Many families seeking to adopt a U.S. domestic infant or newborn will use the assistance of a licensed private adoption professional - an agency or attorney. The adoption professional may represent the interest of the adoptive family, the birth family, or both. Ultimately, the hope is that they represent the best interest of the child.
Domestic adoptions can have either an "open" or a "closed" status. An "open adoption" is where the adoptive family maintains contact with the birthmother to one degree or another. This may be as limited as sending an update and photos once a year or as involved as having the birthmother directly involved in the life of the child. In a "closed adoption", the adoptive family and the birthmother have no further contact once the adoption is completed. Studies have shown that maintaining some connection to the birth family is best for the child, so most adoption professionals are encouraging some degree of openness in most adoptions.
Private adoption agencies must be licensed by the state(s) in which they operate to provide the home study required for all adoptions. You can check with the state licensing board or with the Better Business Bureau to see if the agency is in good standing.
Most adoption agencies provide - or even require - pre-adoption education and counseling as part of the home study process. Many will also provide post-adoption services or referrals. The understanding of the importance of post-adoption services is on the rise so choosing an agency that provides these services is a good idea.
An adoption attorney is a lawyer licensed in your state who handles adoption cases. Some attorneys practice family law where adoption is part of their practice, while other attorneys specialize in adoption exclusively.
The scope of adoption attorneys can vary greatly. There are those who provide complete adoption services - helping to identify a child, assisting the family in obtaining a home study and handling the legal work. An attorney may also simply handle the legal aspects of an independent adoption, where the birthmother and adoptive family find each other outside of the scope of an agency or attorney. Independent adoptions are not legal in all states so you should check to make sure it's legal in your state before you choose this option.
You can check with the state bar association or with the Better Business Bureau to see if the attorney is in good standing.
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