A previous Robyn’s Adoption Land post explained my preference and rules for agencies in Robyn’s Adoption Land. However, I did say that attorneys had some space in Robyn’s Adoption Land as well.
Currently, in many states, prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) can adopt using attorneys. This type of adoption is called an independent adoption – the PAPs are independent of an agency. An independent adoption can begin in many ways, such as:
- The PAPs know an expectant mom (emom) who wants to place. This woman could be a relative, a co-worker, a friend, a friend of a friend, a fellow churchgoer, etc. They all go to an attorney together. This is called an identified adoption.
- The PAPs give their profile to an attorney who in turn gives it to any expectant parents (EPs) who call his/her office. The EPs choose the PAPs.
- The PAPs network to find EPs. They may use an online profile site, pass out business cards, advertise in their local paper (if allowed, a la the movie Juno), send letters to local OB/GYNs, etc. They PAPs put information out there, and either ask the EPs to call them (usually on a 1-800 line or prepaid cell phone) or to call the attorney with whom they’re working. This is also called an identified adoption, because the PAPs bring the EPs to the lawyer.
- The PAPs contract with a facilitator to find EPs. The facilitator passes the PAPs and EPs off to an attorney.
Attorneys would not be allowed to facilitate adoptions as explained in list item 2, above. Similarly, adoption advertising as described in list item 3 would not be allowed in Robyn’s Adoption Land. (More on that in a later post.) As we all know, facilitators do not exist in Robyn’s Adoption Land, which eliminates list item 4.
That leaves list item 1. The rule for attorneys in Robyn’s Adoption Land is this: If the PAPs and EPs have an established relationship that is not separated by more than two degrees, they may use an attorney instead of an agency.
What does “not separated by more that two degrees” mean? If you were alive and using computers in the 1990’s, you probably heard of, and even played, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Name anyone in Hollywood, and he or she comes within six degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon.* That is, they know someone who knows someone… who knows Kevin Bacon. Got it?
So, let’s say your co-worker’s niece is pregnant and considering placing. You have an existing relationship with your co-worker. Your co-worker has an existing relationship with her niece. That’s two degrees. You may use an attorney to complete your adoption. Of course, you could also use an agency. But if you wanted to, you could go the attorney route. The relationship must be documented. Otherwise, people could just make up a relationship to be able to use an attorney. In the example I gave, HR could easily produce employment records showing that you and your co-worker have been in the same group since 2004. Birth certificates or family trees could show the niece’s relationship to her aunt.
Any kinship adoption could also be completed by an attorney. In a kinship adoption, a child is adopted by people to whom he or she is related. For example, a boy’s parents could adopt their grandchild. A girl’s aunt and uncle could adopt their great-niece. PAPs through kinship adoption do need to pass a complete home study.
In identified adoptions and kinship adoptions, independent options counseling for the EPs is still required. Attorneys would not be able to discriminate against clients on the basis of their sexual orientation, religion, and so on. Fees would be explained and capped. Attorneys would have to ensure that expectant fathers were a part of the process. This is all the same as in an agency adoption.
- In an agency adoption, the agency maintains a fund for EP expenses. In an attorney adoption, the PAPs pay the EP expenses directly (or, through the attorney, but it’s their money). More on that in a later post.
- In an agency adoption, the agency provides post-placement services. In an attorney adoption, the attorney would not be required to provide post-placement services. Instead, they would simply maintain a list of said services. Agencies could also charge people who were not their clients more than they charge their clients for their post-placement services.
- In an agency adoption, the PAPs are in a pool of clients, and are, essentially, in competition with one another. Using an attorney in a truly identified adoption eliminates the competitive matching process.
Attorneys would also be allowed to complete step-parent adoptions, including adoptions in which a same sex partner is adopting the biological or adopted child of his or her partner. You don’t need an agency for that. You do, however, still need a home study, but an abbreviated one.
I should also note that attorneys will work within agencies to ensure that all laws are met. Even in Robyn’s Adoption Land, where all states have the same laws, someone employed by the agency must know those laws and ensure that they are followed.
In all situations (agency and independent), the laws must be explained to both PAPs and EPs in plain language that they can understand. This must be done at a point prior to the signing of the termination of parental rights (TPR). That is, you can’t sit a woman down in her hospital room, explain all the laws really fast, and throw some papers at her. Similarly, you can’t hand a couple a baby, explain all the laws really fast, and hope they catch them in between baby gazing. For PAPs, the laws can be explained at any point in the process, but must be explained at least 24 hours before they are supposed to take custody of the child. Any laws specific to the expectant/birth father’s rights must be explained as soon as they are known. For EPs, the laws must be explained at least 24 hours before the earliest time they can sign the TPR. However, they can’t be explained within 24 hours of giving birth. So, if EPs come to an agency and the emom is 30 weeks pregnant, the agency’s attorney can explain the laws at the first meeting. But, if EPs come to an agency after the child is born, the agency’s attorney must wait at least 24 hours before explaining the laws. Basically, this gives the new parents (especially the new mother) some time to rest. Also, if the EPs preferred language is not English, the laws must be properly explained in their preferred language. After the laws are explained, the EPs must have at least 24 hours to consider them before they can sign the TPR.
In some states (maybe most of them), birth parents and adoptive parents are required to have separate counsel. This is great in theory, but, in my experience, it’s rather useless. Usually, the adoptive parents’ attorney has a person he/she works with who represents all of the birth parents they have to deal with. Furthermore, the adoptive parents pay for the birth parents’ attorney. How is this any different than just using the same attorney? I met and liked the MO attorney who represented S, and I know he gave her his card and told her to call him with any questions. I met the LA attorney who “represented” Laine, but she said he never even really talked to her. So really, what’s the point?
Besides, in Robyn’s Adoption Land, all attorneys are completely ethical and transparent.
OK, seriously. There will be stiff penalties for fraud and unethical behavior. How’s that?
Upcoming Related Posts:
- (Almost) No Advertising Allowed in Robyn’s Adoption Land
- Home Studies in Robyn’s Adoption Land
- Expectant Parent Expenses in Robyn’s Adoption Land
- Options Counseling as I Understand It
* I have a Kevin Bacon number of 3, because I worked with Craig Brewer in high school, and Craig Brewer directed the remake of Footloose, which starred Andie MacDowell, who was in Beauty Shop with Kevin Bacon.