What is the difference between an agency adoption and an independent adoption?

In an agency adoption, the prospective parents contact an adoption agency to start the process, and the agency acts as an intermediary between the adoptive parents and the birth parents, matching them up and guiding them through all of the necessary steps. In an independent adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents locate each other and work together without the benefit of an agency, although typically a lawyer is hired to make sure that all legal requirements are met.

Each type of adoption process has its advantages and disadvantages. Using an agency can be beneficial, as they are familiar with all of the requirements, which can be overwhelming to prospective parents and birth parents alike. In international adoptions, especially, it can be advantageous to have someone who knows the ropes intercede on the prospective parents' behalf. Agencies can also provide counseling and other support services to the birth and adoptive families, both before and after the adoption. Some agencies have selection criteria that may screen out certain prospective parents, and waiting times can be very long.

Independent adoptions may allow prospective adoptive and birth parents more control over the adoption process. All parties may have a greater opportunity to get to know and "select" each other. Adoptive parents may be able to circumvent an agency's selection criteria and shorten the waiting time by going the independent route. On the other hand, birth parents may not receive counseling in an independent adoption, which could lead to greater uncertainty and even the possibility of a change of heart. Additionally, independent adoptions are not legal in all states, so it is essential to check applicable state laws before choosing this option