adoptive parents and birth parents, and are reluctant to raise fees to cover rising costs.


~Better enforcement of existing laws
 If a state such as California permits facilitators to operate, we would suggest strict enforcement of licensing and training requirements as well as advertising disclosure restrictions.  If the state prohibits facilitators from operating, especially if this is accomplished through close monitoring of fees paid, more rigorous enforcement by the state Attorneys General and stricter oversight by ICPC offices would significantly limit the activities of facilitators in those states.

~Advertising disclosure laws
We recommend both state and federal laws mandating that print and Internet advertising by facilitators disclose both the state(s) where the entity is located and whether they are licensed to operate in the state where the advertising appears.  This would give prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents more information to decide whether to work with a particular entity.  It would also ensure that individual state standards are met.

~Research and die diligence on the part of adoptive parents
                             Prospective adoptive parents should check with state licensing to determine whether an agency or entity is a licensed child-placing agency.  If it is an out-of-state entity, the adoptive parents should check with state licensing where the entity is located, and be certain that it has the ability to provide or arrange for all the services necessary for an ethical and successful adoption.  Some adoptive parents will still choose to work with facilitators to expand their search for an expectant mother, but they must be aware of the risks and benefits involved.

~Full Compliance with the ICPC
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) aims to safeguard children placed for adoption across state lines, with requirements for sending agencies and the receiving state's ICPC office administrator.  Children can only be placed across state lines after the receiving state has determined that it does not violate their best interests.  Prospective parents adopting a child from another state must ensure that their agency is capable of meeting and fully complying with all ICPC requirements.

~Expectant parents must know their rights
Expectant parents should be aware that they will typically receive a higher level of service from an agency that has a physical presence in their state.  Local agencies can provide in-person, ongoing options counseling from a social worker with knowledge of resources in the community, and can also ensure that the expectant parents' emotional, legal, and medical needs are met before they are called upon to select adoptive parents or make an adoption plan.  Expectant parents may also be more likely to receive the information agreed upon about the child after the placement if an agency is used, and will now who to turn to if they need post-placement counseling.  If expectant parents choose to work with a facilitator instead, they should request a higher level of service and expect in-person counseling by a licensed child-placing agency working with the facilitator.  They should have the opportunity to meet with an attorney in their state as well as the laws in the state where the adoptive parents reside.  They should also have the opportunity to meet potential adoptive families before they select a family to parent their child.

~Improved oversight of adoption fees
State laws should require full disclosure of all fees paid by an adoptive family for an adoption placement.  There should be full oversight of these fees mandated by the state Attorney General's Office.  State laws for limits on fees should also be enforced, and states with no limits should review their laws.

This post is an excerpt from Adoption Advocate No. 70: The Role of Facilitators in Adoption, Published April 2014 by Karen S. Law, Esq. and Teresa M. McDonough, ACSW, Nicole Callahan, Editor, Chuck Johnson, Editor:

Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2018.

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