One question I’ve started hearing more lately is “How do I pick an adoption agency?” I know this is a very important decision for families and I wanted to take the time to address it. The decision to place a child or adopt one is one of the most important decisions someone can make. You may have heard stories of adoptions gone wrong. Prospective adoptive parents need to be able to trust their adoption services providers. No one with a heart to adopt, regardless of the type of adoption, wants to have things fall apart because they didn’t do their initial research.
As discussed in some of my other posts and a recent podcast, people pursue adoption in different ways. Some might use an agency for their homestudy only while others may use it for the entire process. We did one each way. Some may even choose different agencies to complete different services. They might complete homestudy requirements with one agency and pursue placement through another. Also adopting through an adoption agency does not prevent you from seeking out separate legal counsel. We had an adoption lawyer for both of our adoptions.
If you do choose to adopt through an agency, you should always choose a reputable, licensed adoption agency. Although licensing requirements vary by state, every state clearly defines which entities can place children. There are also certain standards those agencies need to meet and maintain. The minimum standards that are set for these agencies include educational qualifications, training requirements, and regulations governing the storage of records. I would discourage anyone from pursuing adoption with anyone other than a licensed adoption agency or full-service adoption attorney. Learn more about how to ensure an agency is licensed here.
If the agency is working in other countries, it needs to be Hague-accredited. This means that the agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation to offer services to families adopting from countries that have ratified and ascended to the Hague Treaty which governs Inter-country adoption.
It’s our job as adoptive parents, or prospective adoptive parents, to care about the ethics of agencies and to choose an agency that shows true respect for the birth parents and a desire to serve them. The truth is that adoptive parents also benefit when birth parents are well counseled, and respected. It’s better for everyone when birth parents receive the support and respect they deserve.
Aside from ensuring you are working with a legitimately licensed agency, it’s up to you who you choose to work with. In our case, we went to a free informational meeting and got a feel for the agency. We also did our own agency research before deciding to work with them. Also, the agency we chose shared a worldview that aligned with our own.
There are some great questions you can ask a potential agency before deciding if you would like to work with them. Some of these could include the following.
What counseling or support, if any, do you offer birth parents?
How do you locate potential birth mothers?
What is your fee structure and timeline for expected payments?
Is there a certain type of adoption you specialize in/ or encourage?
Do you have more experience with open or closed adoption? What is the norm with your agency?
How many children has your agency successfully placed within the last year? How many failed placements?
What is your current average wait time?
How many waiting families are there currently with your agency?
What requirements does the agency have for prospective adoptive parents?
What type of pre-adoption education does the agency provide?
How long has the agency existed?
What does the agency offer in terms of post-adoption support services?
What educational materials, such as books or organizations do you suggest?
Can the agency provide references from several families that have adopted through the agency? Can they produce references for the type of adoption you are considering?
What is this agency’s experience and background in the type of adoption you want to pursue?
If you are pursuing international adoption, can the agency account for and explain its activities and available support in-country? What are the state laws under which the agency must operate?
Don’t Rush This
Don’t rush this important part of the beginning of your adoption journey. If you meet with an agency or adoption lawyer and it does not feel right, do not settle. Find an agency you feel good about working with. Make sure the agency is licensed. Read what you can about them online, including any reviews you can find. If basic questions you ask are a struggle for the agency to answer, move on and look for another agency to interview.
Look for experienced professionals. Expect and demand professionalism, knowledge and high-quality training. Agency staff should be able to readily provide their background, educational qualifications, years of experience, etc. Expect high-quality pre-adoption orientation, education, and training. Expectant/birth parents and adoptive parents need and deserve quality pre- and post-adoption services and support. The goal of adoption is not to place a child in a family, but for a child to thrive in a family. A good agency will always operate under this philosophy.
Look for an agency whose information you trust. The agency should always tell you about all your options, explain any issues happening in specific countries, provide a timeline, and be upfront with all fees. Don’t fall for the first agency that makes promises they can’t substantiate.
Pay attention to the level of responsiveness. If they are not prompt in answering you now, don’t expect them to be different just because you decide to work with them. Even a professional, licensed adoption agency might not be the best fit for you. You must be prepared to do your homework, look at all the available options, and ask questions…lots of questions. This is the only way to ensure you are choosing the best agency for you.
If one of your concerns with adoption is how you might afford it, you may like to check out my new eBook loaded with ideas on how to fund adoption.