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There was once a time that adoption was murky, secretive, and tightly controlled by the state, stakeholders, and “consumers”. That has changed enormously over time, most significantly in the last two decades as open adoption has gained a dominant position in adoption thought. But the last four or five years have seen another major evolution in adoption as more and more people have come to think that they can do an adoption without the assistance of a formal structure like an adoption agency.

Every adoption involves four key players: First, without the birth parents, there obviously can be no adoption. Second, without adoptive parents, there can be no adoption. Third, without the court to authorize the adoption, there can be no adoption. And fourth, without a child, there will obviously be no adoption.

The special role that adoption agencies have long held is that they were the sole locus where all of the parts of the adoption could be found. The internet age has changed that.

The importance of the internet in the do-it-yourself adoption cannot be overstated. The internet offers countless sites and tools for birthparents seeking to place their children and for families seeking to adopt a child. Internet sites are chock full of information essential to making an adoption work, such as when payments to birth parents are permissible and which countries permit single people to adopt. The Internet offers a place for folks to find support from others going through the same thing. Many people have found great success doing independent adoptions with internet support.

But it is our opinion that do-it-yourself adoption built around the resources of the internet is a poor choice for many families because an adoption is not a mechanical exercise. Adoptions are not successful because you know where to see listings of women who are placing their babies. Adoptions are not successful because we can find a chat room where dozens of other families can offer their ideas about the best way to handle a problem. Adoptions are successful because experienced and thoughtful professionals can help families working through a process that can be one of the most stressful and emotional events in life.

I often speak with and work with families who work on do-it-yourself adoptions. Often, those adoptions are successful — the birth parents successfully place the baby; the adoptive parents successful adopt the baby; and everyone successfully negotiates a contact agreement that fits their needs. Helping people complete a private adoption successfully is one of my most gratifying experiences.

But equally often those adoptions are not successful. Adoptions fail for a great many reasons. Some of these reasons will arise regardless of whether the parties are aided by experienced professionals with good judgment — but often these adoptions fail precisely because the parties are not guided by the wisdom, good judgment, and experience of an adoption professional. Good adoption agencies often report that they counsel more than ten pregnant women considering adoption for every woman who ultimately decides to place her child. Good adoption agencies find that women who are considering adoption early in their pregnancies often decide not to place their children because they gain familial support or they decide that they can care for their babies. Many adoption pitfalls are easily missed by the family who enters the adoption world only once, twice, or thrice.

We happily encourage families to consider every adoption option, including exploring whether they can put an adoption together independently. We are proud of the help that we give to families doing independent adoptions. But we are equally proud when our counsel helps families decide on an adoption path that best fits their needs, resources, and style.

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