Adoption Agency Checklist

Adoption is one way for potential adoptive parents to grow their families. Many families work with an adoption agency to make the process easier.

Adoptive parents likely have several options to grow their family through adoption.

One path to expanding a family is through private adoption, where the birth parents and the adoptive parents agree to the adoption. Agencies are not usually involved with private adoption or independent adoption.

Working with an adoption agency is a popular way to pursue an adoption. An agency can help parents at every stage of the adoption process, from preparing them for the home study to post-placement services and finalization.

This article will explore some of the benefits of using an adoption agency, what to look for in an adoption agency, and the kinds of services offered by an agency. The article ends with checklists that may be used to assist potential parents with choosing an agency.

Benefits of Working With an Adoption Agency

Adoption agencies help to reduce some of the anxiety associated with adoption. Agencies can help match adoptive parents with potential adoptees. Reputable, licensed agencies have experience in all aspects of adoption. These agencies help both prospective adoptive parents and birth parents. This experience extends to their knowledge of adoption laws, local and international.

Without an adoption law attorney on staff, agencies cannot provide legal advice but can help parents understand the legal process. Anyone considering adoption should consult with an adoption law attorney. There are two basic types of agencies: private agencies and public agencies. Both offer some essential adoption services, but there are distinct differences between each type of adoption agency.

Private Adoption Agency

Private adoption agencies provide all parties to the adoption extensive counseling. This includes the birth family, the adoptive parents, and the child, if applicable. This level of counseling increases the likelihood that the birth mother and birth father will consent to adoption.

One drawback to private agencies is selectivity. Private agencies use many factors to screen potential parents. Finally, private agencies charge high fees for their services. Likely, parents may have to pay medical and living expenses for the birth parent.

Public Adoption Agency

Public agencies, by contrast, offer few services and charge less than private agencies for this reason. Prospective parents may have more significant options with a public agency if they want to adopt a child from a different background. Potential parents are more likely to find older children, children in foster care, and children with special needs through a public agency.

Foster parents may use a public agency to complete an adoption.

What To Look For in an Adoption Agency

Before choosing an agency, potential adoptive parents should vet the agency. They should check the reputation and credentials of the agency before moving forward in the adoption process. Reputable agencies must have a license in the state where they operate. Birth families and prospective parents should check the agency's license with their state's registry.

Services Offered by an Adoption Agency

The types of adoption services will vary depending on the agency chosen. At their core, most agencies offer services to match adoptive parents with children available for adoption. Agencies also provide screening, education/training, home study, and adoption referral services.

Adoption Agency Checklist

Below is a checklist of questions to ask and issues to consider before pursuing an agency adoption:

  • What type of adoption best suits the adoptive family? This question will help the likely parents narrow their choices. Domestic adoptions have different regulations as compared with international adoptions. Do you want closed adoption or open adoption? Is this a relative adoption, where a family member is adopting a relative?
  • Determine the agency's services to prospective adoptive parents, birth mothers, or biological parents. Many agencies offer home study courses, training, and ongoing support for adoptive parents and biological parents. Ask about support groups for either birth or adoptive parents.
  • For adoptive parents, ask about the home study process. The home study allows prospective parents to learn more about the process. The home study is also an opportunity for the home study professional to evaluate the prospective parents. Will the agency complete a home study or provide a referral to a home study professional or social worker? Will the agency prepare the adoptive parents for the home visit? Does it give likely parents an adoption home study checklist?
  • Will the agency complete a background check or provide a referral to an affiliated company? Background checks are a critical part of the adoption process. Adoptive parents must provide documents such as their marriage certificate (if applicable), reference letters, affidavits, medical histories, and copies of their driver's licenses. Prepare certified copies in advance.
  • Find an adoption agency that is close to the area you live. Adoption is a legal process. The petition for adoption is a legal document filed in the state where the potential parents live. The adoption agency should know local adoption rules and requirements.
  • Check with your local State Licensing Office. This office has resources to help all parties vet adoption agencies and adoption professionals. Your local department of social services is another good resource for information.
  • Check with your attorney general's office for any adverse actions against the agency. If the agency has violated any laws in the past, the attorney general's office may provide information on fines or orders issued against the agency.
  • Will the agency provide the child's medical history and family background?
  • What role does the agency play in obtaining the adoption decree and finalizing the birth certificate? If the adopted child is not an infant, does the agency provide support after the adoptive placement?
  • Check adoption laws by the state on issues related to adoption, such as home residency requirements, child's consent, and others. Children can consent to stepparent adoptions between 10 and 14 years of age. "Child" consent is also required in adult adoptions.

Questions To Ask the Agency

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you work under the license of another agency, facilitator, or attorney? (If so, get the name of the other authority and verify the information.)
  • What fees does the agency charge?
  • What role does the agency play in the adoption process? Is this a child-placing agency?
  • Does the agency have a list of references and phone numbers from prior adoptive families who have used these services?
  • How does the agency handle termination of parental rights?
  • May I have a copy of a recent financial audit report?
  • Are agency members paid for services or on a contingency basis? (You want an agency that pays fees for services to avoid adoption incentives to employees for high volume numbers.)
  • Is the agency a member of the Child Welfare League of America? This is a group of private and public adoption agencies dedicated to positive outcomes for adoptive families.
  • If you are a prospective birth mother, ask whether the agency offers free support and guidance on adoption child placement. Also, ask whether you have a say in the parental selection or ongoing contact with your child.

Read more questions to ask a caseworker. For more information on adoption in general, look at an adoption checklist.

Questions About Adoption? Get in Touch With an Attorney

The process of adopting a child and becoming a legal parent is complex. An adoption attorney can help vet agencies and provide sound legal advice to prospective adoptive parents. Contact an experienced adoption attorney today.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

Start Planning