If your adoption drags on and on, or if you keep getting birth mother matches or child referrals that don’t come close to your requirements, you’ll have to think about making a change.
An adoption agency or attorney should be willing to refund at least part of your fee if you raise reasonable concerns that it hasn’t been earned. Generally, procedures are in place to settle fee disputes. If no other avenue is successful, consider a lawsuit, bearing in mind the high expense (and aggravation) of litigation.
The first step is to look at the contract governing your relationship. Under what circumstances are fees refundable? Has the professional performed the services agreed upon? What does the agreement say will be done if an adoption doesn’t happen? How will fee disputes be handled?
If your adoption professional is an attorney, rules of professional conduct govern his or her practice. Each state has rules similar or identical to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Model Rule 1.5 prohibits a lawyer from collecting an “unreasonable fee.” Factors that determine whether the fee is reasonable include time, labor, and expenses involved — and results obtained. A fee can’t be reasonable if nothing’s been done to earn it. This common-sense proposition should hold true, no matter who is being paid to handle an adoption. Each state has a grievance commission that investigates complaints filed against attorneys, and a mechanism to impose disciplinary measures if violations are found. Contact your state bar association or state supreme court to find out where to file a complaint or request an investigation of an attorney’s behavior.
Similarly, an adoption agency is regulated by its licensing entity, which investigates and processes complaints, and has the ability to suspend or revoke the agency’s license to do business. In most states social workers are licensed, too. The licensing entity may be the state’s department of social services, department of consumers and industry, or some other board or department.
If you have been working with an adoption facilitator, you will have to negotiate a mutual agreement. They are unlicensed and unregulated, and you have no recourse if things go wrong.