One of the best ways to learn more about working with an attorney in the adoption process is to get insight on some of the basics straight from the source. This resource from Adoptions From The Heart is an interview with an attorney, Debbie Spivack, on important elements of working with an attorney…
What is the attorney’s role in adoption?
An attorney advises clients on the legal options to achieve their goals in family planning, and helps them implement a plan which is safe, legally secure and designed to achieve permanency for a child in a healthy and safe home as early in their life as possible. My role is pursuing my clients rights under laws of the state in question to achieve termination of parental rights and adoption finalization. Read more on the role of attorneys here.
How can prospective adoptive parents find an attorney?
First I would say that adoption law is not about kissing babies all day! The laws are complicated and there are many potential landmines only an attorney with specific adoption experience will recognize. While adoptive parents may be inclined to ask their family lawyer to handle an adoption case, I would suggest the family find a lawyer with a wide array of experiences in adoption specifically.
One good resource for finding an experienced adoption attorney is the website for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, which is an invitation-only organization that requires its members to have substantial experience representing different parties in many kinds of adoptions. We also have ethical responsibilities we must uphold to maintain our membership.
Also, just talk to adoptive families and adoption professionals and get references.
What should you look for in a good attorney?
I already mentioned diverse experience but I would specifically ask if that attorney has worked both private and agency cases, interstate cases, and represented different parties, such as adoptive parents, agencies, birth parents and children. Ask them how many on a yearly basis.
I would also try to determine whether the attorney shares your values and goals, and is empathetic and understanding. The adoption process requires working together when parties are at their most vulnerable. You want to be sure your attorney can advocate on your behalf if things get tough, and who can offer you sound advice and guidance with an understanding what you may be feeling.
I would suggest selecting someone who is up to date on current law since adoption law is constantly evolving, not only on the state level, but sometimes on the federal level. Make sure they value continuing education by attending conferences and speaking at conferences attended by their peers.
What is some advice you have for clients looking to adopt?
- One size (process) does not fit all. Know yourselves and explore all options.
- Define your goals up front and do research.
- Pursue a course that is tolerable and achievable for you and your family.
- Talk to someone willing to give objective advice, even if they don’t end up being your attorney.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about adoption in general?
For people who are not involved in adoption directly, I wish they would understand it is a deeply personal subject for all parties and does not lend itself to invasive questions or judgments
Share in their joy, offer support and allow them to achieve their dreams.
Pursue adoption from a child-centered mindset of becoming the best possible parent for a child who needs a family. This mindset will help guide you through the process as an advocate for your future child and be excellent preparation for parenting!
To find out more about the attorney who provided insight for this interview, visit this resource.