Adoption: Finding the Right Agency and Attorney
Now what? There's an interesting and winding road ahead of you -- from deciding whether you want to adopt domestically or internationally and whether you want to adopt an infant or an older child, to whether you want to start as a foster parent.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. According to the Child Welfare League of America, the majority of children adopted in America are found via an agency or private adoption with a lawyer helping the parents along the way.
First up, you need to choose an adoption agency or an attorney.
How to find the right agency:
Agencies generally hold open houses on a regular basis, so that's a good start. Drop in to see how you feel about the organization.
- Check with local adoption support groups in your area. Parents who have adopted, or who are in the process of adopting, can fill you in on an agency's reputation.
- Ask about the fee structure. Avoid an agency that won't give you up-front details on its fee structure and any contract that doesn't allow you to back out. Fees for making an application and a home study are common. According to the Joint Council on International Children's Services, costs for international adoption generally range from $12,000 to $30,000. The Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) puts a wide range on domestic adoption costs, too -- anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000, depending on the state, the agency and the circumstances. Adopting children from foster care is a less expensive option -- as a matter of fact, many are free, according to Adopt Us Kids, with minimum agency costs that might be reimbursable.
- If you're planning on an international adoption, check the U.S. State Department's list of accredited agencies. These agencies have gained permission to facilitate adoptions from countries that follow strict guidelines to ensure that children are not trafficked illegally.
- For domestic adoption agencies, the CWIG offers a comprehensive list of agencies and support groups. The CWIG also lists the person in each state who can tell you if an agency is appropriately licensed.
- Check with the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys to find a local attorney who specializes in adoption.
- Check in with local adoption support groups for references, and ask a potential attorney for references to other families whose adoption he or she has handled.
- Ask what types of adoption the attorney has handled in the past. Laws vary between domestic, infant, foster child and international adoptions, and it's best to have an attorney who is familiar with the particular avenue you are pursuing.
- Ask about the fee structure. Regardless of where you're adopting from, the CWIG estimates the cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, and legal representation fees may range from $2,500 to $12,000 or more.
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