Some states, including California, allow people who are not agency social workers or attorneys to help people find birthmothers (for a fee). These people are called adoption facilitators or adoption consultants.
In some states, adoption facilitators or adoption consultants act as adoption “middlemen,” and help people identify pregnant women considering adoption, assist prospective adoptive parents to compose adoption resumés, and arrange birthmother meetings. Some people use the term “facilitator” for anyone who is a nonsocial worker engaged in arranging adoptions and include adoption attorneys in this definition. However, I do not include lawyers in my own definition.
If you identify a birthmother through advertising, you often will find that she confides many of her problems to you. Experts say it's common to feel you should give her advice or counseling. Even if you are a trained and very skilled counselor, you should not counsel the pregnant woman, because of your very personal interest in this case and your lack of professional detachment. Instead, let the agency, attorney, or other adoption arranger help the birthmother sort out her personal problems.
They may coach people seeking to adopt, assist them with writing or placing ads or adoption resumés, tell them what to say when a call comes in, and so forth. They are usually not licensed (although some facilitators may be licensed social workers) and, thus, might not be policed or overseen by any governmental authority. However, after a birthmother says she wants to place her child, the adoption must be turned over to an adoption agency or an attorney.
As with just about everything else, there are good and bad facilitators. Personally, I strongly recommend that you work with an agency or an attorney; however, if you believe a facilitator is the right path to your child (and if using such a middleman is legal in your state), then be sure to ask plenty of questions. Here are just a few questions you might ask:
- Do you have one fee or several fees? What are they and how much are they? Some consultants charge a flat rate; others charge by the hour, or charge different fees for different services. Also, find out whether you will be billed for miscellaneous expenses like phone calls.
- What services are included in your fee?
- What are your credentials? (Some adoption consultants are social workers; some are not licensed in any capacity. Be sure to ask.)
- How many adoptions have you helped arrange?
- How many adoptions that you helped arrange fell through? If the number is more than 20 or 30 percent, the facilitator might not be a very effective screener of birthmothers. But neither is it normal for a facilitator to claim that none of her adoptions have fallen through. If the facilitator says that she has arranged 500 adoptions and not a single birthmother has ever changed her mind before the baby was placed with a family, she's probably lying. Go to someone else.
- How do birthparents find you, and what services do you provide them?
- Can you give me some references? Although it's true that many adoptive parents do not want their names released to anyone, it's also true that some people are willing to talk to hopeful adopters. The facilitator should be able to provide the names of some people who are willing to talk to you about their adoption.
- The facilitator might even bring people who are references to a seminar or other group meeting. That's okay, but you should also try to talk to the people privately, either in person or for just a brief chat on the phone. Why? If you talk to them by yourself, you might get more candid responses to your questions.
- May I see a sample contract? It should spell out what the facilitator is expected to do, how much you will pay, and other conditions of the service to be rendered. A contract isn't an assurance that you will adopt a baby or that you'll be happy with the service, but at least it will give you an idea of who is supposed to do what, for how much, and when.
In addition to talking to the facilitator, checking references, and reviewing a contract, you should ask outside organizations about the facilitator. Do local adoptive parent groups know about this individual, and if so, what do they think? Does the state social services office have any experience with this person?
You can also ask local adoption agencies and attorneys for their opinions; however, expect that many will be disdainful and negative. After all, the facilitator is doing something they believe is really their job, and there's bound to be some professional jealousy. And don't forget that in some states, it is unlawful to pay anyone other than a licensed agency or an attorney to assist with a child placement.