Adoption can be a complicated process, but fortunately, there are many professionals who provide a variety of valuable adoption services for women considering adoption and families hoping to adopt.
These adoption services range from financial, to emotional, to logistical, and it’s up to you to decide which services, and hence which adoption professional, you need during your adoption process.
Below are some of the most common adoption services and where they can be found.
Matching refers to the process by which a birth mother chooses an adoptive family to raise her child. While matches can be made through personal connections or networking, adoption professionals provide matching services to birth parents and families who need help finding an adoption opportunity.
Where to find this adoption service: Adoption agencies, facilitators, and some adoption attorneys can help match families and birth parents. Because agencies regularly work with birth mothers and prospective parents, they are often the most prepared and most reputable for providing this adoption service.
You may look for adoptive families based on:
- where they live
- how old they are
- their neighborhood or community
- the number of other children in the household
- their lifestyle, traditions, hobbies
- their previous experience with adoption
- and much more
Based on your preferences, you adoption specialist will provide you with a selection of adoptive family profiles for you to choose from. Once you choose a family that fits what you are looking for, you and the family will begin to pursue the same adoption plan.
Through an adoption professional’s matching services, they will begin by getting to know your family and the type of adoption situation you are looking for by asking you a variety of questions based on preferred race, medical history, substance use and miscellaneous questions such as whether you are open to adopting twins.
Next, your adoption professional will help you create an open, honest and informative adoptive family profile, which will give potential birth mothers a glimpse into your life and an idea of the kind of parents you will be. Your profile should include:
- An introduction to you and your family
- A description of your home and community
- Pictures of your house and environment
- A letter to the woman considering adoption and reading your profile
- Any extra information that makes your family unique
Some agencies even help their families create video profiles, which are an even better way for a birth mother to learn about your family. Whatever kind of profile you make, it’s important that it captures your personality and your desire to grow your family.
2. Financial Support
Financial support is a broad term that simply means that an adoption professional should do its best to ensure their client’s financial needs are met and protected. This may come in the form of living expenses for birth mothers or adoption disruption insurance for adoptive families. With the right financial support, expecting women can focus on having a healthy pregnancy, and adoptive parents can focus on the dream of growing their family.
Where to find this adoption service: For birth mothers, an adoption agency or attorney will ensure they pay nothing for the adoption and receive as much living expenses as they are allowed; for adoptive families, adoption professionals handle financial protection differently, so it’s important to research several to decide which is best for you.
Secondly, depending on your needs and situation, you may receive living expenses to help cover those non-adoption related expenses, which are known as living expenses and include:
- Doctor’s appointments
- Maternity clothing
- And much more
Depending on your situation, you may even be able to find alternate housing options for the duration of your pregnancy.
Speak with your adoption specialist or adoption attorney to establish the amount of living expenses for which you are entitled. The laws for compensation vary from state to state, so you will need to speak to your adoption professional to see if you qualify for living expenses, and they should help you receive every dollar you are allowed by state law.
All adoption professionals handle refunds for adoption disruptions differently, so be sure to select the one that provides the most insurance in case the birth mother you are working with changes her mind.
3. Legal Aid
All adoptions require an attorney to legalize the process. Attorneys will help to make sure the birth parents’ rights are properly terminated, guide the adoptive family through placement and post-placement, provide legal advice, and legally finalize the adoption.
Where to find this service: Any attorney specializing in adoption will be able to legally complete the adoption. If you choose to work with an adoption agency, they will likely provide you with one of their trusted adoption attorneys.
Some of the legal aspects of adoption that your attorney will help guide you though include:
- Consent – You will legally consent to the adoption and terminate your parental rights around 24-72 hours after the birth of your baby. An adoption attorney (either the one you have been working with or another one helping you with this part of the process) may be there to help guide you through the paperwork, or an adoption social worker will have the paperwork that has been prepared by your attorney.
- Revocation Period – After you consent to the adoption, there may be a revocation period in your state during which you may still legally change your mind; however, most states only allow consent to be revoked if you made your decision under duress or another fraudulent situation. Your attorney will make sure you understand your state’s laws regarding any revocation period.
- Enforceable Contact Agreements – Certain states have legally enforceable contact agreements between birth parents and adoptive families, ensuring the adoptive family keeps what was promised to you in regards to correspondence: emails, pictures and letters, etc.
Living Expenses – Any living expenses you receive must be approved by your state’s court. Your adoption attorney will work to understand your financial needs and will file your request with the court to maximize the amount of living expenses you may receive.
- Termination of Rights – Both the birth parents’ rights must be legally terminated for placement to occur.
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Clearance – If your adoption takes place across state borders, ICPC guidelines must be followed properly to ensure the welfare of the adopted child.
- Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Clearance – If the child is any part Native American, certain processes must be met to ensure the child is eligible for adoption.
- Post-placement Visits – Often regarded as an extension of the home study, post-placement visits ensure that the child and family are adjusting well to their new living arrangements. Usually 2-6 post-placement visits are required, depending on your state’s laws.
- Finalization – A judge will review the adoption process to verify that everything was completed in accordance with the law, after which the adoption will officially be complete and a new birth certificate with the adoptive parents’ and child’s name will be issued.
4. Counseling and Support
Adoption is undoubtedly an emotional time for everyone involved, and while the support of family and friends is crucial, adoption professionals are specifically equipped to guide people through the experiences unique to adoption.
Where to find this service: An adoption agency’s adoption specialists are often trained to provide counseling and support. Adoption attorneys may provide this as well, but they often provide it through an unlicensed paralegal or outsource it to a counselor.
When you speak with an adoption specialist, they should never try to talk you into making a decision you are not comfortable with. They should be understanding of your feelings and help you in any way they can.
If you do choose to pursue adoption, your relationship with that adoption specialist should continue throughout the adoption process. She or he she should get to know you, your goals for your adoption, your dreams for your child, and more, and should do everything possible to offer the counseling and support you will need during this emotional time.
Some agencies offer 24/7 support as well, meaning you may contact your adoption specialist at any time of the day, on any day of the week, when you need them most.
- Help determining if adoption is right for your family
- Emotional support throughout the process
- Knowledge of what’s to come throughout the adoption process
- Advice for communicating with birth parents
- Assistance with completing the home study
- Essentially, an adoption agency is prepared to help you at every step of the adoption process, so you can have all your needs met in one place.
Whatever stage you are at in the adoption process, your professional should be able to provide you with information and support.
5. Pre-Placement and Post-Placement Contact
One reason birth parents and adoptive families may be matched are based on they type of adoption relationship they are seeking and how much contact they prefer to share with one another during and after the adoption.
An adoption professional can facilitate much of this contact, particularly in a semi-open (mediated) adoption.
Where to find this service: Adoption agencies are often used to mediate contact between birth parents and adoptive parents, maintain the agreed-upon amount of contact, and nurture a good relationship between them.
One popular scenario is engaging in a conference call with the adoptive family. Your adoption specialist will be on the call with you to help you ask or answer any questions. Also, if you choose to meet the family, and you both live near each other, your adoption specialist may help mediate this meeting between you both.
Having an adoption specialist involved in communication between you and the adoptive family will help you feel comfortable during this important time of the adoption.
For example, a common characteristic of a semi-open adoption is the sending of pictures and letters of the child to his or her birth mother. If you were to directly mail these to the birth mother, she would know everything about you. Therefore, one adoption service an adoption agency may provide is a mail forwarding service, where you mail your adoption agency the pictures, and they then put it in a new envelope with the agency’s address and forward it to the birth mother.
Another related service is assistance with email correspondence. Your adoption agency may help you set up an email address specifically for this adoption, and your adoption specialist may help monitor and mediate any email exchange between the birth mother and your family.
6. Marketing, Advertising and Networking
Marketing, advertising and networking is an important an often overlooked adoption service that directly influences the number of adoption opportunities an adoption professional may provide.
Where to find this service: National adoption agencies often reach the widest audience due to their larger advertising budgets, limitless networking opportunities, and the fact they are able to work with clients from across the country. Adoption attorneys may not always advertise as much as adoption agencies, but they are often connected with many different adoption professionals and can find adoption opportunities for their clients when necessary.
This means you will have many more adoptive family profiles to look at to help you make your decision. Some adoption professionals may even offer adoptive family video profiles, which will give you an even better idea of what it would be like growing up in their family.
If an adoption professional only receive 10 birth mother leads per year and another one receives 100, clearly you will have a better chance of adopting sooner with the second adoption professional. An adoption professional’s success at creating adoption opportunities should play a large roll in determining which one you decide to work with to grow your family through adoption.