Adoptions can sometimes be arranged without an agency. Initial contacts can be made directly between a pregnant woman and adoptive parents or by the pregnant woman and an attorney, depending on state law. Independent adoption is legal in all but a few states, but 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 to 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 a birth mother interested in relinquishing her 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 birth parents and adoptive parents together. You can advertise on your own or use a national adoption advertising consultant. Another way to locate a birth mother 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 even advertised on the Internet.
Simply locating a birth mother is only the first step. You also need to know about the birth father. States have recognized the rights of birth fathers to be involved in decisions about their children, including adoptions. Many states have established registries (putative father registries) as a way for birth fathers to register their intention to support and be involved in their child's life. Several high-profile lawsuits have involved contested adoptions where birth fathers 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 adoptive parents to pay for the birth mother's medical and legal expenses, in addition to their own. Some states also require the adoptive parents to pay for counseling for the birth parents so that the court can be satisfied that they both fully comprehend what they are planning to do. A home study, 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 adoptive parents may also help out with the birth 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 birth parents and then make introductions to prospective adoptive families. The facilitators charge families for their services and allow the birth parents and the adoptive family to make the rest of the placement arrangements.
Each potential independent adoption situation is different, and this method can be expensive. It's not uncommon for the expenses in an independent adoption to equal those of a private agency adoption, unless the birth mother has health insurance or is covered by medical assistance. Since many birth parents change their minds after the child is born, prospective adoptive families must often deal with the loss of funds paid for birth parent 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 preapproved agencies or attorneys in order to purchase this insurance.
Identified adoption is a form of independent adoption in which a birth mother and adoptive parents locate one another, but 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 home study for the adoptive parents and counsels the birth mother. All the parties know that the birth mother's baby will be placed with that couple. This process combines some of the positive elements of all types of adoption: the birth mother can feel confident that her child will have a future with an approved, loving family, and the adoptive parents can feel confident that the birth mother has thought through her decision carefully. As in any adoption, however, a birth 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.
Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.