Although many families do not realize it, it is not necessary to go through an adoption agency in order to adopt a child. These adoptions, called independent adoptions, are legal in every U.S. state except Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts.
The major difference between agency and independent adoptions is how the child's birth parents relinquish their rights. In an agencyadoption, the birth parents give their consent to adoption to either a private agency or one ran by the state. In independent adoptions, the birth parents relinquish their rights directly to the prospective adoptive family.
If you are interested in pursuing an independent adoption, begin by retaining an adoption attorney in your state. He or she can tell you the specific legal requirements of independent adoption for your state and guide you through the process.
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In an independent adoption, the birth parents are responsible for selecting a family to adopt their child, so once you have retained an attorney, you should immediately get the word out that you are looking to adopt. One of the best ways to find a prospective adoptive child is through word of mouth. Let your friends, family, and co-workers know that you are pursuing independent adoption and ask them if they know of any expectant mothers who are interested in making an adoption plan for their unborn child.
Some prospective adoptive parents choose to write open letters to birth mothers and place them on the internet, while others put advertisements in newspapers. If you choose to do this, be sure to retain a copy of these advertisements, as the courts may want to review them later. Also, if you are choosing to use public advertisements to find a child, it is advisable for you to set up a separate telephone number and email address that is not connected with your home address or place of employment. This will help protect your privacy.
Once a birth mother has contacted you, it is your decision whether or not you wish to tell her identifying information about yourself, such as your full name, address, and employer. Regardless of what information you choose to disclose, set up a face-to-face meeting with the birthmother and if available, birth father.
At your first meeting with the birthmother, spend some time getting to know her. Find out about her background and why she is choosing to place the child for adoption. Find out whether she is getting prenatal care and whether or not the father knows she is pregnant and whether or not he agrees with her adoption plan. If you feel uneasy with a birthmother and do not wish to work with her, remember that you are under no pressure to proceed.
If both you and the birthmother decide to proceed with an adoption plan, she will need to have an adoption attorney of her own. Most states will require that you pay your birth mother's legal fees.
You will be required to pay other expenses related to the birthmother's pregnancy. The specific expenses you will have to cover vary from state to state, but may include uninsured medical expenses, maternity clothing, food, and lodging for the birthmother during her pregnancy.
Before a child can be placed in your care, you will need to complete a home study similar to those required by an agency adoption. During your home study, a social worker will visit your home and discuss you heath, finances, background, and why you wish to adopt. Your house will be inspected for cleanliness and safety. You will also have to complete a health exam and undergo a criminal background check. Your lawyer will be able to give you referrals for qualified social workers to perform the home study.