Facilitated and Intermediary Adoptions & Legal Issues
Facilitated adoptions are also sometimes called “intermediary adoptions.” Instead of using an agency to match potential adoptive parents with birth parents choosing adoption, the adoption is facilitated by someone other than an adoption agency. Once the adoptive and birth parents have found each other, the facilitator may or may not remain involved in the process.
Sometimes lawyers who focus on adoption will keep files of prospective adoptive parents. Then, birth parents or other family members will contact the attorney to find adoptive parents for the child. In these scenarios, the adoption will then look like an independent adoption with the attorney handling the paperwork and other requirements. Meanwhile, some states allow people other than attorneys to act as facilitators. Other states do not allow facilitators at all.
Agency vs. Independent Adoptions
Agency Adoption: Provides assistance, monitoring, and oversight throughout the adoption process to birth and adoptive parents. Adoption agencies are required to comply with licensing and procedural standards.
Independent or Private Adoption: Birth and adopting parents use the assistance of an attorney or other non-agency intermediary or work directly between themselves during the adoption process, and birth parents relinquish their rights directly to the adopting parent or parents. Depending on the state, facilitated adoptions may be highly regulated or not legal.
State Laws and Advertising
Besides attorneys, other people who may be allowed to advertise their services as adoption facilitators are crisis pregnancy centers, physicians, unlicensed agencies, and a few other discrete kinds of individuals and organizations. State laws vary widely regarding who can advertise as facilitators.
Some states do not allow any adoption-related advertising, no matter who is doing it. Other states only permit prospective birth and/or adoptive parents to advertise, but no one else. Yet other states only allow prospective adoptive parents to advertise if they have been screened and approved. It is extremely important to make sure that any potential advertising complies with state laws.
State Laws and Adoption Facilitators
As noted above, some states absolutely prohibit intermediary adoption. Other states regulate adoption facilitators. Regulations include who can be paid for what, with several states prohibiting payment of intermediaries for anything but reimbursement of legal and medical expenses. Some states permit intermediaries to perform specific functions, such as providing information to the parties, but require other activities to be performed by a licensed agency.
One of the main reasons behind limiting facilitators is fear of baby selling. This is a theme throughout much of adoption law. Selling children for money is absolutely prohibited. Licensed agencies may be nonprofit or for-profit. In either case, the state has a lot of oversight over the agency to make sure that nothing illegal is taking place. The nature of intermediary adoption is such that that there is less oversight, so states subject entities involved in this type of adoption to as much scrutiny as possible.
Benefits and Risks of Facilitated Adoptions
Even with a private adoption, you will still most likely need a home study.
One of the big risks of facilitated adoptions is accidentally running afoul of state laws. A related risk is making an administrative or paperwork mistake that could take time or money to fix, due to the intermediary’s inexperience or lack of expertise. Facilitated adoptions also do not usually provide many of the services that agencies do, like support groups and counseling. Furthermore, even when states allow some kind of intermediary adoption, they will likely look more closely at the adoption and allow less room for error.
Some birth parents may choose a facilitated adoption if they already have some kind of relationship with an intermediary. Other birth parents may choose a facilitated adoption if they do not live near an agency that aligns with their values or desires. Facilitated adoptions have the potential to be faster than agency adoptions, but they can also take just as long or even longer for adoptive families. They can work well for people who are drawn to independent adoption but have not been able to identify birth or adoptive parents.
Ideally, facilitators will perform adequate screening of potential adoptive parents, and/or states will mandate extensive home studies and background checks. However, facilitated adoptions may give rise to a greater risk of a child ending up in an unsafe adoptive home than an agency adoption. It is important for all parties involved in facilitated adoptions to carefully research the relevant issues and become familiar with any legal requirements that may pertain to them.