Open adoptions can be facilitated by an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. (An adoption completed by an attorney is also referred to as independent open adoption.) Open adoption offers one a distinct advantage to prospective LGBTQ parents because the choice of adoptive parents lies in the birthparent’s hands, not the agency’s or attorney’s. Consequently, the LGBTQ couple can be assured that the birthparents chose them because of who they are as people; their sexual orientation or genderwas not an issue. In an open adoption, adoptive parents and birthparents meet and form a close relationship. For more information on open adoption check out the Open Adoption & Family Services website.
Open adoptions are not cheap. The cost typically begins at $8,000 and can go up to more than $30,000, according to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse. But if you have the means and the desire to pursue this route to parenthood, here is an overview of your options:
Agency Open Adoption
Once you locate an adoption agency that has a program that is welcoming and appealing to you, you’ll find that the agency process is comprehensive and you do not need to piece together services from a variety of professionals. The agency will provide the following services:
An introductory meeting with an overview of their program and philosophy.
An in depth one to two day educational seminar in which you meet birth and adoptive parents who are living open adoptions, receive a detailed description of the process and have the opportunity to connect with other prospective adoptive parents.
An application and intake interview to determine if your vision of adoption is compatible with the agency’s.
The completion of your home study.
Assistance in writing a Dear Birthparent letter and creating a photo collage.
Ongoing counseling and support groups as you wait in the pool.
Screening of birthparents in order to explore and troubleshoot the legal, medical and social ramifications of their situation.
Ongoing counseling of birthparents as they emotionally process their adoption decision and choose a family.
Facilitation of the meeting with the birthparents and adoptive parents, and provide ongoing relationship guidance.
The creation of an open adoption agreement that outlines future contact. To determine if these agreements are legally binding in your state, check the open adoption agreement section of Adopting.org website.
Take legal consents of the birthparents, oversee the placement and entrustment ceremony.
Post-placement supervision and completion of the Court Report and Agency Consent to the Adoption.
Ongoing counseling and support. Participation in the open adoption community events.
Beware of “adoption facilitators”. They are not licensed adoption agencies, and are typically staffed by individuals with no training in counseling or adoption. They often charge a large fee for “locating a child”. Adoptive parents usually experience numerous disruptions (when the birth mom changes her mind), and mounting expenses as they are additionally required to hire attorneys to complete the adoption.
Independent Open Adoption
Step 1: Hire an attorney
The laws governing open adoption are complex and vary from state to state. (Some, for example, permit you to advertise for a birth mother and others do not.) Moreover, if you find a birth mother in another state, you also will be required to comply with the laws in that state. If you fail to comply, your custody could be challenged. This is why it is critical to hire an attorney.
Step 2: Find the birth mother and father
How do you find a pregnant woman or couple willing to entrust their child to a stranger?
- Advertising. First, ask your lawyer if it is legal to advertise for a birth parent in your state, or wherever you are considering advertising. Then take out an ad in the classified section of a local paper. Many individuals and couples have found this method successful. Or, advertise on the web. Numerous couples set up their own web pages to tell birth parents about themselves.
Word of mouth. Tell your friends, colleagues, doctors and neighborhood parents that you want to adopt. The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC) reports that you might also try sending a letter about yourself along with your photo to local obstetricians and crisis pregnancy centers.
Many pregnant women want or need to find someone capable of giving their child a good and loving home. But remember that in some states you must also gain the birth father's consent to the adoption. Some states have recognized that fathers have the right to be involved in these decisions, and some fathers have contested adoptions that they were not a part of.
A word of caution. Many birth mothers and couples who consent to an independent open adoption end up changing their minds after the baby is born, according to the NAIC. While this is always a risk with adoption, it is a greater risk in independent open adoptions than in agency adoptions because the birth mothers have not been screened and counseled by agency personnel. Use your judgment to determine how seriously the woman or couple appears to have thought about the decision before you get too invested in the process.
Step 3: Reach a financial agreement
You probably will be expected to pay for the birth mother's medical and legal expenses, in addition to your own legal expenses, according to the NAIC. You also may be required to pay for counseling for the birth parents so that there will be no question that they understand the decision they are making. In addition, you will have to pay for a home study.
Review all financial matters with your attorney before you agree to anything. The laws governing open adoption expenses vary from state to state, and any violation of the law could jeopardize the adoption.
Step 4: Get a home study
Although you are not dealing with an adoption agency, you still need to have a social worker interview you and write a home study report that recommends you be granted an adoption.
Step 5: Go to court
This part of the adoption process is the same in independent open adoptions as it is in an agency open adoptions. After the adoption is complete, a judge will sign the decree of adoption. An attorney will guide you through this process.
Acknowledgements: This information was provided by Shari Levine, M.A., Executive Director of Open Adoption & Family Services, Inc.