Overview of Independent or Private Adoption

From a legal point of view, the only two types of adoption are agency adoption and independent (non-agency) adoption. The main difference between the two types of adoption is the method by which the consent to adoption is given. In an agency adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights to an agency, and the agency, in turn, consents to an adoption by specific adoptive parents. In an independent adoption, the birth parents give their consent directly to the adoptive parents.

For the most part, adoption is controlled by state law. Independent adoption is specifically authorized by law in all of the states except four. Those four states, which require the use of an agency, are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts. The right of birth parents to select the adoptive parents is a concept that is firmly embedded in the legislative social philosophy of our country. As a matter of fact, independent adoption is a phenomenon which predates the 1930s, when agency adoption first became widely accepted.

In this country, more newborns are placed each year through independent adoption than through private agency adoption. The reason is that more birth parents choose to pursue independent adoption rather than to work with agencies. While it is difficult to determine why so many birth parents now choose independent adoption, they do report some reasons consistently. These reasons include (1) a perception by birth parents that agencies are profit-oriented and bureaucratic in their treatment of birth parents, (2) a desire by birth parents to play an active role in the selection of the adoptive parents, and (3) a desire on the part of birth parents for the child to go directly into the physical custody of the adoptive parents rather than into temporary foster care.

From the adoptive parents’ perspective, the advantages of independent adoption extend beyond the ability to play an active role in the selection of specific birth parents. Other benefits include the possibility of avoiding the long waiting periods that are typical with agency adoptions and the ability to adopt even though the adoptive parents may not meet the standards which may be imposed by agencies. While some of the agency standards relate to concerns about the ability of the prospective adoptive parents to be adequate parents, other agency concerns have no demonstrable relationship to such ability.

The “openness” which is characteristic of independent adoption is considered by many to offer psychological benefits to the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the adopted children. In most of the states that permit independent adoption, adoptive parents must have one or more face-to-face meetings. It has been found that in independent adoptions the birth parents are better able to cope with feelings of loss. By meeting the adoptive parents, the birth parents are reassured about the safe and loving environment in which their child will live. The adoptive parents, by knowing the birth parents, can diminish their fears and fantasies about losing the child and can provide the child with answers to the inevitable questions about origins.

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