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How to Set Up an Identified Adoption
An identified adoption is something of a hybrid between an independent or private adoption and an agency adoption. In an identified adoption, the birth mother and adoptive parents get together before the child is born and create a birth and adoption plan together. They then work with an agency to complete the legalities of the adoption. After the child is born, the adoption generally is open with the birth mother playing an active role in the child's life. It typically takes a little more work for both adoptive parents and birth mothers to set up an identified adoption, but the benefits include a faster placement process and open involvement in the life of the child.
Finding Each Other
Advertise in newspapers or magazines.Advertisements help both birth mothers and prospective parents put out the word about their wants and needs.
- Check your state's law before you place any advertisements. Some states don't permit adoption advertisements, and some only permit adoption advertisements by licensed agencies.
- The federal Children's Bureau has a fact sheet that outlines adoption advertising regulations in various states, which you can download at .
Consider consulting an attorney.In states that allow independent adoptions, you may be able to find a licensed adoption attorney in your area who can facilitate an identified adoption.
- A good place to begin your search for an adoption attorney is to visit the website of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Members of this professional society have experience and specialized training in adoptions, and follow high ethical standards in their practice.
- The Academy has a searchable directory available at that you can use to find attorneys near you.
Speak with parents' groups.Public and private adoption agencies, as well as other organizations in your area, may provide groups for prospective adoptive parents that can connect parents and birth mothers.
- Adoptive parent support groups also can be helpful resources for prospective adoptive parents who want to better understand the process and issues they potentially will face.
Interview promising prospects.Given that you will have a continuing relationship, it's imperative that both birth mother and prospective parents feel comfortable and get along with one another.
- As the birth mother, you may have questions for prospective parents relating to matters such as religious or philosophical beliefs, parenting styles, and educational philosophies.
- Prospective parents should be as open as possible in answering the birth mother's questions. As prospective parents, you also may have questions of your own regarding the birth mother's background, life, and health.
Choosing an Agency
Ask friends and family for recommendations.If you know anyone who has recently adopted a child or put her child up for adoption, ask about the agency she used and her experience with the adoption process.
- Because they are people you know and trust, these recommendations can be most valuable because these people understand your needs and situations in which you are most comfortable.
- At the same time, recognize that an agency that worked well for a friend or family member might not suit your needs – especially if the adoptions are taking place under vastly different circumstances or if you have a different family background or reasons for pursuing adoption.
Attend several orientation meetings.Most adoption agencies have an initial meeting to explain the process of adopting through that agency and the basic costs involved.
- Your state's child or family services department typically will have a directory on its website of licensed adoption agencies in your area. Review and choose several that work with identified adoptions.
- During orientation, an agency representative will provide basic information about the application and adoption process for that agency, typically including the fees you will be charged.
- The orientation meeting is your opportunity to find out all you can about an adoption agency before you commit, so come armed with a list of questions you want to ask the agency's representatives.
- After each orientation meeting, take a minute to make a list of the pros and cons of the agency from your point of view. This summary will be helpful later on when you're making your final decision.
Research the agency's reputation.Check with your state's licensing department to learn about each adoption agency's background and record.
- The state's licensing authority will be able to tell you how long the agency has been licensed and whether the license is in good standing.
- Call your state's children or family services department to find out about complaints that have been filed or pending investigations against any of the agencies you're considering.
- You also should call your state's attorney general's office and find out if the agency has been sued before or is involved in any pending litigation.
- Ask each agency for at least three references and for the names and contact information of families with similar adoptions that the agency handled recently.
Evaluate costs.Review the fees for each agency and factor in costs for services not included to calculate the total cost for completing an adoption through each agency.
- Typically, agency fees are reduced for identified adoptions because the birth mother and the adoptive parents have already connected with each other through their own efforts. This means the agency doesn't have to spend the time and effort placing a child with a family.
Make your final decision.Once you have thorough information about each of the adoption agencies on your list, sit down with the birth mother or adoptive parents and decide which one you all are comfortable with using.
- If you are an adoptive parent, keep in mind that if you and the birth mother have differing opinions about which adoption agency is best, you probably want to go with the birth mother's choice unless that agency has serious complaints or licensing issues in its past.
Developing Your Agreement
Attend your preliminary meetings.Adoption agencies require a number of meetings with both the birth mother and the adoptive parents to gather information and complete the evaluations necessary for the adoption to be legally approved.
- Some of these meetings may involve both the birth mother and the adoptive parents, while many involve an agency representative meeting separately with either the birth mother or the adoptive parents.
- For example, information about the birth mother's health and family background typically is gathered separately. The agency also may have separate meetings with the birth mother to evaluate her understanding and level of comfort with the adoption process apart from the influence of the adoptive parents.
- As adoptive parents, you can expect several meetings and interviews as the agency works through the home study process.
Complete a home study.Although the specifics vary among states, all prospective adoptive parents must complete training, background checks, and home evaluations to be approved for adoption.
- Depending on your state's requirements and the agency's waiting lists, the entire process may take between two and ten months to complete.
- The home study process typically includes parenting classes or other training on health and safety.
- Prospective adoptive parents will have to complete background checks and provide detailed financial information as part of the home study. The purpose of this information is to ensure you have the means to provide a safe and supportive home for a child and provide for him or her financially.
- The agency representative also will evaluate the prospective adoptive parents' home and make sure you have the room for a child and can provide a safe and healthy environment to raise the child.
- The process also typically includes interviews with friends and family members of the prospective adoptive parents regarding their fitness to be parents.
- Keep in mind that the agency representative wants to help the adoption happen. He or she is not looking for ways to disqualify you. If you have any specific concerns or issues in your past that you think might be problematic, bring them up and talk about them with the agency representative.
Create a budget for living and medical expenses.In an identified adoption, the adoptive parents typically pay to support the birth mother before the child is born and help cover her prenatal medical care.
- The birth mother's financial needs will vary depending on her age, her own financial situation, her health insurance, and her own medical needs.
- The amount of financial assistance adoptive parents may provide the birth mother may be limited by state law. Typically the adoptive parents will pay the agreed-upon amount to the adoption agency, which will distribute the money to healthcare providers or directly to the birth mother.
- The birth mother and the adoptive parents also typically design a hospital birth plan, which will identify where the child will be born, whether the adoptive parents will be present for the birth, and when they can take their new child home.
Make a post-adoption openness agreement.While an open adoption isn't necessarily similar to a shared custody arrangement, typically the birth mother has the ability to visit the child and receive status updates on the child's growth and progress.
- The degree of openness allowed also may be governed by your state's adoption laws. Your adoption agency will be able to walk you through those requirements.
- Your openness agreement will establish what contact is allowed, whether the birth mother can have direct contact with the child or contact through a mediator, and how often the birth mother will receive information about or photos of the child.
- The openness agreement can be filed with the court along with your other paperwork to make it a legally binding contract.
Complete your legal paperwork.Although the process varies greatly among states, any adoption requires the completion of various legal documents to obtain court approval of the adoption and the legal parentage of the adoptive parents.
- Typically adoptive parents must file an application and written adoption agreement with the probate or family court located in the county where the adoptive parents reside.
- Birth parents must complete and sign paperwork providing consent for the adoption.
- Your state may have other post-birth or post-adoption requirements, including follow-up home visits by the agency and counseling for the birth mother.
- In most states, the child must live with the adoptive parents for at least six months before the court will legally finalize the adoption.
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