Liz is an adoption Fellow in the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA). She focuses her practice on all aspects of adoption and reproductive law matters in Southeast Pennsylvania and...Read More by Author
What to Know Before Considering Independent Adoption
When considering adoption, birth parents and adoptive parents can find each other by using an agency or attorney, or can find each other directly through their community, social media, online resources, or other methods of outreach. When birth parents and adoptive parents find each other directly and the child is placed without an agency, this is known as an independent or private adoption. This article discusses the reasons for pursuing an independent or private adoption, how to prepare, and next steps in looking for a match. As adoption law varies state-by-state, seeking counsel before beginning is key.
Why Independent Adoption?
With the lack of transparency for expectant parents and the high costs of adoption programs for adoptive families, many have turned to independent or private adoption, allowing for a direct connection and wider availability of families finding each other. When working with an agency, or an unlicensed party such as a facilitator of consultant, the pools of matching potential are limited to those already working with the same organization. Adoptive families often pay a significant fee just to join these matching programs – often beyond $10,000 just to join – and then expectant parents are limited to that agency’s social services and pool of adoptive parents, and likewise for the adoptive parents. Even if you are already committed to a matching program, if allowed by their state and any documents they signed, parties can look for a direct independent match at the same time. With most adoptions being open in some way, expectant parents are taking control in their decision to choose an adoptive family of their choice from any program, allowing for an open and direct connection, and adoptive families are not taking on a significant financial burden of joining a matching program. You can read more about types of adoption here and the legal aspects here.
How to Prepare for an Independent Adoption.
Here are some key reminders when looking for an independent adoption match:
- Understand the Law in Your State. As adoption law varies state-by-state, make sure to know the laws of your state before starting outreach and communicating with an expectant family regarding an adoption plan. In some states it is illegal to advertise so it is important to speak with a lawyer and understand your rights. Set up a consultation with a licensed attorney in your state before starting your search. You can find an attorney specializing in adoption law here.
- Be Home Study Approved. An adoptive family should be approved with an up-to-date home study report that is valid in their home state when looking for an adoption match. Before connecting, it is important for expectant parents to know adoptive parents have a completed home study, including any interviews, home inspection, criminal and child abuse clearances, and other background information that is needed for agency approval, or are in the process and will be approved before the placement occurs. Learn how to get Pennsylvania adoption clearances here.
- Set Clear Intentions & Manage Expectations. Connecting with potential adoption situations can be an exciting and stressful time. It is so important to manage the expectations for all parties for contact during the match and birth, as well as contact and visitation expectations for after the adoption placement. For example, if you connect with an expectant parent that is seeking an open adoption with monthly visits, and this is not in line with your family’s future, be clear on your intentions early in the conversations.
- Seek a Licensed Adoption Professional. It is important to connect with a licensed adoption professional, whether an attorney, agency, or social worker, depending on your state. Be cautious when working with unlicensed entities that operate in various states and charge high up-front fees, often referred to as advertisers, facilitators, consultants, or brokers. These are unlicensed entities that collect a fee simply for connecting one party with another, and are not qualified to provide legal, social, or medical support. This may also be illegal in your state or the state of the expectant parent.
- Have a Profile Book with Contact Information. A profile book is a magazine-style booklet of an adoptive family, highlighting their lives and the home and family they would provide for a child through adoption. Make sure to have a hard copy book as well as a digital PDF version. Many matching programs or online resources can help you create a hard copy and digital profile, and may include other features such as videos and demographics. Include contact information either for yourselves or your attorney, agency, or matching program. Many families choose to create a new google email address and google voice phone number, or another private way to connect, when looking for an independent adoption match.
Next Steps in Connecting with Expectant Parents.
Here are some ways you can connect with expectant parents directly if doing your own outreach.
- Tell Everyone. If you are comfortable with sharing, let everyone and anyone know about your plans. Tell your colleagues, community, family and friends, and share your story and provide your profile book. This could be through work, community center, religious institutions, school, or medical providers. If an expectant parent is looking for an adoption plan and wants to find a family with a connection to their community, this will allow adoptive parents to find out about such parents and share their profile to see if they are a match.
- Maintain Privacy. Of course in an independent adoption match you will know each other’s full identities, however it is likely you will interact with many people before finding your adoption match. When looking for a match, you may talk to many people and filter through the actual situations and those that aren’t a good fit. You can always share more if you become a match, so it is important to maintain privacy for all parties from the outset.
- Matching Apps/Websites. With the rise in demand for independent matching, several apps and websites have evolved to support those seeking a direct connection for their adoption match. One such resource is AdoptMatch, a website and app was created by attorneys, that is committed to making sure every expectant mother is fully informed about their adoption options and gets the support needed from a trustworthy, licensed professional near them. Another online resource, PairTree, provides self-matching for parties through their website and has other resources for families. Matching apps like these are much cost effective and provide both birth parents and adoptive parents with a wider net of options to find their chosen adoption match.
- Social Media Pages. Many expectant parents are on social media looking to directly connect with prospective adoptive families. Adoptive parents may make a Facebook, Instagram, or other social media page solely dedicated to the adoption, and there are groups and networks within social media for those seeking an independent match.
- Agency and Attorney Outreach. Reach out to agencies and attorneys in your area, share your story and profile, and let them know your parameters for an adoption situation. Even if you are not in their current matching program, they may have a situation arise that is not a good fit for their clients and look elsewhere for an adoptive family.
Interested in learning more? Reach out to schedule a Legal Consultation.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.