Adoption Self Help Manual
The "Ins and Outs" of Private Adoptions
There is a trend that has been going on for a number of years. It relates to the number of healthy American-born infants available for adoption.
Whether because of the increase in abortions, birth mothers who decide to keep their children, an increase in infertile couples, or whatever, the number of these babies available when compared to the number of people wanting to adopt has been dropping steadily.
So don't be shocked if you ask an agency how long it will be before they can place a healthy, American-born infant with you and they tell you it will be a number of years.
And just because they tell you it will be years, that's no reason not to leave your name. Get on the Active List anyhow. You never know when something good may come along unexpectedly.
But as you have already learned in earlier chapters, there is no reason for you to just sit and wait. Now is the time to put to use all the techniques you've learned so far. Now is the time to pull out the stops and explore all the other possibilities open to you.
After contacting agencies and getting on all the Active Waiting Lists that you can, the next most likely area you should try will involve private adoptions. These are also often called independent adoptions.
Private adoptions are those which do not involve an agency. Here, someone such as a doctor, lawyer, friend or clergyman may act for you. Or it may be a private adoption "facilitator" or a referral source you found on the Internet. In all these cases, someone other than a licensed adoption agency will be the intermediary between you and the birth mother.
Or, in some cases, you may deal directly with the birth mother, using a lawyer as an intermediary to assist you with the legal requirements.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Adoptions
There are certain advantages and disadvantages about private or independent adoptions that you need to know about, depending on your situation. So, let's look at these in more detail.
Advantages of Private (Independent) Adoption Services
- Generally, there are no age requirements or restrictions for prospective adopting parents. For example, if you fall outside the normal 25 to 45 year old age group, a private adoption is a good alternative for you.
- There aren't any rigid health requirements that the prospective adopting parents must meet. So, if you or your spouse have something in your medical history which would "flag" you in an agency application, the private adoption route is a good one for you to explore.
- In many private adoptions, an initial home study may not be required.
- As you probably have already figured out, the legal process after the baby is born can sometimes take quite a while to complete. In private adoptions, you can have the baby placed in your hands while all this is going on. You don't have to wait for final termination of the rights of the birth parents before you take custody of the child. This issue of foster care can be avoided entirely in private adoptions.
- In your area, there may be a greater availability of healthy infants through private adoptions than agency adoptions.
- The possibility of adoption by a single parent may be greater when done through private, independent sources. In general, if you are a single parent, you will have little choice available to you in agency adoptions. Many agencies offer single parents only special needs children. Or, no babies at all.
- If there are other reasons you are unable to be placed by an agency list, or if the lists serving your area are impossibly long, private adoption is a good avenue to explore.
"Well," you're thinking to yourself, "that sounds wonderful. This is a great way to go!"
Not so fast! There is another side to this coin.
Disadvantages of Private (Independent) Adoption Services
- Without question, the greatest disadvantage lies in the fact that there is far less regulation of this type of adoption than is the case with agency adoptions. With decreased regulation comes increased risk.
Often, in independent adoptions, there will be a lawyer who is not a specialist in adoption law. So legal issues, like notifying the biological father of the birth, may be overlooked. Terminating the rights of both birth parents is something that is all to frequently not handled properly.
There is a well-known case that became front page news a few years ago. This adoption involved a baby born of a full-blooded Native American Indian mother.
The child was adopted by a white American family.
Unfortunately, the attorney handling this adoption did not know about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Basically, the Act was passed so that the Native American Indian Nation as a whole is given first authority over all placement decisions where the child may be eligible to be a member of a Native American Indian tribe. Or where at least one of the biological parents is eligible to be a member of a Native American Indian tribe.
Well, nobody thought about the concerns of the Native American Indian Nation in this adoption until, somehow, the facts came out. Then, as you can imagine, there was a lengthy, costly legal situation which ensued. All because somebody didn't know the law.
An isolated case? Not really. In the past 16 years, I have had over 100 adoptions involving Native American Indian children. And for what it's worth, in many cases, local attorneys, who were good attorneys but not specialists in adoption law, knew nothing about this Act. I'm not an attorney, but I had to tell them. You may have to tell your lawyer, too.
Because of lack of attention to detail – or downright ignorance of the law – some independent adoptions get "hung up." They drag on for months or even years and the finalization of the adoption is in jeopardy the whole time.
- Another large problem with private (independent) adoptions is that the entire issue of counseling to the birth mother often goes by the board. As you would expect, this leads to a high rate of birth mothers who change their minds about going through with the adoption. Exact figures are not known but it is recognized that the percentage of birth mothers who change their minds is much higher in private adoptions than it is in agency adoptions. And lack of counseling appears to be a critical issue.
- People often find themselves in situations where there is insufficient documentation or records available. Some of the records you don't get could be the ones that would otherwise give you valuable information on the birth mother, the baby, or the birth father's health and medical condition.
- With private (independent) adoptions, there is frequently a breach of confidentiality. If this is something you feel is important, then having the birth mother or birth father find out who you are, where you live, and so on will be upsetting to you.
Remember when I talked about open and closed adoptions? The major point was that there are some adopting people who don't want the birth parents to know anything more about them other than what is required by the law.
Be sure you re-examine your feelings on this issue. Take steps to see that your wishes are considered. Make sure people pay attention to what you want.
- These adoptions can result in the loss of significant amounts of money. And, they offer the possibility that a child may be "bought" or "sold" to the highest bidder.
Black Market Babies
There are individuals who will do anything for money. For five, ten, or fifteen thousand dollars, they with find you a baby. It's your money. And your ethics. But the law is the law!
Sometimes, the birth mother will receive money from the adopting family. It doesn't matter if she gets it from a lawyer or a friend of the family instead of directly from you. Giving money to the birth mother can be a violation of state law.
What if you give her money for trips to the hospital or doctor's office? What about money for counseling? I'm talking about honest, above-board money here.
Even such sensible, well- Intentioned repayments to the birth mother may be violating the law.
Some states have laws on the books which specifically forbid you from furnishing the birth mother with money so that she can get counseling.
Why this should be the case is not the issue. You may think the law makes no sense. I may agree with you. But the law is the law; to break it jeopardizes your chances for a successful adoption.
Remember the Adoption Commandments. Don't do anything shady or improper. Don't pay anyone anything until you are certain it is legal and aboveboard.
A Few Final Checkpoints
As you proceed with an independent adoption, make sure you don't forget the laws about informed consent. The law that talks about the fact that both the birth mother and the birth father have to know what's going on.
Remember, too, that not all states allow independent adoptions – in part because they are so often perilous and end up unhappily. Some states do not allow the payment of money to adoption facilitators or any other type of intermediary except a fully-licensed adoption agency.
Double-check if you may advertise locally for a baby. Check about internet advertising. These are two of the best methods to use if you are trying to adopt privately. You don't want to have the state authorities down on you, though, because you put a small ad in the neighborhood paper.
In independent adoptions, it is most important that you work with honest, trustworthy intermediaries. Be sure you know all the fees. Be sure somebody tells you what the story is with the birth father. How are they going to get his informed consent? How will you be able to make sure everybody's rights have been terminated?
Be sure that you are kept posted each step of the way. Don't think by staying in the shadows, away from the action, that everybody will love you better, or you'll be safer. Remember, in this process, you are the one who has the most to lose.
One final point.
Once you have received a referral, that is, a notice that there is a baby waiting for you, if at all possible, have a pediatrician or family physician of your choice examine the baby before you take custody. If this is not possible, have a doctor see the baby as soon as you possibly can.
If this is not possible, the next best action for you to take is this:
Have your pediatrician or family physician contact either the hospital where the baby was born or the doctor who was present at the time of birth. This is so you can get accurate medical records and information regarding the baby.
If you do not have the opportunity to do either of the two things I've mentioned, then at least take the newly placed baby to your pediatrician or your family physician as soon as possible after you have taken custody.
[ Return to Child Adoption Manual ]