Like many other things in life, adoption does not have a one-size-fits-all. Every situation is different and the needs of each family vary. You may be considering adopting with an adoption agency or adoption attorney. There are advantages and disadvantages to each path you choose. Take some time to learn about your options. Talk with others who have worked with each option you are considering.
My husband and I looked at many options. We wanted to stick with something in the United States. Embryo adoption was an option for us a few years ago, but after two failed in vitro fertilization attempts, we thought it was best to skip that option. We looked at the foster care and domestic infant adoption. We talked with several couples that had adopted through both. After several conversations and reading through a lot of material, we decided to pursue domestic infant adoption.
We have adopted two kids in less than two years. We worked with an agency for our first adoption and worked directly with an attorney for our second. These are some things that we noticed.
Most of the friends we knew who had adopted domestic infants used the same agency. We heard very few things we did not like so we decided to follow the same path. This agency is nationally known and I know of people that have placed a child for adoption through this agency several years ago. As I share our experience, it is our personal story. It is not the same for everyone. Every agency works a little differently and you will want to read through the policies of each.
The adoption agency had a lot of information to browse online. We had several friends that we were also able to talk with about their experiences from all over the nation. The agency also had quite a bit of marketing material and people available for information.
The first step in the process was to attend a general information meeting. They shared the steps of the adoption process, had an adoptee share her story, had an adoptive mother share her story, and then opened up the floor for questions. It was very insightful and helped us answer some questions and debunk some myths.
After that meeting, the next step was to fill out some general information and pay a deposit to cover additional training. They then had a two-day training offered quarterly. About two dozen families were in attendance and you had an opportunity to meet other adoptive parents. Most of the staff was in attendance for all or part of the time and you were able to learn about each of their roles. You walked through anything from the step-by-step process to finances; birth parents to transracial adoptions; ongoing communication with the birth parents to meeting for the first time. They also had a panel of several birth mothers and adoptive parents. We looked through some previous profile books and were given a list of suggested resources.
After the two-day training, we were given access to a portal with dozens of documents to complete and the majority of our funds were due. With the agency, we paid three times and there was a set amount. Plus, all the home studies, paperwork, and birth families’ paperwork were completed through them. They required a minimum of three home study visits. All the paperwork was over an inch thick. There were also background checks and references to be submitted.
Once all the paperwork was completed and reviewed, we were able to schedule our home study. These were easily two hours or more each time. The first session was with the two of us. We walked through the house to see any safety concerns. We then sat down and shared how we met and our family history. They also asked us what led us to this point and if we had any questions. In the second session, they usually separate the couple and meet with each person individually for at least an hour each. We discussed more of our relationship and conflict. We had additional sessions due to our specific circumstances. In the last session, they would meet with any children and other adults that are living with you. They also walk back through the house to ensure everything is safe and go over the next steps of the process.
Once the home study is completed, the social worker needs to type it all up and have it reviewed. Once it is stamped then you can begin the process of being matched. This process can take a few weeks. They suggest working on a profile book during this time. They did give us some guidance and told us the topics for each page. They also reviewed it before printing to see if there was anything that should be added or subtracted. When it was approved, we then printed several copies for them to lend to birth families to review.
The matching process was very different between the agency and the attorney. As part of our paperwork, we selected our preferences and openness to different children or families. When a birth family came into their office, they went over a checklist as well. If their history and preferences matched ours, then we were available for selection.
The agency had over 40 families waiting to adopt! To not overwhelm the birth families, they would show the families 5 to 10 profiles. They put those who had been waiting for the longest for placing first in the selection for birth families. The birth family would narrow down their choice to one or two families and a meeting would be scheduled to introduce the two families.
As long as everything went accordingly, they then concerned this a match. They tend to match families in the last trimester or over 30 weeks gestation. The agency works for months with the birth families to provide education and counseling. They have a very low percentage of birth families that choose not to place their child for adoption. If a match falls through for any reason, they have an account to offset the cost without making the adoptive parents pay everything again. We could call or email and ask questions at any time.
When the birth mother went into labor, we were notified by the agency. We had discussed being present for the birth ahead of time with the birth family. Once we received the phone call, we went to the hospital. One of the social workers also met us there and stayed through the entire birth. She came back the next day when the birth mother was being discharged and went over all the paperwork with the birth family and us—separately. She then stayed as we said goodbyes and took photos. She returned the next day when the baby was discharged. She was available for anything we needed during that time. She scheduled our first home visit for the following week.
The post-placement home studies were shorter than the ones before placement. They received a copy of each physician visit and asked about the health of the baby. She also went over how we were adjusting and any questions or concerns. She also had a referral for a lawyer to complete the finalization of the adoption, but we opted to use a family friend for that process.
When our first child was turning 1, we discussed adopting again and began the process. I was following an adoption attorney on social media and through his Listserv. He sent out new adoption situations as they came in. The situations contained quite a bit of detail including what they knew about the birth mother and birth father, the health of the child, rationale for choosing adoption, and estimated cost.
You did not have to pay any funds upfront to see the situation. You paid when you applied for a specific situation and it was non-refundable but very reasonable. You filled out an application for each situation you were interested in and sent in three photographs. You were responsible for completing a home study through someone of your choice.
The home study process will vary based on who was used. The home study included background checks and was more extensive than the application for the attorney. The application was only a few pages long and a new one was submitted for each situation. Since everything was included with the agency, it was difficult to distinguish what was for the home study process and what was for matching or another part of the adoption process.
The attorney usually met with the birth family within a few days of receiving applications. He would present all of the families that applied and asked the birth family to make a decision right away. Then a meeting was scheduled for the birth family and adoptive family to meet. They tried to schedule this meeting as soon as possible so it usually occurred within one to two weeks of the deadline for applications.
We met at the attorney’s office. The attorney introduced us, and then we went to lunch with the birth family. He did not attend but asked us to return to the office after lunch. When we returned he met briefly with the birth family and us to confirm that we still wanted to move forward as a “match.” We then exchanged phone numbers with the birth family and said goodbye to them. We met with the attorney a little longer as he drew up a contract and we went over the terms. Communication was then directly through us and the birth family.
We were considered matched at around six months of her pregnancy. We paid a retainer at the point of the match, but most of the funds were not due until the time of placement. We met with the birth family a couple more times before the birth and started to develop a relationship with them. Since we were working with an attorney, he billed everything hourly. If we had questions for him, we were billed. If the birth family contacted him, we were billed. We were billed for his time at the hospital and court and any other time that he required. His agreement with the birth family allowed for more monetary expenses to be disbursed to them for living expenses.
At the time of the birth, the attorney was not present. A few days after the birth, he had both of us and the birth family come to his office to sign the necessary paperwork together. When the child was discharged, he also had to be present at the hospital. Sometimes these things coincide, but in our case, the birth mother was released before the child so he had to make two trips. After the finalization hearing was complete, our contract was complete with the attorney. We do not have an ongoing relationship with the attorney.
In the end, both options gave us beautiful children that we get to call our own. They are a perfect fit for our family! You will likely encounter some frustration and tests of patience along the way with adoption. Unfortunately, there are always unknowns and no way to predict the hiccups that you may encounter. Working with an agency may be the best choice for your family while working with an attorney might be the best choice for someone else. One piece of advice is you should make a list of the top three priorities you want to be honored or respected during the process. Have your spouse do the same. Then, compare and try to keep that list to three or four things you want to be valued. As you do your research into whether you want to adopt with an adoption agency or adoption attorney and talk with others, compare with those priorities and hopefully, you will find the perfect fit for you and your family.
Education and training
Match may be affected by time waiting
An ongoing relationship with both families
Homes studies included
Support during and after placement
Low risk if the birth mother changes her mind or does not deliver
Ongoing counseling available for birth families
Apply for situations as they are presented
Most costs are not due until match or placement
Little support from an attorney
Home studies through a third party
Attorney handles finalization
Charged for all phone calls and communication
Risk can vary with each situation
Some counseling provided to birth families
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.