Domestic versus international? Targeted (private) or via an agency? Open, semi-open, or closed?
If you're just starting to think about adoption, the choices are bewildering, and the entire process can seem like a monstrous maze, with your son or daughter waiting at the other end.
The first step, according to Florida adoption attorney John Fricker, is for prospective parents to familiarize themselves with the specific laws of the state they're seeking to adopt in. Not all fifty states treat adoption equally, and to assume that the laws of one also apply to another is to leave yourself open to nasty surprises. The rights of the birth father, for example, vary widely among states. You'll need to find a reputable adoption agency or attorney who is familiar with state laws and can help you in your quest.
Fricker advises that parents seek recommendations through word-of-mouth, by asking local doctors or hospitals, or by calling the state's licensing body. Friends and acquaintances who have successfully adopted children themselves are another valuable resource. Fricker also warns against shady operators–so-called "facilitators"– who charge money for introducing a couple to an agency, but have nothing further to do with the adoption (a practice that has been made illegal in some states).
Sabra Larkin, communications director at New York-based adoption agency Spence-Chapin, cautions against going with the first agency in the yellow pages or trying to find a bargain. Instead, she recommends looking for an established agency that is state-licensed and accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children Inc. Other accreditations to look for are the Child Welfare League of America, which sets benchmarks for adoption and child welfare practice, and the Joint Council on International Children's Services, the oldest and largest professional affiliation of international adoption agencies. For more information on choosing the right adoption agency see Spence-Chapin's checklist on their website at .
Targeted Versus Agency Adoption
Targeted adoptions often begin informally. For example, a friend of a friend may know of a pregnant woman who is considering putting her child up for adoption. Other times couples who are looking to adopt actively search for birth mothers-by taking out newspaper ads, for example. Sometimes the birth mother and the adoptive parents are already acquainted. In any of these cases, a licensed adoption agency or an adoption attorney can be used to formalize the process, handle the paperwork, and ensure the proper legal transfer of parental rights. The advantage of a targeted adoption is a shorter waiting period and the availability of background information shared between birth mother and adoptive parents. One potential pitfall, however, is that this cooperation can sometimes lead to confusion in parental authority, as when a birth mom living in the same small town suddenly seeks to play a larger role in her child's life than the adoptive parents are willing to grant.
By contrast, agency adoptions—in which the entire process is handled by the agency—tend to cost more, be more impersonal, and take longer. The waiting time can be greatly reduced if prospective parents select harder-to place children, such as handicapped children, older children, or a sibling group. African- American children also fall into the category of hard-to-place. In some states private agencies are not allowed, and the state handles all adoptions. However, in most cases adoption agencies are private or not-for-profit entities.