Agency vs. Independent Adoption

If you’re considering adoption, you may have some questions about the amount of assistance you need to complete the process. The type of adoption professional that will offer the most assistance is an agency. On the other end of the spectrum, an attorney in an independent adoption will most likely offer the least. Read on to find out which option may be better for your individual adoption situation.

What’s an agency adoption?

Most often when we think of agency adoption, we think of the type of private domestic adoption that occurs when a baby’s birth parents voluntarily place their baby for adoption through an agency with a family of their choosing. This is correct, but an agency adoption could really refer to any adoption completed through a licensed child-placing agency.  This includes international adoption, which families usually pursue through an agency that focuses on those specific adoption services, as well as foster care adoption, which is usually completed through the state department.

Families who adopt through an agency are often people who have struggled with infertility, want to bond with their child from his or her birth, and want to have a continuing relationship with birth parents after the adoption. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily describe all families. Agencies work with a variety of both birth parents and adoptive parents who are considering adoption for many different reasons.

Children adopted through private domestic adoption agencies are generally healthy newborns, of all races and genders, who were born in the United States. Children adopted through foster care or international adoption, of course, don’t necessarily fit that profile.

What’s an independent adoption?

An independent adoption is a DIY adoption of sorts. It’s a non agency adoption in which the adoptive parents work directly with an adoption attorney to complete the process.

In any type of adoption, an attorney must be involved. With an agency adoption, a trusted attorney will be provided to families along with all other adoption services — counseling and support, matching, advertising, etc. In an independent adoption, however, parents are completing a private adoption with only minimal assistance.

Attorneys rarely provide matching or screening services, so families who choose to pursue a private adoption independently have generally already matched with a prospective birth mother. This option may also make the most sense if you’re pursuing a stepparent adoption, a relative adoption or another kind of identified adoption.

What are the benefits of an agency adoption?

Working with an agency means you’ll have help finding an adoption opportunity, which is how birth parents choose adoptive families. This is very important unless you’ve already identified a prospective birth mother; attempting to advertise on your own is not only costly, but can also be risky. An adoption agency will work with both you and the potential birth mother to make sure everyone is comfortable with the adoption situation, which helps to minimize the amount of disruptions, or instances in which the expectant mother decides not to pursue adoption with the family she’s chosen.

Adoption is always emotional, and at times it can be confusing, too. Adoption agencies that offer counseling and education, particularly to prospective birth moms, can be invaluable. An adoption attorney most likely won’t be able to talk through the expectant mother’s situation with her and work to understand her life and her adoption decision. Nor can an attorney be expected to work through adoptive parents’ fears about disruptions or relationships with the birth parents after adoption. Having an adoption specialist from an adoption agency to work through your fears can be a very valuable asset to an adoption.

Since adoption agencies work closely with the prospective birth mother as well as the adoptive family, they’re able to make sure she’s committed to adoption throughout the process. Working with an adoption agency can also lower your chances of being the victim of adoption fraud, since birth mothers are screened prior to being matched with adoptive families. And while agencies can’t necessarily detect and prevent all cases of adoption fraud, some offer financial protection so that you won’t lose your money in the even that it does happen.

Adoption attorneys in an independent adoption, on the other hand, don’t generally offer any screening services to adoptive families. It’s up to you to do this on your own, to gauge a potential birth mother’s commitment to adoption and to obtain as much pertinent medical information as possible. Families who pursue independent adoption, and especially those who find prospective birth parents on the internet, are much more susceptible to adoption fraud.

  • Contact Mediation

In addition to educating you about why an open adoption can be the best option for all parties involved, adoption agencies can help you to facilitate contact with birth parents. It can be difficult to know just how to communicate with your child’s birth parents, which is why having an adoption specialist around to work with you through the process, or even mediate that contact for you, is a huge asset.

What are the benefits of an independent adoption?

  • Lower cost

If you work solely with an adoption attorney, you’re getting less in the way of services, which means you may be paying less as well. However, many attorneys charge by the hour, so it may be difficult to get an accurate estimate of the total cost in the beginning. Depending on the amount of time required to complete the adoption and factors like disruptions or varying state laws, it may end up being more expensive.

  • More private

In an independent adoption, the adoptive family can have more control over how (and if) they get to know their child’s birth parents. This gives the family the option to pick and choose which services they’d like to have and pay for.

  • Fewer people involved

If the only person you need to complete your adoption is an attorney — meaning you’ve already found an adoption opportunity and you don’t require any additional services — then an independent adoption can simplify the process. Your attorney will be able to finalize it for you after you’ve taken care of the rest.

There are pros and cons to both agency adoption and independent adoption. Which one you choose should depend on how comfortable you are with the idea of navigating the adoption process by yourself. If this doesn’t bother you — especially if you’ve already identified who you’re going to adopt — independent adoption could be a good, cost-effective option. If you’d prefer to have some guidance along the way, working with an agency might be preferable.