“Facilitator” is a controversial word in the adoption community. Frankly, here at Purl, we always work very hard to ensure people understand we are NOT A FACILITATOR, and what we do instead (more on that later). But facilitators are so prevalent in adoption related advertising, that it is important for prospective adoptive families to understand what these entities are, and how their state’s laws treats facilitator before beginning a domestic infant adoption journey.
What is an Adoption Facilitator?
First off, what IS an adoption facilitator? Typically when someone refers to an adoption facilitator, they are referring to an unlicensed person or entity who is taking payment for assisting with or making a match between an expectant parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) for the purposes of adoption. Facilitator fees typically range somewhere between $5,000 – $25,000 for just the facilitator’s fee, not including any other adoption costs the family will incur to complete the adoption. Once a prospective adoptive parent pays the facilitator this matching fee, they then usually still need to hire an attorney or an agency to actually handle the legal placement of the child. Sometimes the facilitator’s fee is simply for the match alone and the facilitator has little contact with the expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents after the match. In other cases, the facilitator acts much more like a placing agency, providing support or resources to expectant parents and adoptive parents.
According to the Child Welfare Gateway’s report on the Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements, there are approximately 43 States, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa that have laws that regulate or affect the use of facilitators.* Facilitators are strictly prohibited in some states, while some states allow them only in circumstances where the placement occurs through a licensed agency or attorney. Popular facilitators are based out of California and Pennsylvania where facilitators are expressly allowed under their laws. Yet facilitators often market themselves to expectant parents and adoptive parents across the country, and many prospective adoptive parents do not realize the distinction between a facilitator, a licensed adoption agency or a licensed adoption attorney. We also see it where an adoption agency is licensed in one state, but acts as a facilitator in other states where they are not licensed. Note that while a facilitator may be illegal in many states, the courts don’t often penalize the adoptive parents at finalization who have utilized a facilitator in their adoptions, and often the courts do not have a way of impacting the facilitator directly when they are outside of the court’s jurisdiction.
Purl’s Thoughts on Facilitators
So what are our thoughts at Purl on facilitators? The best analogy I can come up with is that I wouldn’t pay for an unlicensed contractor to do a full remodel on my home, so why would I pay an unlicensed professional to help me do something as important as adopting my child? Let’s think first about why someone uses a licensed contractor for a remodel. Typically it is to have some assurance about the quality of the workmanship, but even more so it is about having a place to seek recourse if things go wrong, which they so often do in that situation. If a licensed contractor takes off with your money or doesn’t complete a job satisfactorily, the homeowners can contact the Registrar of Contractors in their respective state and seek recourse against that contractor. The contractor’s license could be revoked in egregious situations and the public can research and review the record of complaints against the contractor prior to hiring them.
Similarly, if you are working with an agency licensed in your state, if something goes wrong, you can contact the state agency that regulates the adoption agency to report the misconduct. If you are working with a licensed attorney in your state, you can contact the State Bar to report any of the lawyer’s misconduct. In both settings, there will likely be an investigation and findings on the respective agency or attorney’s conduct, and in egregious situations, the licenses of the entities or individual can be suspended or even revoked.
Sadly, like with general contractors, there is a lot of YUCK in the adoption community. It has been frankly difficult for me (Katie, Founder/CEO) to stomach the practices I have seen and learned about in the adoption world since starting Purl five years ago. I have found firsthand that the type of entity does not make the professional itself good or bad. There are good adoption agencies, bad adoption agencies, attorneys doing things ethically/well, and other attorneys doing things very unethically. I know the same holds true with adoption facilitators, as, along with the horror stories I’ve heard about some facilitators, I have heard reports from a friend who received great support, education and preparation from a facilitator they adopted through in California. But we have heard a lot of accounts of facilitators never meeting in person with the expectant mom, not getting adequate proof of pregnancy, and otherwise washing their hands of issues that result because of that. Adopting through a facilitator does not mean your experience will necessarily be bad, illegal or unethical. Conversely, being a licensed agency or attorney does not mean that the professional is necessarily doing things well or ethically, it just means you have a place to go when they don’t! Because facilitators are not licensed, we never personally recommend a facilitator to our Purl Families when preparing and educating them for their adoption journey, and we always caution our families about the lack of recourse if/when they choose to work with a facilitator.
One other thing to be weary of are intermediaries (who usually say they aren’t facilitators) who charge a fee (often $100 – 150) to show your profile to an expectant parent through another adoption professional. Be advised that there are likely somewhere like 75 waiting families for every one baby being placed for adoption. So, in those cases, professionals are often receiving 50-100 applications for one case, which means the professional is making $15,000 off that one case! You will have no assurance that your profile was actually shown, because I hope that no responsible adoption professional is overwhelming an expectant mother with 75-100 adoptive family profiles. But even more concerning to us in these situations, is that you don’t know anything about the professional handling the placement. To me, the adoption professional making placement is a VERY important part of the process and it impacts the experience the expectant parents have and you have. So at Purl, we are always cautious about any Purl families presenting to a case where they are not told the placing professional.
So What Does Purl Do Instead, and How Do You Help Families?
Some people often mistake us at Purl for a facilitators. But we have absolutely no contact with expectant parents, and we are not involved in making a match between an expectant parent and an adoptive parent. We work exclusively for prospective adoptive parents, and the fees for Purl’s services are due upon engaging us and cover our time providing coaching, education, expertise, design services, as well as offering the lifetime Purl community and relationships that help our prospective adoptive parents through the adoption process and after placement. All matches between expectant parents and adoptive parents are made by licensed adoption professionals that we refer our families to directly for assistance. We have found that prospective adoptive parents are not getting the necessary preparation, education and support from home study agencies and placing professionals. There is little by way of adoption education on important topics like transracial adoption, drug/alcohol exposure in utero, mental health considerations, open adoption, how to prepare an adoption profile, how to communicate with expectant parents, and what things to look for in an adoption professional. There is also little support by adoption professionals for how to actually be a parent to a child through adoption after placement, since there will be added factors to parenting a child who has been separated from their biological family at birth and adopted. So that’s where we come in. We will prepare you for the adoption process, guiding you through that process, and getting you in the hands of competent – and licensed – adoption professionals to help match you with an expectant parent considering adoption for their child. But most importantly, we will also better prepare you and provide resources to learn from all members of the triad (but particularly the often underrepresented adoptees and birth parents) for life post-placement, so that you can be better parents to your child. Now, while our focus is preparation, education and community, we are also well networked within the adoption world, and adoption professionals often contact us about our families or search our Purl Families page to find prepared, educated and diverse prospective adoptive parents. Our families often match faster because of the support, guidance and network we have brought our Purl Families through our services.
So What Should I Look For When Considering an Adoption Professional?
Obviously, we think the best way to adopt domestically is to hire Purl to help guide you through the infant adoption process. But if you can’t work with us or you choose to instead navigate this on your own, we encourage you to:
- Understand the type of entity you are working with, and whether they are an attorney, licensed agency or a facilitator
- Understand who is allowed to match/make placements under your state’s laws – we encourage you to engage or do a consultation with an experienced adoption attorney in your state. A good way to find one is on the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys website, where they require their attorneys to do a certain amount of adoptions before becoming a fellow in the Academy. They can also give you ideas on professionals they have worked with that have done things well in their state.
- Check the Google, Yelp, Facebook and any other review platform about the entity before you engage them or pay any substantial money up front. If there are a lot of negative reviews, I would use extreme caution before proceeding.
- Be very weary of cases where you have to pay a fee to apply. You have no assurance that you’re actually being presented and there is no way a professional can actually present all the applications that are received. This is typically a money-making tactic for the professional collecting the fees.
- Be very weary of presenting to cases where you don’t know the identity of the placing professional, since that is a very important piece of the puzzle in an adoption journey.
- Understand how many adoptive families the professional works with as well as how many adoption placements they are doing per year. Even if an adoption professional does things well, if they are rarely doing any adoptions, or have so many adoptive families they are working with and responsible for matching, we wouldn’t recommend paying too much upfront to sign on with them, and we would encourage you to sign up with other professionals as well, rather than putting all your eggs in that basket.
- Be cautious of any professional who talks primarily about the speed of an adoption journey or makes promises about the speed, as that speed will often come at a price of an adoption not done well/responsibly.
- Be cautious of any professional who only talks positively about adoption and does not acknowledge the trauma that exists in adoption and child welfare generally, this is a complicated area and while there is beauty in it, there is always loss.
We hope this piece helps you better understand what facilitators are, what we do at Purl that is different, and helps you in your own adoption journey!