Adoption can be a confusing way to create your family. So many decisions, so many questions. If you are adopting a baby in

Should you adopt from an adoption agency or adoption lawyer?

Trying to decide on whether to adopt with an adoption agency or adoption attorney is so confusing it makes you want to shake your fist in frustration.

the US, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether to adopt from an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. To complicate your decision further, all adoption agencies and attorneys are not created equal making a heads up comparison nearly impossible.

All is not lost. There are some general distinctions that can help you.

Finding and Matching Expectant Mothers and Adoptive Families

Adoption is governed by state law, which mean all 50 states have different adoption laws and allow and prohibit different activities. All states that I know of allow adoption agencies to find prospective birth mothers and match them with pre- adoptive families. Some states allow adoption attorneys to do this; some don’t. If this is a service you need or want, then you need to ask an adoption attorney in your state if this is allowed. Creating a Family has resources for finding an adoption lawyer licensed in your state.

Flexible Requirements

As a general rule, adoption lawyers have fewer restrictions on who can adopt, as far as marriage, sexual orientation, number of divorces, religion, etc. It is possible to find agencies without restrictions, but many have them.

Adoption Cost

If you look at the average cost of adoptions in the US, adoptions through adoption lawyers are slightly lower than through an adoption agency. In 2012, the average adoption through an adoption attorney was almost $28,000, while the average cost through an agency was a little over $28,000.

Average cost is a slippery measurement because it’s hard to know whether you’re comparing apples to apples. Most adoption agencies provide full services, including finding a prospective birthmother, pre and post adoption education, post adoption services for adoptive families, facilitating exchange of information in semi-open adoptions, pre and post adoption services for birthmothers. Adoption services through an adoption lawyer are more individual and you generally pay for the services you need. As Colleen Quinn,one of the attorneys on yesterday’s Creating a Family show on Adopting Through an Adoption Lawyer, said: adoption agencies are like an all-inclusive buffet and adoption attorneys are like a la carte.


As a general rule adoption agencies provide more services than adoption attorneys. While you might think you don’t need some of the assistance, I feel strongly that all adoptions benefit from two important services: adoptive parent education and pre and post adoption counseling for birth parents. Truth be told, not all adoption agencies provide these services and some attorneys provide them  (often for an additional cost), but it is well worth making sure that however you adopt, you choose a provider who values both of these services.

Adopting Through an Adoption Lawyer

We had an esteemed panel of four of the leading adoption attorneys on yesterday’s Creating a Family show talking about how and why to adopt with an adoption attorney.

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Did you adopt through an adoption agency or an adoption lawyer? Why?

Image credit: I am marlon

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