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Legal Considerations for Your Adoption

There are several steps in every adoption and each one takes time. What legal aspects of adoption should prospective parents be aware.

An interview with Brette McWhorter Sember, author of The Complete Adoption and Fertility Legal Guide

Interview By Allison Martin

What legal aspects of adoption should prospective parents be aware of?

I think that parents should understand that there are several steps in every adoption and each one takes time. The one most people are concerned about is the home study. It does take work to prepare for it and gather all the requested letters, but for most people it is rarely a stumbling block. A lot of people are not aware that you may need to adopt your child in his or her native country and then adopt him or her here at home as well. Most people also do not think about the fact that the child must receive immigration clearance as well. I tell prospective parents that the legal aspects must be handled carefully with attention to detail, but that they are usually not difficult hurdles to jump through.

How should a prospective parent proceed in looking for an agency?

The best way to find an agency is through a referral. Talk to other adoptive parents or join a support group. Go to an agency that others you know have had success with and are happy with. If you have no referrals, contact local agencies and attend information meetings or request material by mail. Don't pay any fees until you are certain an agency is right for you. Always check with your state agency's (social services or children and families department) adoption specialist to find out what information the department has about the agency.

What are key things they should look for in an agency or facilitator?

The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your selection and trust the agency or person. It is key to determine the agency's or facilitator's adoption history - how many adoptions have they done, how many in the last year and what is the placement rate.

Are there risks in facilitator assisted adoptions? Are they legal in all states?

Facilitators may be able to locate a child, but cannot process the adoption. You must be associated with/have established relations with the foreign adoption agency/governmental department to handle an adoption from a foreign country. I can't speak to specific requirements in specific countries, but it is rare that a foreign agency/department will work with a facilitator individual.

Using a facilitator for a foreign adoption is extremely risky. To do an international adoption you should always use an agency that has a track record with that particular country. Because each country has their own requirements, procedures, and obviously, language, it is essential to work with an agency that an established relationship with that country.

If you are considering a domestic adoption, some states allow facilitators. 23 states do not allow facilitators to handle adoptions. A complete list of these states is available in my book, The Complete Adoption and Fertility Legal Guide.


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