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.
Learn about three common types of adoption professionals so you can choose the one that is right for you.
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 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.
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 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.
- Agencies provide good recruitment, screening, and matching services.
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 (see below), 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 us 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, sometimes called “adoption law centers” if owned by an attorney, are unlicensed, unregulated organizations that match hopeful adoptive parents to prospective birth mothers. 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:
- 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.
- 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 they are not, they may be acting as a facilitator in your adoption.