This guest post is by Paige Knipfer, an adoption consultant and adoptive mother.
An adoption consultant is a matchmaker/middle man (or woman) who allows a prospective adoptive family to be presented to and connect with expectant parents considering adoption through multiple places—agencies and attorneys–across the U.S.
Every consultant runs their business model a little differently. Some will provide you with expecting mom situations as part of their service, some will provide you a list of low-cost places to register with as a waiting family, some lean into education and guide you through the entire process, some assist you in self-advertising too.
How Adoption Consultants Are Different From Facilitators Or An Adoption Agency
We’re different from a facilitator since a facilitator is often illegal in many states because they have direct contact with expecting moms/family and the prospective adoptive family. They are making money off the direct transaction of an adoption match.
Also, this applies to advertising websites that “help” expecting moms find a family. Under no circumstance should a consultant have contact with an expecting mom/family. The consultant is the guide and advocate for the prospective adoptive family only.
We’re different from an agency in that an agency is licensed within their state although some are licensed in multiple states. They get prospective adoptive families to become home study ready and, if ethical, provide separate case worker and attorney representation for the expecting family and the prospective adoptive family.
Keep in mind consultants and facilitators do not have any licensing requirements; at the very least they should be a licensed business. There are no federal regulations or adoption licensing requirements or board for either of these entities.
As A Consultant, I Want To Educate Hopeful Parents On The Things I Wish I Had Known
I started my consulting company for a number of reasons. The first was because I felt the adoption process was broken and backwards. I’m trying to make a dent. I felt the best way to do this is to catch prospective adoptive families in the beginning of the process and educate them about all the things I wish I would have known. I learned a lot of things the hard way.
I’m passionate about that and about adoption education. I also started my own business after the frustrations I was seeing with other companies. I wanted to start something that didn’t discriminate against prospective adoptive families based on religion, marital status, or sexual orientation.
If you have a passion for education and open adoption I’m happy to work with you. I wanted to keep my business small so prospective families could get the time they deserve. I also wanted to start something that was honest.
We often gloss over or “rainbowfy” the adoption process. Although I’m a mom because of adoption and it’s beautiful, it also has some incredibly hard parts to it. We need to talk about these to better educate and better prepare prospective adoptive families.
Different People Hire Adopting Consultants For Different Reasons
As mentioned earlier, every consultant does things a little differently. Schedule calls with a couple of them and see what fits right for you. Don’t hire a consultant just to see more adoption situations. My opinion is hire one who will be your advocate and ethical education guide. I understand prospective adoptive families hire consultants as a strategy but I hope you get more from it than just that.
I’m also very weary about the volume of cases in “adoption-friendly” states. I worry about the ethics, the expecting family and the adoptee in situations like these. “Adoption-friendly” typically means the expecting parents rights are terminated quicker.
Is that truly what we want? I always tell prospective adoptive families to think about how will they explain their child’s story to him or her when the child is older—will they be proud to tell it?
My Clients Are Prospective Adoptive Parents
I have two sets of clients. Prospective adoptive families who are very new in their adoption journey and just started it. My second set of clients are prospective families who have been sitting at one agency for years and didn’t know a consultant existed.
Typically prospective adoptive families are looking for education on who to work with, adoption terms, home study information, profile design, when and how to present to expecting mom/family cases.
There are other topics as well: what presentation means; transracial adoption education; exposure in utero education; trauma-informed education; how agencies operate; expecting mom expenses; adoption guilt and isolation as an adoptive family; ethics in adoption, etc.
How My Personal Adoption Experience Has Impacted My Work As A Consultant
My passion for education comes from my own experiences of adopting two children. I learned a lot in our own adoptions, some of it the hard way. I want to prevent prospective adoptive parents from experiencing some of what I and others had to go through.
When you’re starting your adoption journey, you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know what to ask or advocate for and adoptive parents are really responsible because they are the ones writing the checks. I help adoptive families navigate open adoption. Each situation looks a little different, but in everything I do I think about my children as they get older and their birth families. I want to do right by them.
The Main Challenges of Being An Adoption Consultant
There are lots of challenges in being a consultant but I would say the biggest is vetting the agencies/attorneys and prospective adoptive families. Agencies and attorneys can claim they do all these wonderful things but my concern and focus is always post-adoption care for the birth family and what happens in the event of a disruption.
Oftentimes the prospective family loses money but I hope that most would get refunded at least some of their expenses. I want to make sure prospective adoptive families understand there is not an adoption need, they are not rescuing a child, that there is trauma (even with an infant), why open adoption is important etc. I do A LOT of coaching but sometimes families just don’t get to where I want them to be in their education journey.
The second issue I see other consultants struggle with is maintaining a level of ethics and in vetting who to work with. Birth rates and adoptions continue to decline. It seems more and more prospective adoptive families are growing in numbers.
When a consultant’s livelihood depends upon matching families it’s no wonder they feel the need to lower the ethics bar. I work full-time so Love Grown is a passion of mine and always will be. 50% of my proceeds goes to: Shared Beginnings, Lifetime Healing Foundation, Help Us Adopt, and adoptee education (books, training etc.) the other 50% goes to my kiddos’ college fund.
What I Wish People Knew About Adoption Consulting
I wish people knew consultants are all very different and not regulated/licensed in any way. Also, consultants wouldn’t need to exist if we had mandated, consistent, standardized, updated, informed education provided by agencies that included adoptee and birth parent point of views. If agencies were not in competition and profitable entities they would talk to one another instead of using consultants too.
The one thing I wish people who are starting out in their adoption knew is that they are responsible for their own education. They should listen to adoptee and birthparent perspectives.
Since the adopting parents are the one paying the bills, so to speak, they have the power to advocate for the ethics they want to see in their future child’s adoption, for their future child, and for their future child’s birth family.
Paige Knipfer is a trainer for a financial institution, an adoptive mom, wife, mentor to a foster youth, and owner of Love Grown Adoption Consulting. She loves to share her adoption experiences and assist anyone interested in learning more about the process @PaigeKnipfer.
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