When we began our adoption journey, we went to the standard agency orientations where we were told about their international and domestic adoption programs. We learned about their fee schedules, their wait times, their requirements as well as the requirements of specific countries, the homestudy process, and openness in adoption.
The assumption was that we needed an adoption agency to facilitate the adoption process for us. The truth is that this depends on where you live, so check with your state’s adoption laws. In Virginia, where we lived at the time, as long as we had a valid adoption homestudy and retained an adoption attorney, we could avoid the use (and the expense) of an adoption agency. Other states allow the use of adoption facilitators in lieu of agencies. (Virginia did not.)
We decided to pursue independent domestic adoption for several reasons. The first consideration was financial. There was no large lump sum of money that was owed to an adoption agency. Instead, we only paid for services based on the situations that arose. In theory, this could result in a less or more expensive adoption than one arranged through an agency. We were banking on falling into the former category.
The second reason we took to pursuing private adoption (a term interchangeable with independent adoption) was because it gave us a lot more control. We wanted to be able to work directly with the birth parents in making arrangements for ongoing contact as well as choosing each other to begin with.
Essentially, in a private adoption, the hopeful adoptive parents are in charge of what an adoption agency normally does: networking to find potential birth mothers, screening of potential birth mothers to determine their level of commitment to the adoption plan, counseling and other assistance of the birthparents if needed. When I think about it now, it sounds quite daunting. Yet we were able to find four matches this way.
We started a support group for hopeful adoptive parents pursuing independent adoption, and our very first serious lead was through one of these couples. We also created a profile on a website designed to allow potential birth mothers to scan the profiles of hopeful adoptive parents and contact the ones they wanted to get to know better. Our second serious lead came through this website. We also had to put ourselves out there by telling everyone we knew that we were hoping to adopt. We got T-shirts made, handed out business cards, put up fliers, taped signs on our cars, and regularly reminded everyone to keep an eye out for anyone considering making an adoption plan for their babies. This is how we got our third and fourth leads.
Finding the potential birth mothers was not the difficult part; screening them was. Between the four legit leads that lead to matches (which ended up falling apart for various reasons), we received many “leads” from scammers. We had set up a dedicated email address and a toll-free phone number for people to contact us without risking giving out our personal information to people who were not legit.
As it turned out, there are people out there who try to benefit financially from the desperation of many hopeful adoptive parents. Luckily, we quickly learned to read between the lines and pick out scammers from a mile away.
There were also a couple of leads that, while authentic, were not a good match for us. These we passed on to other hopeful adoptive parents in hopes of being able to help each other. However, I learned that not every hopeful adoptive parent acted maturely or fairly towards their fellow hopefuls. I was putting up one of our fliers once when I noticed another couple’s flier. I read it and found that the pull-off numbers at the bottom were missing a digit. I felt obliged to alert them to this, so that they could correct it and hopefully not lose any potential leads. When I went to check on my flier a week later, their flier was still up – corrected, but ours had been taken down. Coincidence? I think not.
In the end, we did not find our forever child via private domestic adoption. We spent about $7,000 and 2 years trying to adopt independently. If I had to do it over again, I’d bite the bullet and let an adoption agency do its job. Still, others have found success with this type of adoption, so it’s worth looking into if you’re deciding how to go about growing your family.