Q. We’ve heard of adopting through an agency, but are unsure of what an independent adoption is.

An agency adoption is where the birthmom relinquishes her child to an adoption agency which then places the child with the adoptive parents. Most states, including California, allow a birthmom to directly place a child into the home of the adoptive parents of her choice. This is called “independent or private adoption.”

Q. Are independent adoptions legal?

Yes. In California the Family Code provides for this type of adoption. In fact, it has been reported that the majority of infants who are placed for adoption are placed independently rather than through an agency.

Q. What kind of financial assistance may the adoptive parents provide to the birth mother?

The assistance must be limited to maternity-related expenses and certain necessary living expenses. Financial assistance must be charitable in nature, which means it must not be conditioned on the birth mother’s cooperation in the adoption. The amount of financial assistance required by the birth mother will, of course, vary from case to case depending on her needs and situation.

Q. It is possible to work with a private attorney and an agency?

Yes. This is called collaborative adoption and in California is not unusual to complete your adoption in this manner.

Q. Do adoptive parents have the opportunity to evaluate the degree of risk with regard to the birthmom’s decision to let her child be adopted?

Yes. At the Law Office of D. Durand Cook, we encourage at least one structured meeting in an office setting with an attorney present where there is normally a lot of heartfelt communication. In addition to the birthmom’s opportunity to express the thoughts and feelings she wants passed on to her child in the years to come, and her right to evaluate the adoptive parents’ ability to love her child. The adoptive parents have the opportunity to evaluate the degree of certainty of the birth mom’s decision to allow her child to be adopted. “Open” communication is encouraged at this meeting.

Q. How much personal and medical information will we receive about the birth mother?

In the meeting mentioned above, you may ask as many questions about the birth mother’s personal philosophy and medical background as you wish. In addition, the birth mom will sign an authorization so that we may obtain, on your behalf, full medical reports from her doctor and the hospital where she will be delivering. You will also receive a copy of all the forms she fills out which contain family health history, drug use, reasons for choosing adoption, occupation, hobbies, skills, etc. Oftentimes the adoptive parents are also invited to attend an ultrasound with their birthmom.

Q. Is the consent of the birth father required for the adoption?

Generally speaking, if the birth father is married to the birthmom at the time of birth or conception, or if he takes the child into his home and acknowledges the child as his, then he is referred to as the “presumed father” and his consent is required for the adoption. Biological fathers who are not “presumed fathers” are legally referred to as “alleged fathers.” The law generally accords less rights to “alleged fathers” than to “presumed fathers.” Generally speaking, if the alleged father is not actively contesting the adoption, his legal rights may be terminated in a court proceeding if he is unwilling to sign a consent form.

Q. Is there any safeguard for the child to ensure it is being placed in an appropriate home?

Yes. As part of the statutory framework in California and most states, a formal process is instituted either prior to or immediately following the placement of the child in the adoptive parents’ home. This involves a physical inspection of the home, review of the adoptive parents’ financial stability and state of wealth, as well as an overall investigation of the circumstances of placement. This report is referred to as a “homestudy.”

Q. In independent adoptions, is it unusual for the identity of the adoptive parents to be kept from the birth mother?

Yes. The birth mother must have sufficient information about the parents to make an informed decision about where to place her child. In most cases, birth mothers are interested in personally meeting the adoptive parents. In California, in order for the child to be taken home from the hospital by the adoptive parents, a state-provided infant release form must be signed by the birth mother. The adoptive parents’ names and address appear on the form and a copy will be offered to the birth mom.

Q. Is it necessary for adoptive parents to go to court?

Yes. In California, an Adoption Request is filed shortly after placing the child in the adoptive parents’ home. Approximately 6 to 9 months after the birth, this Request will culminate in a court appearance by the attorney and the adoptive parents with the child. The birth mother generally does not go to court. Most states have similar procedures.

Q. Following the adoption, what sort of documentation will we receive showing that the child is ours legally?

In addition to an Adoption Order or Decree, a new birth certificate is issued which reflects the adoptive parents’ names as the child’s legal parents. The original birth certificate and other court records are sealed and are no longer accessible to the public.

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Adoption Process Orientation