Adoption Self Help Manual
What to ask your State Regulatory Agency
What Does Your State Allow
Because each state has its own ideas and controls on adoption, you must begin by finding out what your state allows and requires. How?
Start by calling whoever is responsible for overseeing adoptions in your state. This will probably be the Department of Public Welfare, the Department of Human Resources, The Department of Child Services or some similarly named agency. Whatever it is called in your state, you will most likely find the right office by contacting the information operator in the state capitol. Tell the operator you want the phone number of the department or office that regulates adoptions for your state. The operator will know how to route your call.
For Internet users, try www.calib.com and look for the "state authority."
Here is a list of items you want them to furnish you:
A copy of the state adoption law.
(To see/print the adoption laws for your state click here)
A list of all licensed adoption agencies in your state, both public and private, profit and non-for-profit. The list should include addresses and phone numbers, if possible.
A list of all licensed abortion clinics, Right to Life Centers, Planned Parenthood organizations, and any other agencies that do testing for pregnancy and provide options counseling.
Any other publications they have on hand that will assist and guide you through the adoptive process.
The copy of the law, the lists, and publications just mentioned are important resources for you. You will use them extensively later on.
What Else Can You Get For Your Quarter?
You could hang up the phone after requesting the law and the lists. But there is a good chance that the person on the other end of the phone may be able to give you much more valuable information. Information you would spend many hours or days trying to obtain.
Be warm and engaging. With sincere pleasantness, perhaps you will be fortunate and have the state employee answer a number of important questions for you – or be able to direct you to someone who can. You can get most of these answers for yourself by reading the state law, but in some states, New York, for example, the collection of laws is as thick as a telephone book! And it isn't easy reading, either. Even lawyers who specialize in adoption law disagree about what some of the laws mean.
Now you know why I suggest you try and get as much information as you can from this initial phone call. They will be able to give you the real "nitty-gritty." And they'll use words you can understand.
I am going to give you a list of the most important questions to ask. Don't worry. At this stage, you may not understand what they all mean. By the time you have finished reading this manual, I will make sure you will understand all of them. For now, though, I just want you to have something you can keep directly in front of you as you talk to the state employee.
Be sure you have paper and pencil ready to write down the answers. Don't hesitate to let the other person know you are writing down what they say. While it may scare a few of them, many of them will be even more helpful knowing that what they are saying is important enough to you that you are writing it down.
As friendly as possible, begin to ask these questions:
What kinds of adoptions are permitted in our state? I mean, particularly, are both agency and private adoptions allowed? With agency adoptions, does it make any difference to our state if they are profit or non-for-profit agencies? If private adoptions are allowed, is an adoption arranged by my minister, doctor, lawyer or other intermediary legal? Are there any special requirements which must be met if adoptions are arranged by these people or any other non-licensed person or group.
If private adoptions are allowed, does our state require a home study to be done before we are granted custody? Is the home study needed before anything else is done, or can it be done at any time before the final adoption? Does the home study have to be done by a licensed agency, or can it be done by a qualified social worker or psychologist? Is there a general format for the home study?
How about race and cultural requirements? Can I adopt a child whose race, cultural or religious background is different from mine?
Is it O.K. for me to put in applications in the state next to ours? What are the problems in bringing a baby across state lines? Will our state accept a "legal risk" placement (i.e. a placement where the birth parents rights have not been terminated yet)?
Who is the Interstate Compact person for our state? Where or how can I get in touch with that individual?
May I put an ad in local newspapers announcing the fact that I am looking for a baby to adopt? If this is legal, do I have to have a home study done first? Who has to do the home study?
May I put an ad in local newspapers in another state – if their law permits it, or will that create special problems? If I were to find a birth mother through such an ad, can I adopt the child in that state? In our state?
Am I allowed to offer payments to the birth mother for medical expenses and counseling? What payments are permitted? What payments are not permitted?
Does our state recognize international adoptions? If these are legal in our state, who do I contact about that?
If agency adoptions are permitted, who licenses the agencies?
Where can I get a list of all public, private, profit and non-profit agencies which handle adoptions? Can you tell me who to contact, or can you send me a list?
While on this subject, who licenses maternity homes, pregnancy counseling centers, Planned Parenthood centers and abortion clinics within our state? Is there any list I can get that has their names, addresses and phone numbers? If there isn't any list at present, do you have any suggestions for how I can obtain all that information?
Is there a list of potential adoptive parent groups in our state? Are these broken down into special groups like those interested in foreign adoptions, or newborn adoptions, or other special interest groups?
Does our state have a photo listing service and/or an adoption exchange for "special needs" children? If so, how can I get this information?
Does our state offer any adoption subsidies? If so, is the money available for all types of adoptions or just "special needs" children.
If you get all or most of these questions answered, your informant has provided you with almost the equivalent of a law school degree in adoption law! Even if you only get a few answers, you are still far ahead of where you were before you placed the call!
Thank this person. Be sure to get their name, because you will want to call again for more information. Maybe you'll call back to have him/her clear up one or two things that are confusing. And don't rely on your memory! Write everything down.
Spend a Few More Quarters and Make These Calls
There are a few additional sources of information you need to call, although these are not connected with the state government.
Call your State Medical Association and ask if they have a list of approved practitioners practicing throughout your state. Tell them you are especially interested in the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the obstetricians, gynecologists and general family practitioners. Later, you can write to these doctors, telling them that you are looking to adopt a child. You can ask their help in locating a child.
Call the State Department of Education. Ask them for a list of all state-sponsored and approved public and private institutions for higher education. You might also get a directory which includes the high schools, junior high and middle schools in your state. Once you have these names and addresses, you can contact these institutions. You will be trying to tie into counseling centers of these various schools. You just may locate a counselor who is working with a pregnant student seeking an adoptive family.
Find out if there is a State School Nurses' Association. If so, contact this office as well. Ask if they can send you a list of local school nurses. Often, the school nurse is the first person contacted by a pregnant teenager.
Contact your State Department of Health to see if they can furnish you with a list of all abortion and pregnancy clinics, Planned Parenthood programs and maternity homes. Then write to these just as you did with the doctors. The more people "out there" who know you are trying to adopt, the greater are your chances for successfully finding and adoptable child.
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