Within the United States, there are two main categories of adoption: Foster Adoption and Private Adoption. Basically, any adoption that isn’t through foster care is private. There are subcategories within private adoption: Stepparent Adoption, Agency Adoption, and Independent Adoption. Stepparent adoption is pretty self-explanatory. Similarly, agency adoption is adoption that is done through an adoption agency. Independent adoption is adoption that is done through a facilitator or an attorney. A facilitator is not an agency, and facilitators are only allowed to operate in about 8 or 9 states.
Important Note: In Robyn’s Adoption Land, adoption laws are federal, so no one needs lawyers in different states and ICPC doesn’t exist! Every state is the same!
In Robyn’s Adoption Land, almost all private adoptions, except stepparent adoptions, would be done through agencies. Facilitators would cease to exist. Other than stepparent adoptions, adoptions could be done through attorneys only in specific circumstances. Future posts will explain the second two statements. Today’s post explains agencies in Robyn’s Adoption Land.
Based on my experience and reading, facilitators and attorneys do not offer the range of services that agencies do. These services include counseling, education, and support for all parties in all stages of adoption. Granted, right now, the counseling that some agencies offer to expectant parents is little more than convincing them that they are not good enough to raise their children. That would not be the case in Robyn’s Adoption Land.
Unless they were directly affiliated with a church, agencies would not be able to discriminate against prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or … anything, really. Any agency that places children from foster care would not be able to discriminate, regardless of church affiliation. The only reason agencies directly affiliated with a church who place children privately are allowed to discriminate is that the Constitution still exists in Robyn’s Adoption Land. Discrimination is bad for expectant parents, but, more importantly, it is bad for children, especially when it comes to foster care. Requirements for PAPs would be the same across the board.
Fees would be regulated. They would also be explained and broken down to the last postage stamp. Fees based on a child’s race would not be allowed. A reasonable application fee would be paid, but then, no fees would be due until a match is made. At that point, half would be due. The other half would be due at placement, or termination of parental rights. Fees would be fully refundable under most circumstances. Fees are a complex issue, and will be covered further in another post.
Agencies would be required to have a fund for expectant parent expenses. All PAPs pay a set amount into the fund, no more, no less. Expectant parent expenses are very different in Robyn’s Adoption Land than they are today.
Agencies would be home study agencies or placing agencies, but not both. All PAPs must have a home study done by a local home study provider. This has nothing to do with state laws, only with the fact that, if you live in Antioch, it’s a lot easier and less expensive to have a social worker from Walnut Creek come visit you than a social worker from Nashua, NH. Home studies are done by different agencies than those who place children because the home study becomes the property of the PAPs, not an agency. This way, PAPs aren’t hostages to the agency who did their home study. PAPs could use a placing agency in any state, but must use a home study agency in their own state.
I don’t know that we could legislate this, even if I am the queen, but agencies would not be allowed to call women who are pregnant and considering placing “birthmothers.” They would be called “expectant mothers.” Seriously, if I could, I would fine any agency with a web site that calls expectant parents “birth parents.”
Agencies would be required to ensure unbiased counseling to expectant parents (EPs). How? I mean, if an agency is getting its money from PAPs, it’s in their best interest to have more EPs place, right? Not entirely. The PAPs may be footing the bill, but ultimately, the child is really the agency’s client, even if that child hasn’t been born yet. Now, in Robyn’s Adoption Land, we obviously believe that, in general, adoption is good. We are not family preservationists, but we are also not for taking children away from biological parents who want and are able to parent. In this vein, counselors would not be employed by agencies directly. These counselors – known as Options Counselors – would be independent entities. Agencies would simply keep a list of all available Options Counselors in the area and ensure that EPs see them for a minimum of 3 hours before placement. This paragraph is getting really long already, and I’ve wanted to post about options counseling anyway, so you’ll have to wait for another post for further explanation.
Agencies would be required to ensure that expectant fathers are a part of the process, at least to the extent that they want to be. From the agency’s perspective, the expectant mom (emom) saying “I don’t know who the father is” wouldn’t be enough. If the emom doesn’t have any information about the edad, the agency would have to publish an ad looking for any possible fathers. And I don’t mean an ad in the local newspaper, though I suppose that couldn’t hurt. No, we’d need to move into the 21st century and post on Craigslist, as well as other sites and physical locations relevant to the man in question. For example, if the emom and the edad hooked up at a college frat party, then there would need to be an ad in the college newspaper. These requirements would be different in the case rape, of course. Expectant/birth father rights is another complicated topic, that requires yet another post. So many ideas!
Agencies would be required to offer comprehensive post-placement services for the lives of the parties involved. These services would include mediation between parties in an open adoption, counseling (or references to independent counselors) for all parties involved in an adoption, reasonable assistance to help birth parents find necessary resources (housing, employment, etc.), Agencies would be required to facilitate support groups for all parties involved in adoption, if there are enough parties who request it. Otherwise, they would have to maintain a list of active support groups. Basically, if someone wants it, and it’s reasonable to think an agency would provide it, agencies have to provide it, at a reasonable cost. Sometimes, a reasonable cost would be free. (But that would be covered in the separate fees post.)
New agencies would be licensed for one year, then evaluated at the end of that year. An agency could then be licensed for one year again, or for up to five years. Every five years, an agency must renew its license. Part of this process would be to ensure that all of its employees are up to date on best practices as defined by the extensive adoption-related research performed in Robyn’s Adoption Land. Part of this process would involve evaluations from current and former clients, including birth parents and adoptees (over the age of 13). Every employee must have the applicable licenses, have passed the applicable exams, and so on. Just being an adoptive mom doesn’t qualify you to run an agency.
Agencies would be encouraged to network with one another to ensure that expectant parents find the best adoptive parents for their children. For example, if an emom wanted a black couple to raise her baby, and the agency didn’t have any black couples in the current pool, there would be an easy way for that agency to network with other agencies to find a black couple. Referral services would also be allowed to exist to serve this purpose. A referral service keeps its own list of PAPs, then networks with agencies when those agencies do not have PAPs who meet an expectant parent’s parameters. Referral services would have to be registered, and their fees would also be regulated.
Agencies would not be allowed to lie to anyone involved in the process, or to encourage one party to lie to another party. There would be serious penalties for fraud.
I think that’s all. Did I forget anything about agencies?