Monday, October 31, 2016

How to Locate a Reputable Domestic Adoption Agency

There are so many options that go into adopting a child; how can you know which direction is the best for you?  You want to start by making sure you do your research and you know what you are looking for or it can be overwhelming.

When you adopt domestically, you will always need to work with an adoption agency.  The adoption agency will conduct your home-study.  They must be licensed in your state and the home-study must comply with your state standards. Should you choose to adopt privately, often called a direct parental placement, you will locate the birth mother directly.  That connection is usually made through word of mouth. From there, both you and the expectant parent will have legal representation and the expectant parent will receive counseling. A direct parental placement is usually more open between the parties and less expensive.

The other option is for an adoption agency to locate the expectant parent.  This could be the agency which conducted your home-study or it could be a different agency, termed the placing agency.  The selection of a placing agency is where many people get into trouble.

It is critically important to select a reputable state licensed, COA accredited agency as your placing agency. Anyone can open up shop and make up a cute adoption friendly sounding name.  But, often it is difficult to distinguish between a state-licensed and COA accredited agency versus an agency that does not offer you all those protections.  This article published in the National Council for Adoption periodical by myself and my co-author Teresa M. McDonough, ACSW, will give you that critical information.  You can find the whole article at the link below.

From Adoption Advocate NO. 70:

"Today, many expectant parents considering adoption connect with prospective adoptive parents through out-of-state entities—or facilitators—that they find online. Too often, these entities are unlicensed and unregulated intermediaries; they act as matchmakers only, not full-service agencies. The expectant parents receive no face-to-face counseling, and may not be apprised of the laws in their state or the state where the prospective adoptive parents reside. When the child is born, there is often a scramble to locate an adoption attorney or licensed adoption agency representative who can then meet with the expectant parent(s) for the first time and begin the counseling and legal processes; these vital services must be outsourced, because the independent facilitator is not licensed in their state and is therefore legally unable to provide these services. There can also be confusion as to which state’s laws apply, because many states prohibit fees paid to unlicensed entities, meaning that adoptions arranged by facilitators cannot be finalized. Sometimes the placement does not go through, and both prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents can experience heartache and financial loss with no follow-up support services. Even when placements do succeed and are finalized, the lack of post-adoption support services can undermine the likelihood of adoptive family success as well as the birth parent’s long-term well-being.

A facilitator is typically a person or an 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. In some states, these facilitators are regulated, but in most states, they are prohibited. 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.

Some facilitators use terms that imply they are offering legal services, when in fact they are acting only as facilitators. A facilitator might even be a “licensed agency” in the state where their office is located. However, if they work with expectant parents and adoptive parents nationwide, they can then claim to act as a facilitator in all other states. This language is deliberately misleading and confusing for people seeking to make an adoption plan or adopt children. In addition, most facilitators are for-profit entities."

Recommendations Given the Increasing Use of Facilitators from the Adoption Advocate NO. 70:

"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 due 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 know 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 well in advance of their child’s birth and understand the laws 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."
Read the full article about the Role of Facilitators in Adoption at the National Council for Adoption website

We hope that this blog has been informative, and you are now able to start your research for representation with a better idea of how to start and what to look for.

Drafted by Karen S. Law and  Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
This blog 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, 2016

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