Why Facilitators Don’t Exist in Robyn’s Adoption Land

Baby Oysters from Alice in WonderlandIn my last post, I wrote that facilitators would not exist in Robyn’s Adoption Land.

First, let’s explain what a facilitator is, and why it is not an agency. American Adoptions (an agency) defines “adoption facilitator” as an “unlicensed organizations or individuals offering adoption services, which is illegal in 20 states.” Adoption.com, an information site, with lots of ads from my favorite unethical facilitator, defines “adoption facilitators” as “individuals who are not licensed as adoption agencies or licensed as attorneys, and who are engaged in the matching of birth parents with adoptive parents.”

Notice that they both agree on the unlicensed part. In some states, anyone can buy a domain name, put up a web page, and call themselves an adoption facilitator. They do not need any special qualifications. They do not need to be licensed social workers, nor do they need to employ licensed social workers. They do not need to provide any services beyond finding expectant parents for prospective adoptive parents. Once the entities are matched, the facilitator gets the PAPs’ money, and doesn’t have to do anything else.

We adopted twice using facilitators. The first time, we used Adoption Network Law Center. While we were interviewing them, they represented themselves as an agency. But when it came time to sign the papers, they said they weren’t an agency, but a “law center.” They never used the word “facilitator.” In fact, I think our attorney in MO used that word first.

After they basically took our money and did nothing else, I learned that this was how they operated. Ironically, I heard the most from private messages shared on the adoption.com forums.* I learned that most facilitators operate this way. The number one complaint seemed to be, once a facilitator had a PAP’s money, they were hands off, and didn’t care what happened next. There was one exception that I heard of, over and over: Pact. Pact was an ethical facilitator.

When it came time to adopt again, we really wanted to use an agency. However, we wanted to specify gender, we did not want to use an agency that discriminated against PAPs based on sexual orientation, and we did not want to use an agency that charged less for black babies. These factors eliminated a whole lot of agencies. I happened to see a posting on the AdoptLink site, our home study agency said that Lil Snee was trustworthy, so I inquired. That’s how we ended up using a facilitator again.

When PAPs adopt through a facilitator, it usually goes something like this:

  1. PAPs pay facilitator some sort of application fee. Sometimes, this is small, like $200. Sometimes, it’s huge, like $12,000. Some facilitators have tiers. Essentially, the more you pay upfront, the more likely you are to be shown to EPs. 
  2. Facilitators advertise for expectant parents (read:  mothers).
  3. Facilitators show their clients’ profiles to the EPs. If an EP likes a PAP, a match meeting is set up.
  4. The facilitator, EP, and PAP all chat on a teleconference. If it goes well, and the EP likes the PAP, then there is a match.
  5. The PAP pays the match fee, which is usually an outrageous sum of money. Usually, this money is not refundable. Sometimes, the money can be rolled over to a new match if the current match falls through (for example, the EP chooses to parent, the baby is born with unforeseen health problems that the PAPs can’t handle, etc.).
  6. The facilitator recommends a lawyer in the state in which the baby will be born. I imagine that PAPs usually use the recommended lawyer, because finding an adoption attorney is yet another overwhelming step, and you need to find an adoption attorney pretty darn quickly.
  7. The facilitator basically turns everything over to the lawyer. Some facilitators offer “counseling” to EPs. I know for a fact that ANLC’s “counseling” was nothing of the sort. Some facilitators offer law services in their own states. If we had adopted in California, ANLC has lawyers who would have helped us, theoretically.
  8. If all goes as planned, the baby is born, the new parents sign the termination of parental rights, the lawyer files the documents, the PAPs become APs.

But what if all doesn’t go as planned? As I said, the money the PAPs spent might be rolled over to a new match. But what if all didn’t go as planned because of something the facilitator did or didn’t do? I’ve heard of facilitators not disclosing information to PAPs, not doing their due diligence in ensuring that the expectant father is on board, and outright lying to PAPs and EPs alike. I’ve also heard of facilitators simply failing to show PAPs to other EPs until some arbitrary time limit runs out and the money is forfeit. Sure, agencies can do this too. But agencies are licensed. PAPs can complain to the state’s licensing board. There is recourse. It is slow, from what I understand, but it is there. If you want to get your money back from a facilitator, you pretty much have to sue them. And even then, nothing happens. No one is going to shut them down. It may be hard to shut down an agency, but it can be done.

Ultimately, agencies provide more and better services than facilitators. Many facilitators say that they cost less than agencies, but I have not found that to be the case. You may pay the facilitator less, but then you have to pay the attorneys in the baby’s state, and sometimes an attorney in your home state as well. Jackson’s adoption cost more than $33,000. I haven’t tallied Cassie’s yet – I need to do that for taxes – but I’m pretty sure hers will end up being around $25,000. Most agencies charge between $20,000 and $40,000, according to the Adoptive Families magazine surveys.

All facilitators do is find expectant parents for prospective adoptive parents. For them, it really is about finding babies for families, not necessarily ensuring that the baby’s best interest really is adoption. They have no real incentive to ensure that matches do not fail – they get their money either way. After a match is made, they have all of their money, so they have no incentive to work for you.

I’m not saying all facilitators are like this. However, these complaints are very commonly lodged against facilitators.

Therefore, facilitators do not exist in Robyn’s Adoption Land.

Background on Robyn’s Adoption Land.

* Adoption.com doesn’t allow discussion of agencies or adoption professionals on their forums; you have to use private messages.

17 thoughts on “Why Facilitators Don’t Exist in Robyn’s Adoption Land

  1. We have vacillated on using a facilitator, but ultimately chose not to (for a lot of the reasons mentioned here). I think the fact that it’s unregulated (or at least unmonitored) is pretty scary and sketchy!

    These are great posts. Keep up the good work.

    • In California, facilitators are now required to be licensed, but as far as I’ve been able to find out, it means only that they have to register with the state.

      And thanks for the vote of confidence!

  2. Adoption facilitators were foreign to me until I read your blog. I googled in my area- all I could find were national “agencies” which sound more like facilitators. Is “a marketing service” another name for facilitator? So if they are national, and unregulated- what is their obligation to understand the laws in each state? They are just a match service and then the lawyer takes care of the legal “stuff”?

    • They don’t have any obligation to understand the laws in each state. That’s what the lawyers are for. Adoption facilitators are almost always just matchmakers.
      If PAPs live in a state that does not allow facilitators, they cannot, or at least should not, use them, even if the facilitator is national. My understanding, from when I was blogging about adoption laws at AdoptionBlogs.com, is that only 8 or 9 states allow facilitators to operate there (CA is one of them). Some states apparently allow PAPs to use facilitators out of state, while other states don’t even allow that. I have read forum posts from people who have lost babies during ICPC when their home states found out that they used a facilitator, and that was not allowed.
      “Marketing service” could be another name for a facilitator, or it could be a service that posts parent profiles online, puts ads in newspapers, etc. Some of that isn’t legal in all states either.

  3. I did independent adoption and had a fascilitator, although I do not know her actual title or credentials. She calls herself a pregnancy counselor and/or an adoption counselor. While I was pregnant, after deciding not to go through an agency after repeatedly requesting counseling and not receiving it, I met this woman through a friend of a friend, she was fine through my pregnancy, but the counseling and support sinse is questionable. When I am upset or crying she becomes frustrated and has hung up on me before. I do keep in mind that she is not really a counselor, but a teacher that some how ended up in adoption. The positive is, she is always there and I do believe she cares. I would not recommend her to anyone though.

    • I know that not all agencies offer counseling, just that they are more likely to do so than facilitators (and attorneys rarely offer it at all). Some states, like Louisiana, require independent counseling by a social worker.
      I am so sorry that you are having such trouble finding a sympathetic counselor. If you haven’t already checked into them, I recommend looking at BirthMom Buds. They’re an online support group for birthmoms, and I’m sure they have some resources for you.

      • Thank you. I have recently started going to counseling on my own, paying out of pocket. She is licensed and familar with adoption. Much more helpful for me. Contact with other birthparents is helpful too for sure!

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  7. I am new to all this and am just getting started and scared of making a bad choice I almost picked one you mentioned and after this I am glad I didnt know I hope I am choosing the right agency adoptions of the heart I have done foster to adopt 2 years and just heart ache in wv

    • Hi Corinna! Do you mean Adoptions from the Heart? I’ve heard good things about them, but they don’t allow specifying gender, so I never really looked into them beyond that. Good luck on your adoption journey!

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