It is important to understand that there are differences in the way legal adoptions are accomplished in every state. Generally, there are two types of adoptions involving infants born domestically:

Agency-Assisted Adoption

Agency- assisted adoptions are defined as placements where legal authority and responsibility for the child’s welfare are overseen by a licensed home study agency. Pact is a full service licensed agency. Pre-adoptive families must have a home study conducted by an agency in their home state; Pact is licensed in California. (When Pact provides placement services to a pre-adoptive family who lives in another state, the home study is conducted by another agency). When a child is born in a different state than the one in which the adoptive parents (or parent) reside, there must be designated licensed agencies in both states to oversee the placement until the adoption is finalized.
  • Identified Adoption: This is an arrangement in which the pre-adoptive parent(s) and expectant/birth parent(s) select one another. The agency cannot place the baby with a different family without the approval and notice to the expectant/birth parent(s).
  • Non-Identified Adoption: This is an arrangement in which the baby is legally relinquished by the birth parent(s) to the custody of an agency, which then places the baby in the home of a family selected by the agency.

The vast majority of Pact adoptions are Identified Agency-Assisted placements.

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Independent Adoption

Independent (or private) adoption is a procedure in which the expectant parent(s) select the pre-adoptive parent(s) and place the child directly with them. Custody is transferred directly between the parents, rather than through an agency. Independent adoption is not legal in some states. Professionals such as attorneys, facilitators, psychotherapists, social workers and others may help make the process easier, but the principals are in charge of the decision-making aspect of the process. Generally speaking, the state in which the families reside oversee the process.

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Role of Adoption Agencies

Full service adoption agencies like Pact generally provide the following services:
  • Counseling pregnant women and expectant parents about their options: adoption, parenting and abortion;
  • Case management services related to exploring adoption options for expectant parents, birth parents and pre-adoptive parents;
  • Education about adoption for expectant parents, birth parents and pre-adoptive parents considering adoption;
  • Home studies for pre-adoptive parents to ensure emotional and legal readiness to accept a potential adopted child into their family/home;
  • Presentation, matching, and facilitation of relationship-building between pre-adoptive families and expectant parents looking to place their child for adoption;
  • Mediation to determine level of openness desired by all families;
  • Any and all direct services needed, within the agency’s scope of practice, to complete a legal adoption including advisement of expectant parents, affidavits of paternity, and obtaining relinquishment of parental rights as well as the legal oversight of baby/child(ren) placed with a pre-adoptive family with the intent of adoption;
  • Preparation of recommendations for a finalized adoption plan for a baby/child and, as needed, referrals for services needed to complete a legal adoption outside the scope of the agency’s practice.

If you are looking for an ethical agency with which to pursue adoption, you should inquire whether they, at a minimum, offer all the services listed above. Be wary of organizations or individuals who place little emphasis on counseling, education, or preparation, seem to “sell” the speed with which they can deliver a placement, or demonstrate a disrespectful or coercive attitude towards expectant/birth parents. Ethical adoption should be a careful process that is always focused on the best interests of the child.

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Home Study Process

A home study is required for every adoption, whether it is an international or domestic, but the type of home study and requirements are mandated by individual states AND the type of adoption. This study requires information about all relevant aspects of a pre-adoptive parent’s life, including criminal record, finances, health, personal relationships, and readiness to adopt. The goal is to ensure a safe and loving home for every child placed for adoption.

Generally Pact recommends that families get a home study through a licensed agency because:

  • Agency home studies can be used in both agency- assisted and independent adoptions.
  • Home studies conducted by independent social workers can be used in independent adoptions and sometimes, but not always in agency assisted adoptions.

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