Not all adoptions have to be completed with the help of an adoption agency. Whether you’re a prospective birth mother or adoptive family, if you’ve already found a match for your adoption proceedings, you may want to proceed with a private adoption, or independent adoption, instead.
But what is a private adoption?
An independent adoption in North Carolina is an adoption arranged by the prospective birth parent(s) with an identified individual or couple and is typically processed by an attorney. Herring & Mills, PLLC, has helped numerous North Carolina families adopt this way.
Those who complete an adoption without an agency typically have already identified a match with a prospective birth mother. They also want to be responsible for the majority of their independent adoption process, from screening to placement.
Although these adoptions are called “private,” in reality, there is nothing private about them; in this kind of adoption, the birth parents are entitled to a copy of the home study, and the adoptive parents and the birth parents know each other’s names.
There are several different aspects involved in an independent adoption in North Carolina:
The Home Study
An independent adoption, like any adoption in N.C., requires a home study or pre-placement assessment. This must be performed by a licensed North Carolina adoption agency or home study professional. The difference with an independent adoption, however, is that prospective adoptive parents will have to contract an organization themselves to complete the process.
The home study, or “PPA,” is the state’s way of having a thorough investigation of the prospective adoptive parents’ background, education, employment and more. All this is ultimately included in a report used to assess how fit they are for becoming adoptive parents.
The process involves a substantial amount of paperwork and forms that must be completed as well as criminal background checks, income and employment verification and other documentation. It generally takes between four to six weeks to complete this process.
Home study professionals in North Carolina include:
- A Child’s Hope
- NC Homestudies, LLC
- Triangle Adoption Services
- Adoption Matters, Inc.
- Independent Adoption Center
- Children’s Home Society
- Amazing Grace
For independent adoptions, the PPA does not have to be completed prior to the placement of the child. The placing parent (typically the birth mother and/or birth father) must be provided with copies of the PPA, however, and have five days from the date the PPA is received to revoke any previously given consent.
“Consent” refers to the birth mother and/or birth father’s voluntary decision to place a child for adoption. In North Carolina, a birth father can consent to placing his child for adoption before the child is born. Birth mothers, however, may not consent until after the child is born. Once consent is given, it may be revoked anytime within seven days following the day the consent was given, including weekends and holidays.
If consent is revoked but given a second time, it cannot be revoked again (it is irrevocable).
As noted above, if a child is placed before the PPA is completed and provided to the placing parent, the placing parent is given an additional five days after receiving the PPA to revoke consent. So, adoption attorneys encourage the adoptive parents to have a pre-placement assessment completed before the baby is born.
It’s important that prospective adoptive parents work closely with legal counsel to determine if consent is needed from both birth parents and, if so, how to go about obtaining it for the adoption proceedings.
Birth Mother Expenses
Adoptive parents may choose to pay for any “reasonable and actual fees and expenses” related to the independent adoption in Raleigh or North Carolina. This could include medical and hospital expenses incurred by the birth mother, counseling services for the birth mother, living expenses for the birth mother for up to six weeks following pregnancy, legal services, court costs and background investigation expenses. No other payments may be made by the adoptive parents to the birth mother and/or birth father.
When you pursue the private adoption process in North Carolina, the following expenses should be expected:
- Home study or pre-placement assessment
- Post-placement assessment and report to the court
- Profile or “Dear Birthmother” letters
- Attorneys’ fees
- Attorneys’ fees for attorney in birth mother’s state (if out-of-state)
- Private investigator’s fees if needed
- Travel expenditures if out-of-state and the stay in the other state to get ICPC approval
- Any agreed-upon birth mother expenses discussed above
You may also have advertising and facilitator fees.
Again, because adoption laws on paid birth mother expenses can be complicated, it’s important you work closely with an attorney through your independent adoption process to make sure you avoid any legal entanglements from inadvertently “paying” the prospective adoptive mother.
In-State vs. Interstate Private Infant Adoption
Many of the adoptive parents who work with us complete an in-state adoption, where both the adoptive parents and the prospective birth mother live in North Carolina. The adoption attorneys of Herring & Mills are highly knowledgeable about the requirements of these adoptions due to our location within North Carolina and our familiarity with state adoption laws; we can help you begin the process at any time.
However, if the adoptive parents and the prospective birth mother live in different states, an interstate adoption will need to be completed. Planning an independent adoption of a child out of state can be complicated, as you will be subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Both of our adoption attorneys are very familiar with the interstate process and can help guide you through it. We also know experienced adoption attorneys in other states and can help set up representation there if needed.
This compact legally requires you to meet the adoption laws in both states — the one where you live and the one which you are adopting from. It’s crucial for you to have experienced legal counsel for an interstate adoption, as failing to follow state laws and ICPC regulations can result in expensive delays in returning home with your child.
If you are adopting out of state, we can help you with your independent adoption process by educating you about the laws on adopting across state lines and the specific requirements for North Carolina. We will make sure you understand the requirement that you remain in your adoptive child’s state until you are cleared by ICPC regulations. It’s important to understand that if you complete an interstate adoption, you will need to stay in the state where the child is born until the ICPC approves you to leave, and then until your home state approves you to return.
Some of the adoption processes that may be affected by ICPC regulations are:
- Prospective birth mother expenses
- Pre- and post-placement requirements
- Birth parent consent requirements
- The time required to stay in the baby’s home state
- The enforceability of postadoption contact agreements
- And more
If your child is born in a state other than North Carolina, we we will be able to connect you with a lawyer in your child’s home state who can help you with the adoption proceedings there. Because ICPC is solely completed by lawyers and government agencies, you will need experienced legal counsel to complete this kind of adoption.
Adoption With or Without an Agency: What’s Best for Me?
Whether or not to choose a private infant adoption is a highly personal decision to make. It will largely depend on how much control and responsibility you want over your adoption process, as well as the degree of openness you wish to have in your adoption. We’ve broken down the general characteristics of each here:
- An agency provides a package of all services, including:
- Education and training for adoptive parents
- Matching services between birth parents and adoptive parents
- Preparation/completion of home study and post-placement assessments
- Handling of adoption-related expenses for birth mother
- Counseling for the birthparents as well as the adoptive parents
- An agency can complete either an open or semi-open or closed adoption.
- You will need to select an adoption lawyer or law firm like Herring & Mills to represent you in court.
There are over 20 licensed adoption agency in North Carolina. One of our adoption attorneys, E. Parker Herring, directs a domestic adoption agency, which focuses on matching North Carolina adoptive parents with North Carolina birth mothers. A Child’s Hope was founded by Ms. Herring and Mr. Mills in 1999 and has placed over 330 children for adoption.
Other North Carolina adoption agencies include:
- If you complete a private adoption in North Carolina, you will need to assemble the team of professionals you need for your adoption. You will need to contract for:
- A home study
- Counseling services
- Legal counsel for you and the prospective birth mother
- Advertising to locate a birthmother
- You will have to exchange identifying information with the prospective birth mother in an independent adoption.
- You will have to find a prospective birth mother on your own.
- The prospective birth mother will receive a copy of your home study and must approve it before giving her adoption consent.
Clearly, a private adoption in N.C. places more responsibility on the prospective adoptive parents than an agency adoption would. However, for some adoptive parents, an independent adoption is preferred because the adoptive parents have located a child to adopt on their own. It’s important you seriously consider both options before choosing the adoption process that’s best for you.
No matter what kind of adoption you choose (agency or independent) you will need an experienced law professional to complete and/or finalize your adoption. Herring & Mills, PLLC, can assist you with either an agency or independent adoption process as a full-service adoption and family law firm conveniently located in downtown Raleigh in the BB&T Building. There is convenient parking underneath the building.
For more information or to speak with an experienced adoption lawyer regarding your specific situation, call us at (919) 821-1860 to schedule a consultation. Should you prefer us to contact you, complete our online form today.