Also referred to as a private adoption, independent adoption is a domestic adoption method that is legal in all states except Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and North Dakota and occurs when adoptive parents use the aid of an adoption lawyer to adopt instead of an agency. With independent adoptions, the prospective parents are far more active in locating a birthmother, and will use social media and networking to achieve this.
Independent adoption is also legally different, as the birth parent(s) will give consent for adoption directly to the adoptive parents, without an agency as an intermediary. A specialist adoption lawyer is required to handle hearings, paperwork, and so on.
Independent Vs. Agency Adoption
In terms of the process, independent and agency domestic adoptions are quite similar. Counselling for both the birth family and adoptive family is advised to ensure success and a home study is required before the adoption can be finalized. The main difference comes with the more active role adoptive parents have in the process. They are often present at the hospital, and maybe in the birthing suite too. They are often able to care for the newborn in hospital which allows for crucial bonding to take place. The infant may also be directly discharged into the care of the adoptive parents.
How to do an Independent Private Adoption
Eligibility: Find out if you are eligible to adopt in this way. Remember, some states do not allow for private independent adoptions. Age requirements vary between states from 18-25 and some states mandate that the child in question must be at least 10 years younger than the parents. You’ll also need to make sure you meet the residency requirement for your state. Some states require you to be a resident for at least 60 days, while others require a year. Military families may be exempt from this requirement.
Legal Aid: Next you need to decide who will represent you in the legal side of your adoption journey. Select an experienced adoption attorney, ideally on who is accredited by the Academy of Adoption Attorneys or a similar agency. Check that their fees and payment schedule are fair and affordable.
Home Study Preparation: A home study is mandatory across all states. This is an evaluation of your home life and capability to adopt. These can vary by state as some require training classes while others are just an interview held at home. Home studies cost around $1,000, but your adoption lawyer will guide you on the ins and outs specific to your state. This stage usually takes around 3-6 months.
Home Study: The home study usually takes place as an in depth interview which takes place in your home.
File Adoption Petition: Your lawyer will file the adoption petition with the court. A date will be set for initial review.
Serve Petition: The petition will be served to the birth parent(s) for signing.
Final Hearing: The judge will review the petition and finalize the adoption.
If you think an independent adoption may be right for you, the first step is to speak with an adoption lawyer to discuss your state's legal requirements. For many, this is a great way to get started in expanding their family.