Tuesday, April 16, 2019


You have decided to adopt domestically, but still have many questions to consider further. How does the age, race, current health, prenatal exposures or early life experience of a child enter into your thinking? How much background information on a child's medical and familial history must you have to feel comfortable moving forward? Who can you trust to give you the information you need and to guide you through the entire process?

You will need to work with a licensed adoption agency or an attorney. You will work with a social worker for your homestudy and post placement visits. You may enlarge your team to include a medical doctor, outreach consultant and other professionals, as well as join an adoptive parent support group. How do you decide who you will need?

You can work with a licensed adoption agency or an attorney. The major difference is how much you want to be involved in and controlling of the process (working with an attorney) or turning the process over to agency personnel and protocol (who will guide you through the steps). 

NOTE: The term birthparent is often used to identify a pregnant woman who is exploring an adoption plan. Since she is actually not a birth parent until after the birth and placement of the baby in your care, I prefer to use the term expectant parent.


All the steps of the adoption process, including the matching of you with an expectant mother or child is overseen by agency personnel and completed within their guidelines and structure. They are also the conduit of all information. They make the decision if your profile will be shown to an expectant mother along with other profiles.

Before signing with an agency, you want to know: How many others are seeking the particular type of child you hope to adopt? How many profiles are presented at one time? What is the typical length of time before a match/placement? How many matches they do a year? How many families are in their program? You also want to confirm if this agency does your homestudy that you can access it for any adoption that may come your way. Since once you spread the word, a birth situation may present itself from outside the agency. Ask if they have or recommend an adoption doctor who reviews all medical background, pre-natal information and talks to hospital staff at the time of birth and can you select your own doctor to provide these services? Can you talk to other singles or couples who have adopted through their program?

It is important to carefully read through their contract and confirm what services are included and what you may need to acquire and pay for separately. Consider having it reviewed by an attorney and meet with or talk to as much of the agency staff (adoptive parent counselor, expectant parent counselor, homestudy and post placement worker, etc.) prior to signing up to determine if you feel comfortable and confident. Remember, you are giving them a great deal of responsibility and control over your adoption process.

Lastly, you must make sure the agency is licensed or authorized in your home state or allowed to work with residents of your state. For example, in New Jersey, all agencies in state or placing a child from out-of-state must be not-for-profit. New York State must authorize all in-state or out-of-state agencies. If not on the list, an agency may not work with New York residents. In addition, NYS has a limit on the number of agencies in state or authorized to place children into NYS. As a result, they can become glutted with waiting families. Because of this, many singles and couples choose the independent/attorney route. 


This is a more hands on approach to a private/independent adoption. With legal guidance, you will control what happens and when. Your attorney will explain the legal steps of the process, prepare and file needed documents in courts and at state offices and serve as the liaison with the expectant parent's agency or attorney. They will also outline outreach efforts needed to find an expectant mother. You can do this yourself or hire a consultant to run the outreach campaign and screen calls and emails from expectant mothers. Yours will be the only profile seen at a time (unlike at an agency when they are presented with a group of profiles). Your attorney is your legal advocate throughout the process and will coordinate all needed services. Prior to working with an attorney, check if your state is an “agency only” state or private adoptions are permitted. If you must work with an agency, you still might want to have an attorney review contracts and oversee the process from a legal standpoint.

When choosing an attorney, you should ask the following questions: How long have you done adoption work? Have you done independent/private adoptions like the one I am trying to do? How recently and how many? Do you have access to adoption attorneys in other states, in case I need them for myself or an expectant parent? How do you bill your fees (by the hour or one set fee) and how much is it? What does a typical adoption cost? Do you help me write my “Birth Parent Profile” (the book you write that includes your story and photos that is presented to the expectant parent)? How do you help me find an expectant parent? Do you have someone who works with me or do you give me instructions how to do this myself? What is your availability after work hours? Do you recommend a social worker to do my homestudy or can I choose with whom I want to work?


Whom you work with is one of the decisions you do have control over. You will ultimately have to take a leap of faith and put your adoption and family dreams into the hands of others, but you can decide how much involvement you want. Are you the type who needs to steer the ship? If so, an attorney is better for you. Do you like stepping back and letting someone else do the driving? Then an agency may be best.

I, myself, adopted domestically twice, starting with a local private attorney and ending up needing an agency in the state where my daughters were born to work with the birthmother, file papers for me to come home and again to finalize the adoption in that state. Luckily my attorney had the connections in the other state to proceed. I know people who have completed a private homestudy (allowed in New York State) only to find they needed to convert it to an agency or find an agency to do the visits after a child was placed with them (post placement visits). Make sure your social worker has agency connections, if you do a private homestudy in New York State. Ask if they are available to you throughout your adoption process for support or guidance. Add a medical doctor to review medical background, pre-natal exams and to talk to doctors or nurses during the pregnancy and hospital personnel at the time of birth. Join an adoption support group where there is always someone a step ahead of you or a step behind. Some great advice and support comes from those who have been there.

As you can see, there are many decisions to make not only early on but during the process. Whichever way you decide, you will be on your way to making your dreams come true.


Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly EMAIL