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Agency adoptions are legal in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. In agency adoptions, adoptive parents and birthparents are guided every step of the way by a knowledgeable social worker on all of the legal and emotional aspects of an adoption. If the agency workers are doing their jobs correctly, they prepare all parties for everything that will take place. Birthparents are counseled about alternatives to adoption. They are told what their legal rights are and which expenses can legally be met by the adoption agency and which cannot. Prospective adoptive parents are also counseled. The social worker discusses various adoption-related issues, those to be dealt with initially and those that might come up later. By interviewing the prospective adoptive parents at length and visiting in the home, the social worker determines if the prospective adoptive parents meet State licensing requirements for adoptive parents, that is, that they can provide a safe, stable, and healthy environment for a child. One particular issue the social worker discusses is the fee, which is established at the beginning. It can be very reassuring to prospective adoptive parents that the agency fee does not increase if a particular placement does not work out because birthparents who were going to place a child decide to parent instead. For the same fee, the agency continues to work with you until an adoption is completed.

In agency adoption, social workers locate the birthparents and mediate any contact between them and the adoptive parents. The agency workers know the adoption laws and have attorneys to advise them. They make sure that the birthparents' parental rights are terminated according to applicable State laws. The social worker also obtains the genetic and health history on a child and the child's birthparents, and can tell you the agency policy regarding disclosure of that information. "Disclosure" in this circumstance refers to providing complete and accurate background information about a child to the person or persons considering adopting that child. The issue of disclosure is the main legal issue in an agency adoption, at the time of placement, and throughout the life of the adoptee.  For example, you may want more information about the birthmother's prenatal care, or in the case of a toddler or preschooler from another country who has been living in an orphanage, more information about the child's health status. Agency workers could tell you that they have done everything they can to obtain that information, and have told you all they know. You must decide whether you feel comfortable with that amount of information. Also, you must consider future access to information. For example, if the birthparents' health status changes and they inform the agency, will the agency inform you? It is a good idea to find out what the agency policy is on this and whether it is within the State disclosure statutes.

Selecting a Reputable Agency

How do you determine if an agency conducts its business reputably and lawfully? One way is to gather information from several agencies, the State licensing and/or adoption specialist, and a variety of adoptive parents. After comparing and contrasting information from several adoption agencies, you will start to differentiate between the agencies that appeal to you and those that do not, ultimately narrowing your choice to one agency. If the agency or its staff has a fairly long history of placing children, if the State adoption specialist and/or licensing agency has not received many complaints about an agency, and if adoptive parent groups and former clients seem satisfied, chances are you will be satisfied, too.
resource: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

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