Private adoption is a profound and life-changing journey that connects loving families with children who need a forever home. In this article, we will discuss the intricacies of private adoption and explore the role of facilitators in this process. Our aim is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of private adoption, from the initial steps to the legal aspects involved.
What is Private Adoption?
Private adoption, often known as independent adoption or direct parental placement, is a non-agency adoption method in which prospective adoptive parents directly connect with birth parents to adopt a child. Unlike agency adoption, private adoption typically does not involve a licensed adoption agency as the intermediary. Instead, unlicensed attorneys and social workers assist with the process. This is a unique path to building a family, and it allows for a personal connection between the birth and adoptive families. This approach can potentially be a positive experience for the parties involved; however, it does come with risks and the outcome is not promised.
The Role of Facilitators
Facilitators are often involved in matching the parties in private adoption. Their sole purpose is to act as a match maker between the birth parents and adoptive parents. Working with a facilitator is much different than working with a full-service agency. It is often the case that facilitators are unlicensed and unregulated intermediaries. Many services such as counseling and legal assistance must be outsourced because the facilitator is unable to provide them. Because many states ban unlicensed facilitators, including Virginia and California, our office does not recommend working with them. (Law and McDonough, 2014).
Adoption Agency vs. Facilitators
It is often hard to know if an adoption entity is a licensed agency or a facilitator. If in doubt, look for evidence that the entity has a license from their state to provide adoption services.
Working with a licensed adoption agency provides numerous benefits, including legal expertise, thorough evaluation, matching services, ongoing support, and accountability. These advantages help ensure a smoother and more secure adoption process for all parties. When considering private adoption, it is advisable to prioritize the expertise and services provided by reputable adoption agencies and attorneys over unlicensed facilitators to make the journey as positive and legally secure as possible.
Agencies have well-established networks and databases for matching birth parents with adoptive families. They also ensure that every step of the adoption process complies with the legal requirements, protecting the rights and interests of all parties involved. On the other hand, unlicensed facilitators may lack the legal expertise and oversight to ensure that the adoption is conducted in full compliance with the law. Additionally, adoption agencies offer comprehensive support throughout the entire adoption journey, from pre-placement counseling to post-placement services. They provide resources, guidance, and emotional support to both birth and adoptive parents. Unlicensed facilitators may not have the capacity to offer the same level of ongoing support, leaving adoptive parents without crucial assistance during the emotional and logistical challenges of adoption.
Steps in Private Adoption
- Initial Consultation: Prospective adoptive parents often begin by consulting with an attorney experienced in adoption. They will discuss their adoption goals, preferences, and expectations. Adoption laws vary by state, so you need an attorney licensed in your state.
- Home Study: A home study is required, where a social worker evaluates the adoptive family's home and life circumstances to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for the child.
- Matching Process: Birth parents and adoptive parents most often find each other through word of mouth. In Virginia and many other states, adoptive parents can lawfully use licensed entities to connect with birth parents, such as AdoptMatch.com AdoptMatch - Find Adoptive Parents, Adoption Agencies and Attorneys or Adoptimist Meet Families Ready To Adopt A Baby | Adoption Profiles (adoptimist.com). Attorneys or unlicensed facilitators are prohibited.
- Legal Proceedings: The attorney guides both parties through the legal requirements, which include parental consent or relinquishment, counseling, and the creation of an adoption plan. Both birth parent and adoptive parent will have separate representation. Parental rights are usually terminated first. Then, the adoption is finalized in the child’s new name.
- Post-Placement Support: Both before and after the adoption is finalized, we recommend adoption competent counseling for birth parents. The goal is to provide resources to the birth parent to assist them with the transition. Additionally, many states, such as Virginia, have enforceable agreements which are negotiated between the birth parent and the adoptive parent (PACCAS). These PACCAS govern the exchange of pictures and updates concerning the child, and sometimes, visitation.
Legal Aspects of Private Adoption
To locate an adoption competent attorney, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys has a website which lists attorneys by state: Home- Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (adoptionart.org). These attorneys have been carefully vetted and have extensive experience in this unique practice of law.
Private adoption involves intricate legal procedures to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties. It's crucial to work with experienced adoption attorneys who understand the specific laws and regulations in your state. This ensures that the adoption process is compliant with local legal requirements.
In conclusion, private adoption is a deeply emotional and rewarding journey. Choosing whether to work with a licensed adoption agency or attorney versus an unlicensed facilitator is one of the crucial decisions prospective adoptive parents face. If you're considering private adoption, consult with experienced professionals to guide you through this life-changing experience.
Law, K. S., & McDonough, T. M. (2014, April 1). The Role of Facilitators in Adoption. National Council for Adoption. https://adoptioncouncil.org/publications/adoption-advocate-no-70/
Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Paralegal, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2023
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