It didn't take long for Ruth Landy, 40, and her partner of four years, Elizabeth Landy, 34, to realize that even talking about adoption costs money.
"We'd been checking around for lawyers and a lot of them are pretty pricey," Landy says. "They charge for everything, even when you talk to them on the phone."
That wasn't the case with Hilary Neiman, an attorney who established the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center in Rockville, whom the couple met at The Center - Home for GLBT in Metro D.C., last year during a seminar about adoption.
"She was very approachable," says Ruth. "We felt that she was competent in what she was doing, and we wanted to work with somebody who we thought was going to have our best interest at hand."
Neiman was sharing her insights during The Center's "Building Your Family Through Adoption and Surrogacy" seminar.
Six months after starting the adoption process with Neiman's National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, the couple brought Rachael, a Hispanic 1-month-old, home in mid-August.
Neiman says other prospective gay or lesbian parents can benefit from the speedier process of adopting African-American, biracial and Hispanic babies.
"For the time being, it's a bit harder to go through an international adoption just because of the new regulations," she says. "And Caucasian adoption can often take as long as three or four years. So adopting African-American, biracial and Hispanic babies [is] a lot quicker, and the process is a lot shorter, just because of the availability of the babies.
"We're just seeing a huge amount of available African-American, biracial and Hispanic newborns that are healthy and adoptable," she adds. The process, which ranges in cost from $15,000 to $35,000, can take as few as three to six months.
The process includes a consultation with the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, offered at no cost, and establishing a "parent profile," which in an open adoption is shared with the birth mother.
"Gay and lesbian couples are handled in the same way as heterosexual couples," Neiman says. "The only difference is that a partner would have to do a second-parent adoption. But other than that, the process is exactly the same."
Ruth and Elizabeth Landy did not have a gender or race preference when applying for adoption. They only cared about one thing: "We wanted a healthy baby," Ruth says.
"We told Hilary that we wanted the first available that we could get."
Now the couple is planning on adopting a second child with the help of the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, and Ruth Landy says she would recommend the agency to other gay and lesbian people as well.
"Our goal was reached and we were very happy with Hilary's kindness and competence. There would be no reason why we wouldn't proceed forward."
The National Adoption and Surrogacy Center offers services to Maryland, Virginia and D.C. residents and others. To set up a free consultation, or for more information, call 301-340-7228 or visit www.adoptionandsurrogacycenter.com.