Independent Adoption

Domestic Independent/Private Adoption

A private adoption begins when the prospective adopting parents and birth parents locate one another, usually through newspaper or internet advertisements or introductions by mutual friends, relatives or acquaintances. Jennifer can guide clients, birth parents or adoptive parents, through these options and the safest and most successful avenues to locate each other.

Once the parties locate one another, they begin working together to resolve issues that arise through the adoption process. They may enter into what is referred to as an “adoption plan.” This negotiation may be made directly by the parties or through their attorneys. The adoption can be completely "open," whereby the parties exchange identifying information, or "closed" whereby the parties' identifying information remains completely confidential.In an independent adoption, the birth parent gives consent to the adoption of his or her child directly to the adoptive parents.  Legal custody of the child passes directly from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents may learn of birth parents either through word-of-mouth contacts or newspaper advertisements in Maryland and the District of Columbia.  In an independent adoption, the attorney representing the birth mother will often make arrangements with the hospital where the child is to be born so that the adoptive parents will have access to the child in the nursery following birth and the child will be discharged directly to the adoptive parents.  After the child is born, the birth mother will execute her consent to the adoption. This is usually done at the hospital in the presence of the birth mother’s own attorney.

Just like the birth mother, the birth father of the child must consent to the adoption. If the birth father does not consent, he must be given notice of the proceeding by being served with a show cause order. Under certain circumstances, a birth father can be given notice by publication in the newspaper.

Before the adoptive parents take physical custody of the child, the law requires that a court order be obtained which grants legal custody to the parents.  A birth parent executing his or her consent to an adoption in Maryland may revoke that consent for any reason for up to 30 days from its execution. A revocation must be in writing, signed by the revoking birth parent and filed with the clerk of the court.  In the District of Columbia a consent is irrevocable once it is filed with the Court (usually within 24 hours of execution except on weekends).

Once adopting parents have located a birth parent who wishes to place their child for adoption and the child is born, the adopting parents file a Petition in the appropriate court. Each county has different local rules related to the adoption and the process, while similar, has nuances. As such, hiring an adoption attorney is important to a smooth completion of the adoption.

Jennifer will assist in negotiating a birth plan and post-adoption contact agreement, if desired, by either the birht parents or adoptive parents. And, if the child is born outside of Maryland or the District of Columbia, she will assist with obtaining approval from the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC) and, if part of the adoption plan, in finalizing the adoption in the state of Maryland or the District of Columbia. Jennifer has extensive experience in handling ICPC matters.

The DC Council has revised the DC adoption law several times in the past few years.  For example, a birth parent now has 14 days to revoke their consent if they place their child through an agency but the consent remains irrevocable upon execution for a private adoption.

What are the types of domestic adoption?

There are three types of domestic adoptions: Private Agency, Public Agency and Independent (sometimes called private or parental placement). 

What are the types of adoption?

The types of adoption are (1) domestic agency adoption, (2) domestic independent (non-agency) adoption, and (3) intercountry adoption. Within domestic agency adoptions, there are  public agency adoption and private agency adoption. Intercountry or International adoption can be either agency adoption or independent adoption.

Every case must be either an agency adoption or an independent (non-agency) adoption for legal purposes. In an agency case, there are two steps. First, the birth parents’ rights are relinquished to an agency. Second, the agency consents to an adoption by a adoptive parent or parents. In an independent adoption, there is only one step. The birth parents give consent directly to an adoptive parent or parents. 

What is a home study?

State law dictates whether an individual social worker, a private licensed child placing agency, or a public social service agency may perform the home study. The process is designed to evaluate the adoptive parents to assure that there is nothing in their homes or backgrounds which would be contrary to the best interests of the child.  It is an independent investigation to verify your suitability as adoptive parents.  In includes criminal and child abuse clearances and is valid for one year and can be updated annually. 

What expenses can be paid to the birth parent(s)?

In the District of Columbia an adoptive family may only pay for medical, counseling and legal services related to the adoption for the birth family.  The District of Columbia prohibits paying for living expenses or providing clothing, food or gifts to a birth family.  In Maryland and Virginia, a birth mother may obtain reasonable and necessary living expenses if she obtains written confirmation from her doctor that she is unable to work due to the pregnancy.   

How long will private adoption take?

There is a wide variety of waiting periods dependent upon a host of controllable and non-controllable factors. Generally, the average waiting period to find a woman who is expecting a child and wanting to make an adoption plan is 12 – 36 months. Waits can be dramatically shorter or longer depending on individual situations and client’s specified parameters for adoption such as gender preference, race, age of adoptive parent, number of children in family, financial limitations, and state of residence of adoptive parents and birth parents.

Revocation Period

In Maryland a birth parent has 30 calendar days to revoke their consent to an adoption whether private or agency.  In the District of Columbia consent is irrevocable upon execution for a private adoption and a birth parent has 14 days to revoke their consent to adoption if the baby is placed through an agency. In Virginia, a birth mother consents in Court in front of Judge three days or more after the baby is born and has seven days to revoke.  In a Virginia agency case, the birth mother signs a relinquishment to the agency and does not appear in court. 

What is a home study?

State law dictates whether an individual social worker, a private licensed child placing agency, or a public social service agency may perform the home study. The process is designed to evaluate the adoptive parents to assure that there is nothing in their homes or backgrounds which would be contrary to the best interests of the child.  It is an independent investigation to verify your suitability as adoptive parents.  In includes criminal and child abuse clearances and is valid for one year and can be updated annually. 

What expenses can be paid to the birth parent(s)?

In the District of Columbia an adoptive family may only pay for medical, counseling and legal services related to the adoption for the birth family.  The District of Columbia prohibits paying for living expenses or providing clothing, food or gifts to a birth family.  In Maryland and Virginia, a birth mother may obtain reasonable and necessary living expenses if she obtains written confirmation from her doctor that she is unable to work due to the pregnancy.   

“I believe in working with each of my clients—in support of their family dynamic—to make the dreams of parenthood a reality. Whether you are single or married; or gay; a step-parent, a surrogate or intended parent or a child of adoption, it is my mission to serve as your advocate. With a dedication to the ethical and sensitive nature of each situation, I will help you understand the laws within Maryland or Washington, DC for adoption or surrogacy, and pledge to be your partner throughout the journey.” - Jennifer Fairfax

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