Choosing the right adoption professional is one of the most important steps adoptive families can take to ensure their adoption is completed legally and ethically. In addition to providing various adoption services, the professional you choose should offer the guidance, support and peace of mind you need through each step of your adoption journey.

Read on to learn about three common types of adoption professionals, so you can choose the one that is right for you.

Adoption Attorneys

An attorney’s services are required in every adoption, and some families choose to make these specialists their primary professional during the process. Adoption lawyers and law firms like MyersStrickland often focus their practices exclusively on adoption, allowing them to offer expert legal adoption services.

Adoptive families who choose to work with an adoption attorney enjoy several benefits:

  • Attorneys are regulated by their state bar organizations and are experts in state adoption laws, so you can take comfort knowing that your adoption is legally sound.
  • They offer many of the same services as adoption agencies and can refer you to trusted professionals for any additional assistance you may need, such as matching or home study services.
  • An adoption attorney only represents your family and no other person or organization.
  • For families seeking certain types of adoption, including stepparent or relative adoption, an attorney may be the only professional necessary in the adoption process.

However, there are also some things to consider when working directly with an adoption attorney:

  • Your attorney may have to refer you to another professional for certain adoption services, such as matching and post-placement supervision.
  • If you are not using an agency’s matching or contact mediation services, you may be required to have a more open adoption and take a more active role in the adoption process.

While these additional considerations might seem inconvenient at first, many families actually find that they become positives during the adoption process. For example, by working with an agency in addition to an attorney, families may enjoy more support, additional services, and access to more prospective birth mothers than an attorney can offer independently. In addition, many families who are initially hesitant to accept an open adoption find that it is deeply rewarding to develop a strong relationship with their child’s birth parents.

It is important to understand that an attorney must be involved in every adoption, at minimum, to provide the legal services necessary to finalize the adoption. Choosing to work with an attorney as your primary adoption professional may help you make more informed decisions through the process and provide you with greater peace of mind that your adoption is being handled ethically and legally.

Adoption Agencies

Adoption agencies are licensed, regulated organizations that provide a wide range of adoption services, including screening and matching services, counseling and support, and general case management.

Agencies may be national, meaning they provide services throughout the country and are likely licensed in several states, or they may be local, meaning they are licensed in a single state or region and focus on serving clients only in that particular area.

Some advantages of working with an agency include:

  • Because agencies are licensed and regulated, you can take comfort knowing they are reviewed annually and are in compliance with state laws. However, it is very important to ensure that the agency you choose is licensed in Arizona; even reputable agencies that are licensed in other states may be breaking the law by providing certain adoption services in Arizona.
  • Agencies offer most of the services you will need during the adoption process and can refer you to an attorney to finalize your adoption.
  • Agencies provide good recruitment, screening and matching services, and may be the best professional to help you find an adoption opportunity.

There are also some challenges to consider when working with an adoption agency:

  • To cover the costs of their various services, these organizations often charge agency fees, which can make total adoption costs more expensive.
  • Agencies can vary significantly in their services, fees, wait times, disruption rates, and more; it is important to carefully research a variety of local and national agencies before selecting one.
  • You must be careful when selecting an agency to ensure they are licensed in Arizona — if you choose to work with an agency that is not licensed by the state, they are acting as a facilitator, which is not legal in Arizona and could put your adoption at risk.

Regardless of the adoption professional you choose, you will need to work with an Arizona-licensed adoption agency at least two times during the adoption process: to complete the adoption home study, and to provide required post-placement supervision.

If you choose an attorney like MyersStrickland as your primary adoption professional, we can refer you to a trusted adoption agency that can provide these services, as well as any additional services you may want during the adoption process, such as matching or counseling.

Adoption Facilitators

Adoption facilitators, sometimes called “adoption law centers” if owned by an attorney, are unlicensed, unregulated organizations that match hopeful adoptive parents to prospective birth mothers.

Because these organizations are focused exclusively on matching, they typically can provide good matching services and help their clients find adoption opportunities quickly. However, there are a number of serious risks to consider before choosing to work with a facilitator:

  • It is illegal to use a facilitator in Arizona, and doing so may jeopardize your adoption. While the legal consequences of using an adoption facilitator are unclear, it is possible that the judge could refuse to grant your adoption, disallow certain adoption expenses, or otherwise delay the legal adoption process.
  • Facilitators don’t provide the other necessary adoption services offered by agencies and attorneys; because you will need an attorney to finalize your adoption and an agency to complete the home study and post-placement study, it is often best to work directly with one of these professionals as you search for an adoption opportunity.
  • Facilitators’ fees are often expensive and only cover the costs of matching services. Because you will need to hire additional professionals following the matching process, your overall adoption cost may be higher.

Remember that even if you choose to work with an adoption facilitator for matching services, you will eventually need to hire an adoption agency to provide home study and post-placement services, as well as an attorney to legally finalize the adoption. Working with an adoption facilitator may simply be an unnecessary expense and added legal risk.

Tips for Choosing an Adoption Professional

There are many factors to take into account when choosing an adoption professional. Most importantly, you should consider your own needs as you assess the option that is right for you.

As you continue your search for the perfect adoption professional, consider the following suggestions:

  • Research your options thoroughly. In addition to learning more about the different types of adoption professionals, carefully assess each individual attorney or agency you are considering and compare their fees, services, and other factors.
  • Ask questions. Ask every adoption professional you are considering how their organization is licensed and regulated. Always ask adoption agencies whether they are licensed in Arizona — if not, they may be acting as a facilitator in your adoption.
  • Talk to an attorney. Adoption attorneys can provide additional information about Arizona’s adoption laws, agency licensing requirements, and the legal risks of working with certain adoption professionals. They can also refer you to trusted adoption agencies for matching services, home study services, and more.

To learn more about MyersStrickland’s adoption services, local adoption laws, and the other professionals who can help you complete the adoption process, contact us to schedule a consultation.