Adoptions can sometimes be arranged without an agency. Initial contacts can be made directly between a pregnant woman (or both expectant parents) and adoptive parents or by the pregnant woman and an attorney, depending on state law. Independent adoption is legal in some states, but not all, and there are significant variations regarding specific aspects of adoption laws of which you should be aware.
If you pursue this approach, retain an experienced adoption attorney to explain the adoption laws in your state. Talk with other adoptive parents. Become familiar with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), because in interstate adoptions you will be required to comply with the adoption laws of both states. You certainly do not want your adoption to be challenged because of failing to comply with the relevant adoption laws.
To initiate an independent adoption, you must first locate parents or expectant parents interested in relinquishing their child. In the states where it is legal, advertising in the classified section of local newspapers has proven to be a successful method for bringing parents together. You can advertise on your own or use a national adoption advertising consultant. Another way to locate placing parents is to send an introductory letter, photo, and resume describing your family life, home, jobs, hobbies, and interests to crisis pregnancy centers, obstetricians, and all of your friends and colleagues who might possibly lead you to the right person. Some families have found Internet profiles are the most effective way of getting their information to potential birthparents who can view them in the privacy of their own homes.
Simply locating a woman who is making an adoption plan for her child is only the first step. You also need to know about the child's father. States have recognized the rights of fathers to be involved in decisions about their children, including adoptions. Many states have established registries (putative father registries) as a way for men to register their intention to support and be involved in their child's life. Several high-profile law suits have involved contested adoptions where men were not notified of, and subsequently objected to the adoptive placement of the child.
Expenses involved in an independent adoption vary. It is customary for adopting parents to pay for the mother's medical and legal expenses, in addition to their own. Some states also require the adoptive parents to pay for counseling for the birthparents so that the court can be satisfied that they both fully comprehend what they are planning to do. A homestudy, for which there is a fee, conducted by a certified social worker or a licensed child-placing agency is usually required. In some states, the adopting parents may also help out with the mother's living or clothing expenses. Again, with each of these issues, you must know your state adoption laws and what they allow or prohibit in an adoption.
A few States permit adoption facilitators to act as "matchmakers" who recruit and counsel placing parents and then make introductions to prospective adoptive families. The facilitators charge families for their services and allow the placing and adopting parents to make the rest of the placement arrangements.
Each potential independent adoption situation is different, and this method can be expensive. It is not uncommon for the expenses in an independent adoption to equal or exceed those of a private agency adoption, unless the mother has health insurance or is covered by medical assistance. Since it is a mother's full and legal prerogative to change her mind after the child is born, prospective adoptive families must often deal with the loss of funds paid for expenses in addition to the loss of the anticipated baby. Some adoptive parents purchase adoption insurance as a way to guard against such financial risks; insurance underwriters require that families work with pre-approved agencies or attorneys in order to purchase this insurance.
Identified (or designated) adoption is a form of independent adoption in which placing and adopting parents locate one another, and then go together to a licensed adoption agency. In a few states, this is the only type of independent adoption allowed. The agency conducts the homestudy for the adopting parents and counsels the mother (parents). All parties are agreed that the mother's baby will be placed with that couple. This process combines some of the positive elements of all types of adoption: the mother can feel confident that her child will have a future with an approved, loving family, and the adopting parents can feel confident that the expectant mother has thought through her decision carefully. As in any adoption, however, a mother may still change her mind about placing the child.
Many couples who have adopted infants independently found it was the right solution for them. It may be the solution for you; however, it is not for everyone. Some adoptive parents who have adopted independently say later that it might have been nice to have had the emotional support and thoughtful preparation for adoption that an adoption agency provides. Most parents want to be well-prepared to help their children deal with adoption issues they will face at different points in their lives. Some parents seek support before and after adopting independently by joining adoptive parent support groups.
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.