Private adoption, also called independent adoption, refers to a type of adoption whereby the adopting parent works primarily with an attorney throughout the adoption process instead of with an adoption agency. With private adoptions, the birth parents usually relinquish their rights to parent directly to the adopting parents.
With a private or independent adoption and when permitted by state law, attorneys may advertise to expectant parents considering adoption and help match expectant parents with prospective adoptive parents. Attorneys may also guide prospective adoptive parents with developing and executing their own networking and advertising efforts.
Even with private adoption, the adopting parents will likely need a home study. For this they will hire an independent social worker or work with an adoption agency. Still, most aspects related to private adoptions are linked to an attorney and not to an agency.
We work with so many adopting parents who are pursuing or are considering pursuing a private adoption that we wanted to answer some common questions. We are a strong proponent of adoption, regardless of whether you pursue an agency or private adoption. Both offer unique services and benefits and my advice to adopting parents is always the same:
Research your options thoughtfully and
choose what feels most comfortable.
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Benefits of Private Adoption
If you research private adoption you will come across many documented benefits, but we believe there are two that are most important and valid. The first is that there are fewer requirements placed on adopting parents when pursuing private adoption and the second is that the private adoption process allows for greater multitasking and as a result, the chance for a faster adoption.
Private Adoption Typically Has Fewer Requirements
When pursuing a private adoption, no one is establishing requirements that you must meet beyond those mandated by state law. Whether or not a match is appropriate is completely up to you and the expectant parents. This is one of the greatest benefits of private adoption.
This is in contrast to the approach that many, although not all adoption agencies employ. For example, agencies can legally set requirements beyond those required by state adoption statutes. Those requirements may be based on an adopting parent’s age, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, or infertility experience, among other things. If a particular agency is not a fit for you, then you are free to find another agency or explore private adoption.
Private Adoption Typically Offers a More Flexible Process
Private adoption practices are less structured and rigid than agency practices and the benefit is that adopting parents can usually get their profile shown to expectant parents considering adoption more quickly. The faster expectant parents can access your adoption profile, the faster you may adopt.
Attorneys typically do not use waiting lists so when your profile is ready to be shown to expectant parents, it will be. With agency adoptions, some agencies limit the number of prospective adoptive parents with whom they work. If this results in you being placed on a waiting list and if you are not doing anything else to adopt (like working with other adoption professionals or doing your own networking and advertising to locate expectant parents considering adoption), then you are allowing time to pass without making progress.
With private adoption you may (depending on state law) be able to show your profile to expectant parents before you have an approved home study. Many adoption agencies (probably the vast majority) will not show expectant parents your profile until you have an approved home study. Some state laws require this, but most of the time agencies do this because they have plenty of approved adopting parents looking to adopt and they don’t want to risk showing expectant parents a profile from someone whose home study could be rejected.
This approach makes complete sense, but it can still slow the process for adopting parents. Two to four months can easily pass while working toward getting an approved home study and that is time that you can never get back.
Finally, an attorney is more likely to provide at least some training on adoption profiles and personal networking and advertising (or refer you to a service like My Adoption Advisor) before you have an approved home study. Again, most agencies won’t train you on writing your profile or doing networking and advertising until you have an approved home study. They don’t want to invest the money to do this until they know you will be approved to adopt.
This approach also makes sense. The problem is that if you know you will be approved (and most people easily will) and if you are not taking the steps to learn how to develop profiles and network and advertise your desire to adopt, months can pass before you become available to expectant parents.
Benefits of Agency Adoption
Although this article is about private adoption, it does not seem fair to highlight some of the benefits of private adoption without comparing them to some of the key benefits one would typically experience with agency adoption.
The agency adoption route generally comes with more training and more counseling, to both prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents considering adoption, and this benefits everyone. Furthermore, adoption agencies often provide these services throughout the lives of the adoptive family, adopted child, and birth family.
Adoption agencies often provide many more hours of valuable training as compared to what adopting parents get from adoption attorneys during the private adoption process. When you sign up with an agency you may receive 10 or even more hours of training that prepares you for your adoption journey. Common training topics include openness, raising children who are of a different race than you, attachment, the long-term impacts of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, and many other important subjects.
We have not heard of any attorney who provides this level of training. Attorneys will certainly teach you about the adoption process and legal considerations, but they do not provide the additional training that you get with an agency adoption.
Adoption agencies are staffed by social workers who are trained to provide adoptive parent and birth parent counseling. An attorney may certainly refer you to a social worker for counseling and they may help you find a pregnancy counselor for any expectant women that you connect with, but getting proper counseling will always require you to find an outside resource. With adoption agencies, that service is a part of the package that you buy and can be better coordinated because it is all in-house. Attorneys obviously have great skill, but most probably did not get multiple degrees in social work.
It’s great to have options. Private and agency adoptions are quite different. In general, there is more flexibility and less bureaucracy with private adoptions. Private adoption is a great option for those who are more comfortable taking control and navigating their way through the process.
Agency adoptions usually come with more training and counseling. Adoption agencies will walk adopting parents through the process so agency adoptions are a fantastic choice for those who want the extra comfort and support.