The journey toward finding the right adoption attorney can be long and muddled, but it can also be short and tidy. The important thing is that you develop a relationship with a lawyer who is reputable, attentive to your concerns, and dedicated to finding the right child for your family. How do you start your search for a trustworthy legal lion? Here are some ideas:

1. Attend Adoption Seminars

It is common for larger adoption agencies to hold informational meetings in houses of worship or local meeting places that introduce curious couples to the ins and outs of the adoption process, including home studies, wait times, and fees. Since potential parents are still gathering information, it is assumed that some may be interested in learning more about private adoption, which offers a different set of involvement in the birth mother search and post-placement openness. My husband and I attended one such seminar at a local church, and the social worker leading it was able to to give us the numbers of two distinguished adoption attorneys in the area, both of whom were ready to meet with us and respond respectfully to our questions.

2. Do Some Educated Research

You can start by searching for lawyers in your area who are members of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA.) This esteemed organization of 60 lawyers has counseled at least fifty proceedings, including ten interstate placements, and are required to practice according to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. When you are looking at reviews, see what clients have to say about lawyers’ clarity and approachability throughout the process. Remember, although they are the experts, you should never feel confused about what to expect throughout your journey, and you should certainly never feel put down because there is something you don’t know.

3. Ask Around

While word-of-mouth is one of the most old-fashioned ways to look for recommendations, it is still one of the most reliable. When my husband and I began our journey, my aunt found out that her handyman’s daughter had adopted two children privately. She put us in touch and I was able to get the name of her attorney as well as a realistic idea of the private adoption process. While it may not always work out, it helps to let loyal acquaintances know that you are looking, as they may know folks with successful adoption stories who can be resources for you.

4. Join an Adoption Support Group

Online social media adoption support groups are a great way to meet folks who will make you think, “I’m glad it’s not just me!” If you ask for attorney recommendations in your area, you may find the same names coming up several times, and successful adoption stories that will give you a blueprint for your future.

5. Trust Your Instincts

There are a number of sensitive issues involved when you are a prospective adoptive parent or birth mom, and it is important to feel confident that your lawyer will treat these issues with care and sensitivity. As with all decisions, it is important to listen to your gut if you are feeling disrespected, misunderstood, or just insecure when meeting with potential attorneys. If, however, you are confident in your findings about the lawyer’s reputation, character, and emotional intelligence, chances are that you have made a great match and can look forward to an exciting adventure!

Rebekah Yahoves is a writer, mother, and music teacher from Long Island. In 2016, she adopted three school-aged siblings from Poland at the same time. When she isn’t constructing casseroles or tuning violins, Rebekah likes to go on tea binges and read.