Choose an attorney with experience in private adoptions. When you interview attorneys, ask if they are a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or an equivalent state accreditation. If your attorney is not accredited, question her about her specific experience handling private adoptions. The AAAA maintains a directory of accredited adoption attorneys in the United States.
If you choose an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional, this is considered an independent adoption. In many independent adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive family find each other independently of an adoption professional’s screening and matching services. In some states, adoption lawyers are not legally allowed to perform these screening and matching services.
The adoptive parents can’t leave the state where the baby was born until they comply with ICPC and the ICPC offices in the sending and the receiving state has cleared the adoptive parents to come home. Clearing ICPC requires submitting several documents (in California this packet can be nearly 50 pages), including affidavits made by attorneys from each state that the state laws have been complied with. Submitting an incomplete packet will delay clearance, leaving the adoptive parents in limbo. Work with an experienced attorney to avoid the stress, delay, and cost of complying with ICPC.
Some expectant mothers need help covering expenses. Each state has different laws about what expenses can be covered, who can distribute the funds, and whether the funds must be paid directly to the provider. Failing to follow the laws regarding expectant mother expenses can potentially result in criminal liability. An experienced adoption attorney will know what expenses are permitted, how they can be disbursed, and who can disburse them.
Because of the complexities of the adoption process and the potential for negative consequences, it is not recommended that you attempt to do an adoption pro se. Even a consent adoption within the family, for example, an aunt and uncle adopting a nephew with full consent of the birth parents, should still be prepared and shepherded through the court by an attorney.
Megan Cohen is an adoption and assisted reproductive technology attorney. She is the owner of Family Formation Law Offices in Lafayette, California representing birth parents, adopting parents, intended parents, surrogates, and gamete donors. She serves on the board of the birthmother-focused On Your Feet Foundation of Northern California. She is also a birth mother. Vist her website www.helpwithadoption.com.