Adoption Decisions – Part 4: Agency vs. Independent

This is the fourth in a series of posts about decision-making in adoption. If you have not done so already, you can catch up starting with Part 1 here. Stay tuned for the final post next week about choosing an adoption professional.

Now that you have made the decision to pursue a domestic adoption, you will need to do your research and decide whether you will use an adoption agency to provide services for you along the way or whether you want to go forward with an independent adoption. Both of these options can deliver the same outcome — bringing a child into your home — but the steps to take along the way will look different.

If you can imagine the adoption process like building a house, then this decision is like choosing to either hire a contractor to set everything into motion, from the plans being drawn to the final walkthrough, or choosing to be your own contractor. In that case, you would be the one calling the plumber to set up a time to come and the electrician to install the wiring and the concrete guy to lay the foundation (not all in that order!). You would also have to know what the timeline looks like for the job and how to best get everything done and follow every building code and permit. Sounds like a lot of work, but there are benefits to it too.

An adoption within the United States will look similar no matter who is handling the details, but the details are so important and require knowledge of everything adoption-related in order to keep things going smoothly and follow the legal requirements. A constant between an agency and independent adoption will be the services of an adoption attorney to legally finalize the process.

In many cases, an independent adoption is the result of a prospective birth mother and an adoptive family already being in agreement for an adoptive plan before either make contact with an adoption professional. This could be because a prospective birth mother identified a family she already knew or who she was connected with through a mutual acquaintance to adopt her child. In a case like this, an agency may not always be necessary because a match between a birth family and adoptive family is already established.

What an Agency Provides in an Adoption:

An adoption agency is a group of professionals that know the ins and outs of everything adoption-related and provide services to the prospective birth mother as well as the adoptive family throughout the entire process. Each agency will have somewhat different services or packages to choose from that include many of the following options.

  • Home Study

    Some adoption agencies are also home study providers. This means they can perform your home study to be approved for an adoption without having to find another licensed agency to provide this service.

  • Creating Your Profile

    An agency will more than likely have someone who can assist you or create your profile book to be shown to prospective birth mothers. This can be a difficult task if you’ve never done or seen one before wondering what a birth mother would connect with through this book. There will be a fee from the agency to provide this service, but to make it look professional and include all the vital information, this may be a needed benefit for your adoption.

  • Matching with a Prospective Birth Mother

    Most families do not already have a prospective birth mother in mind when they make the decision to pursue adoption. This is where an adoption agency comes in handy because they will advertise for your family using a larger network than your family could do on their own to find a prospective birth mother. When matching with an agency, they will also work with both the birth and adoptive families to make sure everyone comes to the same understanding, everyone is comfortable, everyone’s commitment level is certain, and everyone is taken care of in the process.

  • Providing Benefits for Both Families

    When an agency is approached by a prospective birth mother, they begin making a plan for her and her child. That plan includes things like ensuring she has rides to her doctor’s visits, has access to prenatal care, has a safe place to stay and plenty of groceries. Providing assistance with the insurance and hospital stay will also be a huge help to the prospective birth mother. The agency can also connect her with a counselor for pre- and post-adoption counseling as she wades through emotions throughout the weeks and months ahead. The adoption agency can also provide support and encouragement for the adoptive family as they present their profile, come up with ideas for fundraising, get connected with adoption grants, and so much more.

  • Screening Process

    When working with an agency, most will provide an adoptive family with a detailed medical history of the birth mother, some of her background story, possible drug tests, and other records obtained about her or the birth father. This can sometimes provide an adoptive family with a better understanding of a prospective birth mother and give information needed later for an adopted child. This pre-screening also helps to protect adoptive families from adoption fraud and allows the adoption agency to gauge a potential birth parent’s commitment to adoption prior to matching her with an adoptive family, reducing the risk of an adoption disruption.

  • Communication with Birth Family

    When matched with a prospective birth family, the agency will provide ways to facilitate contact between the prospective birth mother and the adoptive family. Sometimes phone calls will be made from the agency to connect the two families, and other times the adoption agency will set up a visit before the baby is born for the families to meet. Once the adoption is finalized, the agency can coordinate photos and letters for the birth mother to receive as the child grows up, or they can help make a plan for the families to have more direct contact over the years.

  • Connecting with an Adoption Attorney

    Most agencies will have connections with local adoption attorneys where the adoption will be taking place in order to finalize the legal documents concerning your adoption.

Benefits of an Independent Adoption:

  • Lower Cost

    In an independent adoption, you will still be paying for home study fees, birth mother living expenses (as written up by the adoption lawyer), background checks, and other adoption-related expenses. However, you will not be paying any agency fees, which can sometimes be a big expense.

  • More Privacy

    For both the prospective birth mother and the adoptive parents, less professionals involved can mean more privacy for the two families to get to know one another, create a more individualized plan, and have more control over the process in general.

  • Choose Your Own Services

    If you are very organized and love to tackle projects with a DIY mentality, you may want to choose your own home study provider, create your own profile book, make your own phone calls to adoption attorneys, and choose many other aspects of the adoption plan yourself. Knowing you approved of every provider and plan along the way may provide you more peace in your decision.

An independent adoption can be done. Sometimes you may wait longer to find a match, and other times you can do your own advertising and get a phone call from a friend who knows a friend who needs to find an adoptive family for her child. If you are more uneasy about making all the decisions and pursuing every detail, then you may benefit more from an agency approach because you will be provided with someone the entire process who is knowledgeable and has every service already in place. Do your research about different adoption agencies, what they provide, the cost of their services, and then decide what is best for your family as you pursue domestic adoption.

Jill is a 32-year-old wife and mom. She has been married to her husband, Brannon, for eight years and has 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters. Jill and her husband are currently in the adoption process to bring another baby into their home. Jill lives in a small community in Kentucky. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish and obtained her Master’s degree in Christian Ministries. Jill’s passions are her faith, her family, writing, playing sports, and eating good food.

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