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Common Questions

Common Questions

What is the difference between an adoption attorney and an adoption agency?

In an independent adoption, you work closely with an attorney to plan and execute your adoption. A separate attorney represents the birth parents. Independent adoptions may offer greater flexibility and lower overall costs than agency adoptions.

In an agency adoption, the birth parents relinquish the child directly to the adoption agency, which then places the child with an adoptive family. The adoptive parents must still be represented by an adoption attorney. Private adoption agencies are licensed and regulated by the state. They may offer more in-house services than adoption attorneys, who often make referrals to other professionals for services like counseling and mediation. Agencies differ in their religious and political philosophies, policies on openness in adoptions, fee structures, and qualifications for both adoptive and birth parents.

Are adoptions conducted through an agency more secure than independent adoptions?

Not at all. Independent adoptions, conducted with the assistance of an adoption attorney, are just as secure as an agency adoption. The only difference is which statute provides that security.

Disruptions in adoptions are rare and usually happen when a birth mother does not fully understand the adoption process. Bouneff, Chally & Koh provides birth mothers with unparalleled attention and support. We take great care, for everyone's sake, that the birth mothers understand everything they are consenting to.

Do we really need an adoption attorney?

Whether you are adopting independently or through an agency, almost all adoptions require an attorney. You will need an attorney to finalize the adoption with the court, as well as to prepare all of the legal documents and some of the forms and other documents required in the adoption procedure.

It is important to retain an attorney who focuses on adoptions. Adoption law is a complicated area of law with unique issues that are not always well known or understood by general domestic relations attorneys.

What are we paying for when we hire you?

Bouneff, Chally & Koh offers a full range of highly personalized adoption services. Depending on your circumstances, this may include assisting you with advertising, connecting you with birth parents, managing payments for birth mother expenses, negotiating an Open Adoption Agreement, providing all of the documentation and legal work for the adoption, and obtaining amended birth certificates.

How many adoptions have you completed?

John Chally and our other attorneys have been practicing adoption law since 1975 and have worked on over 3,500 adoptions.

How many adoptions do you typically handle each year?

Our attorneys handle approximately 150 adoption-related cases each year.

How much does the average independent adoption cost?

The total cost of an independent adoption usually ranges from $18,000 to $26,000. However, these costs can vary widely based on the complexity of the case and the birth mother's financial need. Please see Fees and Expenses for more information.

Can you represent us even if we live outside of Oregon or Washington? What about if the birth mother lives outside of Oregon or Washington?

We handle adoption cases where at least one party is living in Oregon or Washington. As long as the birth mother lives in one of these two states, we can represent adoptive parents living anywhere in the United States or abroad. If you live in Oregon or Washington, we can work with you no matter where the birth mother lives.

If you and the birth mother live in different states, you will need to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPA) before you move the child across state lines. Our attorneys will guide you through this process.

How many adoptive families are usually waiting to be matched?

We typically have between 12 and 16 adoptive families waiting to be chosen by a birth mother.

What is the average age of children who have been placed with your adoptive families?

Virtually all of the children we help to place are newborns.

At what age does an individual need to give consent to be adopted?

Adults and children age 14 or older must give consent to be adopted.

What is the most common race/ethnicity of children who are placed with your adoptive families?

The pool of children being placed for adoption reflects both the diversity of the community they are born into and the cultural beliefs of birth parents. Most of the children who have been placed with our adoptive parents are Caucasian, with the next largest group being Hispanic.

How do you find birth mothers?

Many of our birth mothers are referred to us by counselors, clinics, or other attorneys. Some birth mothers learn about us from our website and contact us directly. We are not allowed to advertise in general to solicit birth mothers, but we can and do advertise specific adoptive parents who are hoping to adopt.

We also work with clients who find birth mothers on their own, either before they retain our services or during the course of working with us. They may find birth mothers by networking among family and friends or by working with another adoption attorney or agency.

Do you ever refuse to work with birth mothers?

We rarely decline to work with a birth mother. The adoptive families we represent have a wide range of expectations and tolerances. Many of them, like us, are interested above all in finding loving homes for children, regardless of the birth parents' circumstances. As a result, we do not reject birth mothers because of drug or alcohol use, physical or mental illness, or minor criminal backgrounds.

Of course, you will never be pressured to proceed with an adoption if you are not comfortable with the birth mother or her situation. We encourage all adoptive parents to spend time getting to know potential birth parents and to follow their instincts as they make their choice.

How do you ensure the physical and mental health of a birth mother and the child?

We know that adoption can be an intense and overwhelming experience, and that you are deeply invested in the health and safety of the child you hope to adopt. We also understand the desire to know as much as possible about the birth mother and child before the birth and to protect the child's safety during the pregnancy.

Unfortunately, adoptive parents simply cannot control – and often cannot know – the prenatal conditions provided by a birth mother. Birth mothers choose adoption for many reasons, including poverty, drug or alcohol use, and mental illness, all of which may affect their ability to experience an ideal pregnancy. However, we also find that most birth mothers choose adoption for the benefit of the child, and are truly invested in protecting the child and giving him the best chance for a happy and healthy life.

We encourage adoptive parents to listen to their instincts about the birth mothers they meet, to carefully review the information they have access to, and to get to know and become involved with the birth parents as much as both parties are comfortable with.

Will we choose a birth mother, or will she choose us?

The birth mother selects the adoptive parents she is interested in meeting by reviewing family profiles or responding to advertisements. When you meet with interested birth parents in an open adoption arrangement, both parties have an opportunity to get to know each other and decide if they wish to proceed.

Can we view and choose from profiles of birth mothers?

In both open and closed adoptions, birth mothers select potential adoptive parents by reviewing their profiles or responding to advertisements, not the other way around. You will not have the opportunity to view profiles of birth mothers, but in an open adoption you will be able to meet and spend time with any potential match.

How will we be matched with a birth mother?

Adoptive parents are matched with birth mothers in a variety of ways. We work with many birth mothers who have been referred to us by agencies, counselors, or other attorneys, or who have found our information online. We show these women the profiles of adoptive families who match their expectations and arrange meetings with those they are interested in.

Many adoptive parents also have success with formal and informal advertising. We can assist you in placing print and web advertisements for birth mothers. We also strongly encourage you to network among your own family, friends, and coworkers. Tell everyone you know that you are hoping to adopt. It is not unusual for adoptive parents to learn of a birth mother through casual conversation with friends or acquaintances.

How long will it take for us to be chosen by a birth mother?

The time it takes to connect adoptive parents with birth parents varies widely based on individual circumstances, including the expectations and desires of both parties. Some adoptive parents are chosen very quickly, while others may wait a year or more.

If you are not being connected with birth parents as quickly as you would like, we can work with you to advertise or take other steps to increase your chances of being chosen.

How can we increase the likelihood that a birth mother will choose us?

We have found that two factors greatly affect adoptive parents' success in being chosen by birth parents: degree of openness, and networking and advertising.

Adoptive parents who have the most success tend to be seeking an open adoption, including post-placement contact and visits. They also tend to be open to a variety of ethnicities, and to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Successful adoptive parents also tend to network widely among family, friends, and acquaintances; advertise for potential birth mothers; and carefully construct and revise their family profiles. We can assist and advise you on all of these activities.

Would it help us to advertise and network while preparing to adopt?

Yes! We have found that advertising and networking is one of the most important things adoptive parents can do to increase the speed and likelihood of being chosen by a birth mother. While paying for print or web advertising does not guarantee a match, many of our clients have found that it has resulted in successful and faster connections with birth mothers. We also encourage all of our clients to use their personal networks of family, friends, and coworkers to spread the word that they are looking to adopt.

Can we work with you at the same time that we work with an adoption agency or another adoption attorney?

We welcome adoptive parents to work with more than one adoption attorney or agency in their quest to adopt a child. If you locate a birth mother without us, we would be happy to assist with finalizing your adoption or any other needs you might have.

Can we retain your services even if we are already in contact with a birth mother?

Yes. We provide services for adoptive parents at all stages of the adoption process and can help organize and finalize your adoption.

Will we meet the birth parents before the birth and have contact with them after placement?

Yes. In an open adoption you will meet and have the opportunity to get to know the birth parents before the birth so that all parties can decide if they are comfortable proceeding with one another. You will also come to an agreement about how involved you will be during the pregnancy, and the degree of openness you are seeking after the birth.

What if we are not comfortable with an open adoption?

We strongly recommend open adoptions. We believe they are the most rewarding and beneficial type of adoption for all parties involved, especially the child. And since most birth mothers desire some degree of openness, they are less likely to choose adoptive parents seeking a closed adoption, which can increase your wait time. However, we do occasionally work with clients on closed adoptions.

Will the birth father need to consent to or be aware of the adoption?

The laws regarding birth father notice and consent are complicated and vary based on the home state and the individual circumstances of the birth parents. We will help you determine what steps, if any, you need to take to involve the birth father in the adoption and what to do if that's not possible.

Is a birth mother's husband considered the father even if he is not the biological father of the child?

If a birth mother is living with her husband during the pregnancy, he is considered the legal father even if he is not the biological father, and the state requirements for father notification or consent apply to him. If her husband does not live with her at the time of conception or birth and he is not the genetic father, then an adoption can be completed without his notification or consent.

Do we need to have a different attorney than the birth parents?

Yes, the adoptive parents and birth parents must be represented by separate attorneys. You will be responsible for the birth parents' legal fees.

If we connect you with a birth mother whom we already represent and have a relationship with, we may ask you to find a different lawyer for the remainder of the adoption process so that we can continue to represent her.

Will we be required to have a home study?

All adoptive parents in Washington and almost all adoptive parents in Oregon are required to undergo a home study and obtain a pre-placement report certifying that they can provide a suitable environment for a child. We will assist you with this process.

In Oregon, home studies are not required in stepparent and second-parent adoptions.

Who will perform our home study?

In Oregon your home study will be performed by a licensed adoption agency. In Washington it will be performed by a licensed adoption agency or a social worker who has experience performing home studies. We will guide you through the process of arranging and completing your home study.

If we have completed a home study in our home state but want to adopt in Oregon or Washington, will we need to complete a second home study?

For a Washington adoption, you will not need to repeat your home study. Washington accepts home studies completed in other states.

You may not need to repeat your home study for an Oregon adoption either. A licensed Oregon adoption agency can review your original home study for $150 and certify that it conforms to Oregon standards.

Will our birth mother need financial assistance?

Most birth mothers require some sort of financial assistance. This may include uninsured medical expenses; living expenses, including rent, utilities, and food; transportation; maternity clothing; counseling; and attorney fees.

Are we eligible to receive adoption assistance?

Adoption assistance is financial assistance provided by the government for adoptive parents who could ordinarily afford to care for a child, but who are adopting a child with special needs that require more financial support than the family can provide. This assistance is only available through public or private agency adoptions.

Are we eligible for the adoption tax credit?

Many families are eligible to take advantage of an adoption tax credit for expenses incurred or paid during the adoption of a child.

According to the IRS, “The adoption tax credit offsets qualified adoption expenses, making adoption possible for some families who could not otherwise afford it." Generally, you may qualify for the adoption credit if you adopted a child and paid qualified expenses relating to the adoption. If you attempt to adopt a U.S. child, you may be able to claim the credit even if the adoption does not become final.

For the 2015 filing year, adoptive parents with a modfied adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $201,010 are eligible for a partial credit. Adoptive parents with a MAGI of more than $241,920 may not claim the credit.

For more information, please visit the IRS website or consult an accountant: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html

When will we get to take the baby home?

You will be able to take the baby home once he is medically cleared to leave the hospital and the birth parents have given their irrevocable consent to the adoption. This usually happens within a few days of the birth.

When will our adoption be finalized?

In Oregon an adoption is finalized when the court issues a General Judgment of Adoption, usually three to five months after the child is born. The birth parents will already have given their irrevocable consent, usually within a few days after the birth, and you will have been caring for the child in your home as his court-appointed guardians since that time.

In Washington an adoption is finalized when the court issues the Decree of Adoption, usually about two months after the child is born. The birth parents will have given their irrevocable consent before the birth or shortly afterwards, and you will have been granted temporary custody to care for the child in your home since that time.

How will we get our child's birth certificate, and whose names will be on it?

Your child's original birth certificate will be issued at the hospital and will include the birth mother's name and the name she chooses for the child. Our attorneys make all the necessary arrangements to have an amended birth certificate issued that includes your child's new name, if applicable, and lists you as the parents. We are usually able to send you the new birth certificate within 6 to 8 months after the child's birth.

When the amended birth certificate is issued, the original one is sealed. In Oregon, an adopted individual may request his original birth certificate when he reaches the age of 16.

What if the birth mother changes her mind before or after the birth and doesn't want to place the child for adoption?

A birth mother has the right to decide to keep her child at any point throughout the pregnancy and birth, up until the time her consent becomes irrevocable. In both Oregon and Washington, and in both independent and agency adoptions, this usually takes place within a few days of the child's birth.

It is rare for a birth mother to decide she wants to parent the child late in the pregnancy or immediately after the birth. If this happened, however, we would work with you to find a different birth mother and child.

After the birth mother's consent becomes irrevocable, she cannot change her mind and parent the child, even if your adoption is not officially finalized yet.

What if we change our mind before or after the birth and don't want to adopt the child?

While it is rare for adoptive parents to choose not to adopt after a child is born, you have the right to decide not to adopt a child at any time before the court issues a General Judgment of Adoption in Oregon or a Decree of Adoption in Washington. This usually happens two to five months after the child is born. After that time you will have the same legal responsibilities to the child as if she had been born to you.

What if the birth parents don't uphold the Open Adoption Agreement in terms of contact or visits with the child?

It is rare for birth parents to fail to honor the Open Adoption Agreement. Most of them are eager to be involved in the child's life. In the unlikely event that they do fail to uphold it, the Agreement is enforceable by law.

What if we decide after the birth that we don't want the birth parents in contact with our child after all?

Most adoptive parents find that contact with the birth parents greatly enriches their child's life, and want to protect and nurture that relationship. The Open Adoption Agreement, which specifies the type and frequency of visits the birth parents and child will have, is legally binding unless the welfare of the child is at risk.


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