woman choosing between paths

As a birth mother placing a child for adoption, you are faced with many important decisions: Do you want an open, semi-open or closed adoption? Do you want to choose the adoptive family? What type of family are you looking for? Which family do you ultimately choose?

There is, however, one decision that is made easy: the decision to choose a national adoption agency, local adoption agency, law firm, law center or facilitator. All adoption professionals have their own advantages, but only one of them possesses all of their strengths and few of their weaknesses.

For almost all birth mothers, national adoption agencies are the ideal adoption professionals because they provide all of the services important to a successful and healthy adoption. Additionally, national adoption agencies are licensed in multiple states, meaning the state’s government regulates, reviews and monitors the national agency’s compliance with state laws and regulations. This gives birth mothers the benefit of knowing that the agency is ran legally and ethically in every state.

National adoption agencies feature more services than any other adoption professional, yet there are five services unique to national adoption agencies that birth mothers often find essential to their adoption plan:

1.    Counseling

Most national adoption agencies are equipped with a large, qualified and trained social service department with years of experience working with birth mothers exactly like you. You will be provided with your own social worker, whom you can often contact 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Not all birth mothers understand the value of counseling at first, but years later almost every birth mother who seeks counseling is glad she did. The power of counseling should not be under appreciated, particularly in such an emotional time in your life. You will experience the emotions of grief and loss, and you will be thankful you have your social worker and counselor to talk with. A good support system involving family and friends is valuable, but alicensed counselor’s experience is essential in getting you through this difficult stage of your life. This service should not be underestimated.

2.    Number of adoptive families

You may have already envisioned the family and the lifestyle you want for your child or maybe you are entering the adoptive family selection process with an open mind. Either way, the more adoptive families presented to you, the better.

For example, if you live in Kansas, but you envision your child living by the beach, you may want to seek out families from the West or East Coast. National adoption agencies provide more adoptive families than any other adoption professional, giving you many more options. By choosing another adoption professional, you may only have a few adoptive families who live by the beach; by choosing a national agency, you may have dozens to choose from, or more. In this example, you would not only be able to select a family who lives by the beach, but also who meets several of your other needs because of the sheer number of families provided by a national adoption agency.

3.    Enforcement of adoption agreement

Today, most adoptions are semi-open adoptions, which simply means that the adoptive family agrees to send letters and pictures to the birth mother once or twice per year for the next several years. But what happens if Christmas and your child’s birthday comes and goes, yet you didn’t receive pictures or letters?

By choosing a national agency, you can call your social worker and she will handle the situation. A national agency has enough employees to investigate the problem and rectify it, immediately.

4.    The birthmother is in charge

With a national adoption agency, you, the birth mother, creates the adoption plan, and you will incur no cost, whatsoever. You choose the family and the type of adoption (closed, semi-open, open), and years later you can even change the parameters of the openness of the relationship.

Under a national adoption agency, when a birth mother selects the adoptive family, the match is complete. Conversely, other adoption professionals may allow the adoptive family to decline a match with the birth mother. This scenario is emotionally exhausting for birth mothers, sometimes resulting in them changing their minds about the adoption.

Some adoption professionals require completely open adoptions or require the birth mother and adoptive family to practice a certain religion; national agencies are very flexible and adhere to the birth mother’s requirements. Quite simply, you are in charge of the adoption when placing with a national adoption agency.

5.    Guaranteed living expenses

As a birth mother, you are entitled to receive living expenses from the adoptive family because you should not have to worry about finances while pregnant. By placing your baby for adoption with a national agency, you will not experience any problems receiving living expenses.

However, with other adoptive professionals, you may encounter problems if they are not well versed in matching birth mothers and adoptive families from separate states. Each state law is different and allows for different amounts of living expenses. That, compounded with a smaller pool of families, could complicate this process.

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Now that you know the main reasons why birth mothers choose national agencies over other adoption professionals, let’s see how these services are managed by law firms, law centers, facilitators and local adoption agencies.

Adoption law firms consist of a group of two or more attorneys, one of whom practices adoption law. Many law firms provide solid legal work, making the adoption secure. However, law firms vary greatly in the adoption services they provide.

Many law firms perform only the legal work and little, if any, counseling. If you receive counseling through the law firm, it will most likely be from a paralegal who has little experience in grief and loss and adoption counseling. They may also recommend a counselor for you to see. No matter whether you receive counseling from the law firm or an outside counselor, you will most likely be required to pay the bill.

Furthermore, many law firms do not provide birth mothers a list of adoptive families. In those instances, you would have to search for adoptive family advertisements in newspapers or online and then call the family directly.

Adoption law firms usually employ a small staff of attorneys, so their time is limited. Birth mothers who need assistance after finalization may have to wait for their attorney to find time to help them, and the birth mother would have to pay the attorney fees. This would be inconvenient to birth mothers who are not receiving pictures and letters that were previously agreed upon. National agencies are much better equipped to handle issues post-finalization, and at no cost to the birthmother.

If you already have an adoptive family chosen and a counselor you plan on seeing and can afford, law firms can effectively handle the legal side of the adoption, but don’t expect much else in the form of adoption services.

Adoption law centers and facilitators generally have the same goals in an adoption: match up the birth mother and adoptive family and let the two handle the legal work and other adoption services on their own. Although law centers are owned by one or two attorneys, they don’t necessarily practice law in adoption and do not provide the appropriate legal services to finalize the adoption. Similarly, facilitators usually have no attorneys on staff and provide little insight into the legal aspects of the adoption. Both law centers and facilitators will refer you to a law firm or licensed adoption agency to complete the legal work.

Neither law centers nor facilitators are reviewed annually or periodically. In fact, adoption facilitators are illegal in many states because of the amount of adoptions that are disrupted for reasons directly attributed to the facilitator’s lack of expertise and services. Law centers may be certified by certain organizations, but because they outsource the legal work to other attorneys, only a small portion of their services is actually reviewed by an objective source.

Similar to law firms, any counseling you may request will have to be sought from an outside counselor, whom you may have to pay for yourself. Also, your phone calls will have to wait until normal business hours as the staff of both law centers and facilitators are often limited, which leads to one of the biggest complaints birth mothers have against facilitators.

When birthmothers make the initial information-seeking telephone call to a law center or facilitator, they are usually pushed immediately into choosing adoption and interviewing families over the telephone. Many birth mothers are not ready to take that step during the first telephone call. On the other hand, when birth mothers call a national adoption agency, a trained social worker will objectively present all of the possible scenarios to the birth mother. Most importantly, the social worker will allow the birth mother to take her time in choosing which route to take for her child’s best interest.

Law centers and facilitators are not always in the best interest of the birth mother. For example, many law centers allow the adoptive family to decline a match with a birth mother who has chosen that family. As a birth mother, you can see how devastating this could be. Imagine interviewing 10 families, and after a week of deep thought you choose whom you believe to be the perfect family for your child. If you are working with a law center or facilitator, that family may decline the match, putting you back at the first step of your emotional journey.

This scenario will never happen in most national adoption agencies because before they speak with any birth mothers, adoptive families complete a form that states the race, gender, medical issues and other items that the family is comfortable with. Once the family is chosen by a birth mother who falls under their acceptable criteria, the match is complete.

Finally, local or regional adoption agencies maintain many of the services of national adoption agencies, but they still lack a few of their essential services.

Because local agencies possess a smaller staff, they, like the rest of the adoption professionals, are difficult to contact outside of normal business hours. Many national agencies will be able to take your phone call at any time on any day because they understand that sometimes a phone call simply can’t wait for the following morning or for the weekend to end. This availability provided by national adoption agencies is a huge comfort to many birth mothers.

As indicated earlier, a local agency’s list of adoptive families simply can’t compare to that of a national adoption agency. Once again, more choices of families mean you have a higher chance of finding the family that perfectly matches your adoption plan.

Living expenses are another aspect to consider when deciding which adoption professional to place with. For example, if you live in Ohio and decide to work with a local agency, you will have to adhere to Ohio state laws because more than likely the only families represented by the agency are from Ohio. Ohio only allows for $2,500 in living expenses, so in this instance, by placing with a local adoption agency, you would be stuck receiving less living expenses than you may require.

National adoption agencies are recommended over other adoption professionals for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that almost all of their services are conducted in-house, lessening any complications of the adoption. With other adoption professionals, you may have to seek outside legal help, counseling, adoptive families and case managers. National adoption agencies usually employ or contract out all of the necessary pieces of the adoption, leading to greater communication and organization in the process.

It is important to understand that not all national adoption agencies are created equal. If you decide a national adoption agency is the best choice for your adoption plan, make sure to choose one that offers all of the services and features that are important to you, such as:

  • Counseling
  • 24/7 assistance
  • Large, experienced, empathetic staff
  • Case managers on staff
  • A history of successful adoptions
  • Legal work
  • Experience matching adoptive families and birth mothers from every state
  • Comprehensive list of families from every state, race and background
  • Ability to assist you after the adoption is complete, at no cost to you
  • Enforce adoption agreement, at no cost to you
  • Objective staff who won’t force you into adoption if you are just seeking information
  • No strict religious ideology
  • No strict adoption philosophy (closed vs. open adoptions)

Be sure to research all adoption professionals and choose the one that works best for you. If you already have a family chosen and a counselor paid for, you may only need the legal work completed, in which case a law firm may be acceptable. However, for most birth mothers who are stepping into adoption for the first time, national adoption agencies are the safest way to ensure that your child will be placed with a loving and safe family, and that you will be provided every possible service to comfort you during and after the adoption.

If you have been considering adoption and want more information, please call 1-800-Adoption.