When you begin your adoption journey, one of the first major decisions you’ll have to make is what type of adoption you will pursue (link to types of adoption article). Domestic adoptions are by far the most common, and should you choose to pursue a domestic adoption, you will have to decided whether to adopt independently or through an adoption agency. Independent adoptions are synonymous with the use of an adoption attorney, and in this article we will discuss the major differences between adopting independently with an attorney (link to recommended attorneys)* or going through an adoption agency (link to recommended agencies).

Two quick disclaimers before you read on:

  • The choice between an agency and an attorney is completely a matter of preference. There is in no way an objectively superior choice. So as long as your agency or attorney is licensed and/or accredited (insert link to accreditation article), it just comes down to the preferences of you and your family.
  • Adoption Facilitators are unlicensed entities that seek to specialize in matching birth mothers to adoptive families. Due to the high risk of fraud and lack of governing oversight, we recommend going with an adoption agency or attorney before turning to an adoption facilitator.

Now let’s get to the three things to consider when choosing between an independent adoption or going through an agency.

1. Responsibility

Much of the difference adoptive parents experience when pursuing independent adoption is the increased responsibility to network & advertise in order to find a birth mother. Many agencies include this in their fees & services while adoption attorneys tend to give their families free reign to search for birth mothers anywhere in the world.

2. Restrictions & Requirements

In general, adoption attorneys have fewer restrictions for adoptive parents. This may vary in every circumstance, but things such as single parent adoptions, age, education, sexual orientation, income and more tend to be more explicit factors in agency adoptions although this is not universal. Agencies also tend to require parents to take a certain number of hours of educational classes regarding parenting & adoption. Attorneys are far less likely to require education credits. Furthermore, agencies typically transfer guardianship of the child through foster care whereas attorneys transfer guardianship straight to adoptive parents.

3. Resources

Many larger agencies have a wealth of resources for parents to utlitize and handle international, domestic and/or fost-adopt as opposed to attorneys that typically stick to domestic-infant adoption. Agencies may also offer support group networks, adoptive parenting educational classes, and extensive post-adoptive care both for adoptive parents and birth moms. All this can be negotiated by an adoption attorney as well (although make sure you and your birth mother do NOT have the same attorney as this is a huge conflict of interest).

As we stated earlier, these differences are just a matter of preference and there are families who loved the flexibility of independent adoption and others who loved the structured resources of their adoption agency. Make sure you know your preferences before you choose any adoption professional and, of course, AdoptTogether recommends working with a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and agencies accredited by the Council On Accreditation.

For more information about adoption professionals, check out the following posts:




Kindred: The Foundation For Adoption

Kindred: The Foundation For Adoption

Kindred: The Foundation for Adoption is an American foundation created by adoptees Samantha Futerman and Jenna Ushkowitz. In 2013, Samantha and Anaïs Bordier discovered that they were identical twin sisters separated at birth. When their story garnered worldwide...



"Spence-Chapin is a licensed and accredited nonprofit organization that has been offering quality adoption services for more than 100 years." Our mission is to help find loving families for children whatever their needs or circumstances, and provide counseling and...



AdoptTogether is proud to support the efforts of Kidsave. Kidsave gives often forgotten older kids living in orphanages and temporary foster homes loving parents and lifelong mentors using a unique hosting model. Kidsave's vision is a world where every child is...

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