When I handled my first adoption in 1960 – about 10,000 cases ago - California was the only state in which the law encouraged birth mothers to choose adopting parents personally. In the rest of the country, adoptions were secretive and rare. Adoption agencies insisted that a mother relinquish her child and go away without ever knowing who adopted her baby.
In an independent adoption (also called a direct placement), the choice of adopting parents is the mother’s (and, on occasion, the birth father’s, too). She can meet the adopting family if she wants to, or she can choose to simply talk to them on the phone and see their pictures. But no matter what a birth mother decides to do, she’ll know all about the adoptive parents: who they are; what they do; how much money they make; how long they’ve been married; if they own their own home; if they have any other children; their religion, lifestyles, etc. There is nothing the birth mother cannot know before she makes her adoption decision.
Collaborative adoption combines some features of both direct placement and agency adoptions. In a collaborative adoption, an adoption agency agrees to place the baby with the family chosen by the birth mother. The agency completes a home study of the adopting parents before the baby’s birth, and can, therefore, accept final relinquishments from the birth parents promptly.
Until recently, adoption agencies selected adopting parents for a child themselves, without the participation of the birth mother. Often the baby was placed in a foster home until the agency found a permanent family for the infant. Although most agencies no longer practice this way, some still refuse to permit a birth mother to participate in the choice of the adoptive family, or know who they are.
Some people proclaim and promote "Open Adoption," in which birth parents play an active role in their child's upbringing, as "the wave of the future". Advocates argue that the child cannot know his or her roots without visits from or on-going contact with the birth parents. Others disagree.
There are several places to find an adoption professional. Many adoption practitioners are licensed to practice, but others are not.