Independent adoption is arranged without an agency. Initial contacts are made directly between the pregnant woman and the adoptive parents or by the pregnant woman and an attorney, depending on state law.
Independent adoption is legal in all states except Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Minnesota. In these states, however, "parties are able to achieve what is, in spirit, an independent adoption: the adoptive parents and birthparents identify each other without intervention by an agency and then arrange for the parental rights to be relinquished through an agency so that the adoption becomes a 'directed agency adoption'."
Locating a Birth Mother
To initiate an independent adoption, a prospective adoptive parent must first locate a birth mother interested in relinquishing her child. This can be done in several ways.
Presently, 32 states allow adoption advertising. Ads placed in the classified section of local newspapers have proved to be a successful method for bringing birth parents and adoptive parents together. An adoption attorney can usually advise you on where and how to advertise, or for a fee, you can use a national or regional adoption advertising consultant.
Another way to locate a birth mother is to contact crisis pregnancy centers, obstetricians, school guidance counselors, and friends and colleagues who could lead you to the right person. Typically, you would send them an introductory letter, a photo and a description of your family life, home, jobs, hobbies and interests.
Two positive aspects of independent adoption include the usually shorter time required to locate a child than in agency adoption and the acceptance criteria being those of the birth parents themselves rather than those of agencies, which can sometimes be arbitrary or rigid. The risks, however, are somewhat greater. One is the fear of having a birth parent contest the validity of an adoption and suing to regain custody after the adoption has been finalized (the circumstances in the "Baby Richard" case). This possibility has sent some prospective adoptive parents to other countries for their children. They would rather not take a legal risk on a domestic adoption, preferring instead to adopt foreign children who previously lived in an institution, despite any possible health, developmental or learning problems.