Monday, June 14, 2021

Private Adoption Overview

Private adoption is a type of adoption where the prospective adoptive parents work directly with a birth mother or birth parents to place the child for adoption. Private adoption can go by many names, such as “domestic adoption”, “direct parental placement adoption”, and “independent adoption”, to name a few.

Usually, the birth parents and prospective adoptive parents meet through a mutual friend and explore informally the idea of adoption. From there, professionals are involved for legal representation and counseling. The adoptive parents are usually present during the child’s birth. After a certain time, custody is transferred directly between the birth parents and the adoptive parents rather than custody going to an agency which then places the child with the prospective adoptive parents. In most states, the prospective adoptive parents are permitted to assist the birth mother financially with medical bills, legal fees, counseling, and other things she may need.

There are many reasons why birth parents choose private adoption for their child over placing their child with an adoption agency who then places the child with prospective adoptive parents (this is called an agency placement). Birth parents report that they like having a highly active role in the family selection process and the direct, nonconfidential interaction with the family. Being able to meet the family for their child without an intermediary may provide a sense of comfort for the birth parents. Further, the birth parents can negotiate post adoption contact and visitation agreements with the adoptive parents which ensures them that the child and adoptive parents will not vanish after the adoption[1]. In many states, these agreements are legally enforceable as contracts although the failure to comply with the contract would not upset the adoption.

In the adoptive parents’ case, there are some benefits to choosing private adoption. The adoptive parents can take their child home soon after the child is born and are often present during the child’s birth, allowing the attachment process to begin then. The openness between both parties is another advantage of the private adoption process. Adoptive parents and birth parents have the ability to decide how much contact they would like to have with each other. It is also helpful for the child later in life if the adoptive parents have met and had positive interactions with the birth parents.  Sometimes, this contact is ongoing, but if the birth parents are no longer involved in the child’s life, the information gained during the private adoption process is invaluable to the adolescent’s sense of identity. Private adoption is also usually less expensive than an agency placement, although this can vary depending on whether there is a contest with a nonconsenting birth parent.

There are a few downsides to private adoption for birth parents and adoptive parents. The lack of confidentiality does not appeal to some.  Agency adoptions tend to offer more support for birth parents and more extensive counseling about the adoption decision. Agencies may be more aware of resources in the community that would assist the birth parents. If there is a non-consenting birth parent, an agency placement may provide confidentiality to the prospective adoptive parents that would not be possible in a direct placement.

The trend has been toward private adoption in the last decades as social welfare research has confirmed the huge benefit to children, birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents of more openness and transparency in adoptive placements.  However, this is not the right approach in every situation.  Birth parents and prospective adoptive parents need to carefully consider which approach is best for them, private adoption, or agency placement. 

A good place to start is with a consultation with a private adoption attorney who can neutrally explain the pros and cons of both approaches. The Law Offices of Karen S. Law PLC conducts adoption overview meetings for birth parents and families who reside in Virginia.  To schedule one, email us at

If you live outside of Virginia, you can find a reputable adoption attorney through the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, a select group of attorneys who has extensive experience with adoptions:  Find An Adoption or ART Attorney | AAAA (

[1] This can also be done in agency placements in many states.


Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Intern, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2021


    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, 2021.