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TCL > November 2012 Issue > Adoption Law Handbook: Practice, Resources and Forms for Family Law Professionals, The

November 2012       Vol. 41, No. 11       Page  123
Review of Legal Resources

Adoption Law Handbook: Practice, Resources and Forms for Family Law Professionals, The
Reviewed by Matt Dubois

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The Adoption Law Handbook: Practice, Resources,
and Forms for Family Law Professionals

by Jennifer Fairfax
479 pp.; $139.95
ABA Publishing, 2011
321 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654-7598
(800) 285-2221;

Reviewed by Matt Dubois

Matt Dubois is a sole practitioner in Colorado Springs focusing on international issues for tax-exempt organizations, including security, international employment, intellectual property, and religious liberties issues. He is the adopted dad of his 8-year-old Russian daughter. He does extensive work with orphans in North Korea and Northeast China—(719) 651-7243,

If you want a comprehensive overview of adoption in America, look no further than The Adoption Law Handbook (Handbook). The author starts by outlining the adoption process. She then walks you through—from start to finish—the various home study, court, and citizenship legal processes encountered in the adoption system.

For the legal practitioner, the Handbook provides an excellent overview of the many technical concerns that must be addressed when adopting, as well as the personal aspects of dealing with adopting parents. For example, it gives very helpful guidance regarding the various ways to arrange an adoption with birth parents, how to work with adoption agencies, the important process of defining and determining special needs requirements, and how to take advantage of state and federal adoption assistance programs.

I really like the section on how to avoid scams. (Unfortunately, adoption scammers do exist, and what they do is inconceivable.) The Handbook outlines the types of scams that exist and gives attorneys details to watch out for as they work with adopting clients. It also gives excellent tips to help birth parents and adopting parents protect themselves from these types of scams.

I think that every lawyer working in adoption should read the Handbook for two reasons in particular. First, it provides excellent advice on communicating with birth parents and adopting parents. Through the adoption of my daughter, for example, I learned first-hand how hurtful or unpleasant it can be when people make ill-informed comments about adoption. People will say things like: "Do you have any real children?" (as if my daughter isn’t "real") or "Don’t you want your own child?" (as if she isn’t my child). Although these types of questions aren’t (usually) posed with maleficent intent, they can be hurtful to parent and child. The Handbook provides good information on terminology and the importance of this communication issue in adoption.

The second reason I highly recommend this book is its extensive discussion of the conflict of laws issues involved in interstate and international adoption. In the United States, each state has its own adoption laws, home-study requirements, and placement process. Despite the attempts at uniform adoption acts and the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children, interstate adoption is complicated and expensive. This can be compounded in an international adoption. The Handbook reviews the applicable laws, provides detailed descriptions on the interactions between competing state adoption laws, and gives the practitioner a very good introduction to the legal issues and the research that will need to be done in any specific case.

In addition to these specifics, the Handbook is well organized. It also provides helpful checklists and forms, and among other things, discusses Native American adoption requirements and issues, adult adoptions, and nontraditional family adoptions. I strongly encourage any lawyer working in the area of adoption—as well as other adoption professionals, such as adoption counselors or home-study directors—to read this book.

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