Adoption Agencies vs. Adoption Attorneys

What's the difference? What's right for me?

Narda Emett October 04, 2016
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Should you use an adoption attorney or an adoption agency? It depends on your personal situation. Here are some of the differences to help you decide which is right for you.

Adoption attorneys:

  • You may qualify for adoption using an attorney when an agency turns you down. Adoption attorneys follow the laws of the state(s) where you and the birth parents reside. Agencies often have additional qualification requirements because they are private entities. For example, an agency may specify that only infertile couples may apply, or only couples of a particular religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or age.
  • You may be approved for adoption in less time. Many agencies require additional paperwork as well as time spent in adoption education classes prior to approval. If the agency only works with a given number of adoptive parents at one time, you may be put on a waiting list before your profile is ever shown to a prospective birth parent.
  • You may need to hire additional professionals to assist with your adoption. Adoption attorneys are not social workers. You will need to hire a social worker to complete your home study and complete post-placement visits, as required by your state’s laws. You may also want to hire an advertising professional to help publicize your adoption profile. In many private adoptions, you need to find the prospective birth parents.
  • Private adoption costs can vary greatly. If you already have a connection with the birth parents and you only need the adoption attorney to complete the legal steps in relinquishment, placement, and finalization, you may save money over using an agency. Know what the fees will be in advance. In many states, the adoptive parents are allowed to pay for the birth mother’s living expenses, clothing, etc. while she is expecting. If you pay these living expenses, there is no guarantee she will place the baby with you. If she chooses to parent, she is not required to pay back those expenses you paid on her behalf. You may also be responsible to pay for the birth mother’s medical expenses, in addition to the legal fees.

Adoption agencies:

  • Adoption agencies’ services are more inclusive. When you use an agency, they walk you through each step of the adoption process, (e.g., application, home study, creating a profile, advertising, placement, and finalization) and provide the professionals to guide you.
  • Agencies provide support. Many agencies provide counseling for adoptive families and birth families at no additional charge. These services include pre-placement and post-placement treatment from qualified adoption social workers or family therapists.
  • You may receive adoption education and training. Many agencies require prospective adoptive parents to complete a certain number of training hours. Adoption education classes help prepare you to be an adoptive parent. Classes may include topics such as: talking to your child about their adoption, raising children with special needs, transracial adoptive families, how adoptees feel about adoption, open vs. closed adoptions, etc.
  • Adoption costs are usually outlined in advance. Most agencies have a set fee schedule for the services they provide. You may be responsible for additional expenses upon being matched with prospective birth parents depending on their specific situation, but you should know in advance what those costs entail.
  • You are responsible to hire an attorney to complete your adoption. One service most agencies don’t include is the legal fee for the adoptive couple to finalize their adoption. This fee is minimal as you are paying for an attorney to file a petition to adopt in the state you reside and represent you before the judge in finalizing the adoption. If you are adopting across state lines, there may be an additional fee to complete an Interstate Compact, allowing you to take the child to your home in another state.

If you are still unsure which route to go, talk to others who have used specific agencies or attorneys in your area to learn about their experiences and get their recommendations.

If you’re ready to pursue a domestic infant adoption, we can help. Click here to connect with an experienced, compassionate adoption provider who can get you started on this incredible journey. 

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Narda Emett

Narda Emett is a mother of six, four of whom were adopted. She has been part of the adoption community for over 16 years, serving on local and national boards for Families Supporting Adoption. She has adopted both domestically and internationally and is happy to be part of a transracial adoptive family. In her free time (does a mother of six ever have free time?), she likes to read and make amazing wedding cakes.


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