Pregnant and Thinking About Adoption: Selecting an Agency or Independent Adoption

This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

Selecting an Agency or Independent Adoption

If you decide to make an adoption plan for your child, you can choose whether you want:

  • An agency adoption
  • An independent (or private) adoption handled by an adoption lawyer or by an adoption facilitator (in States where facilitators are allowed by law)

You may not know which type of adoption will work best for you and your baby until you have explored further. Each of these options is described below, along with considerations and resources for selecting qualified professionals.

Agency Adoption

Adoption agencies are generally full-time organizations whose main work is adoption. They usually employ a staff and work with many families and pregnant women in order to find the best families for babies. Some women choose an agency adoption rather than an independent adoption because licensed agencies follow State adoption standards and often provide more services, such as counseling, before, during, and after the adoption.

If you choose to work with an agency, look for a licensed agency with a good reputation. You can find contact information for licensed domestic adoption agencies in your State from the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory ( To find information on the reputation and licensing of an agency, follow the instructions provided in How to Assess the Reputation of Licensed, Private Adoption Agencies (

Once you contact a licensed agency, you will generally work with an adoption counselor. During initial meetings, the adoption counselor typically will do the following: Provide you with information about your options for your baby Explain the processes for selecting adoptive parents and giving up your parental rights (also referred to as relinquishment, surrender, and other terms) Collect information about you and the baby’s father to create a medical and social history for the baby 7 Work with you to develop an adoption plan, if you choose to have one

A Private/Independent Adoption

Some birth parents choose to place their children for adoption without the involvement of an agency. Some women feel that this will provide them more control, or perhaps they already have identified a prospective family and want to proceed with the adoption. In an independent adoption (or private placement), a pregnant woman generally works just with a lawyer and the family that she selects to adopt her child.

In an independent adoption, the prospective adoptive parents often pay for the expectant mother’s medical costs, legal fees, temporary housing expenses, and possibly other expenses. To help prevent “baby selling,” there are strict laws in each State about what prospective parents can and cannot pay for.8

Independent adoption with a qualified lawyer. If you choose to work with a lawyer, be sure that the lawyer has experience with adoption, is licensed to practice law in your State, and is in good standing with the State Bar Association. You can find names and contact information for adoption attorneys on the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys Membership Directory ( Additional legal referral resources can be found for each State through the American Bar Association’s Legal Help website ( home.cfm). This website also can provide information on whether a person is licensed to practice law in your State (select your State and click on Lawyer Licensing).

When selecting a lawyer, find out about the lawyer’s qualifications, experience with adoption, services, fees, and processes. Look for a lawyer who won’t charge you a fee if you decide not to place your baby for adoption.

Keep in mind. You should plan to have your own lawyer represent you and your baby, and the adoptive parents should have a different lawyer representing them. It’s important that your lawyer is looking out for your interests, especially if you change your mind about adoption.

Adoption facilitators. Some States permit adoption facilitators (a person or organization) to bring together expectant mothers (and their partners) and families seeking to adopt. While in some States, facilitators can be anyone at all, in others they need to be licensed or regulated. And in some States, they are completely illegal.9 State laws regulate or limit the use of adoption facilitators in order to reduce opportunities for individuals to make money from “selling” children.

Keep in mind: Before you work with anyone to arrange an adoption, find out more about the laws in your State. Be cautious of people who may want to take advantage of your situation.

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Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Are you pregnant and thinking about adoption? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.