It’s common for families considering adoption to wonder how to choose an adoption agency. Adoption is not always an easy process, and having the right professional helping you through it can make all the difference. But how do you find an adoption agency?
It can be an overwhelming decision; there are a lot of adoption agencies out there. To help you being narrowing it down, we’ve come up with a list of four questions you may want to ask yourself in the beginning stages of the selection process.
1. What type of adoption are you interested in?
The type of adoption you’re interested in pursuing may affect the type of adoption professional you need. For example, if you’re ready to adopt a stepchild or relative who currently lives with you, you’re probably going to require much less assistance than in many other types of adoption. In this scenario, you may safely be able to get away with using only an adoption attorney.
However, if you’re pursuing international adoption or private domestic adoption, which is the adoption of a baby who was born in the United States, you’ll need more in the way of adoption services. In this instance, you’ll most likely need a matching service that connects you with birth parents or a child who is waiting for adoption, as well as someone to walk you through each step of the process. For a private domestic adoption or international adoption, it may be a better plan to work with a full-service adoption agency.
Different agencies specialize in different types of adoption, so knowing what type of adoption situations you’re interested in may help you narrow down the list of agencies you could work with as well. For example, some specialize in international adoptions from certain countries, while others focus on the placement of children with certain special needs.
2. What adoption services do you need?
Different adoption professionals offer different services, which is something to be aware of when deciding which one you should choose. Particularly for those interested in private domestic adoption, here are some of the services you may need an adoption agency to provide:
- Matching services – If you don’t already know who you would like to adopt, choosing an adoption agency that offers matching services is extremely important. Some agencies have better systems than others, so you’ll want to understand the matching process before choosing someone to help you find your child. It may also be beneficial to work with an agency who emphasizes advertising; the more clients the agency works with, the more likely you’ll have a shorter wait time for your match.
- Financial protection – There’s a lot that goes into adoption, and it can be expensive. Before committing to working with any one agency, ask what will happen in the event of an adoption disruption. A disruption is when you’ve matched with a potential birth mother who changes her mind about her adoption decision. While most agencies try to prevent this scenario, it’s inevitable that it will occasionally happen. Different agencies handle the financial aspect in different ways; some keep your money, some apply it automatically to a different adoption situation, and others give it back to you so you can decide how to proceed.
- Contact mediation – While adoptions used to be closed and secretive, this isn’t a scenario considered ideal by today’s standards. Instead, most adoption professionals now recommend at least some degree of openness, or communication with the birth parents, as this benefits all members of the adoption triad. Most likely, this will be foreign territory for both you and the birth parents. Adoption is an extremely emotional experience, and you may not know what to say. Some adoption agencies offer assistance with communicating with birth parents — both before and after placement — and this may be something you need in terms of adoption services.
- Legal services – When choosing an adoption agency, ask if you’ll be provided with a trusted adoption attorney — and whether or not that service is included in the total adoption cost estimate.
- Screening services – Before selecting an adoption agency, you may want to ask what kind of screening process they employ for both birth parents and adoptive families. It’s important that everyone be fully committed to adoption, just as it’s important that the birth mom and her baby be healthy and safe and that the adoptive family be capable of providing a safe home for a child.
- Counseling and education — Any adoption professional you work with should be doing their best to make sure you understand exactly what’s happening at every phase of the process, but that doesn’t mean the information should stop there. Some adoption agencies offer counseling to birth mothers (possibly even round the clock) to help them work through one of the most difficult times of their lives, and this isn’t a service to underestimate. If a potential birth mom doesn’t feel comfortable with her adoption situation, this isn’t good for the adoptive family or the future child either.
It’s also possible that you don’t need each of these services. Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, the services you require may vary. For example, if you’re pursuing international adoption, you’ll need an agency that will assist you with the travel and immigration process. If you’re instead hoping to adopt from foster care, you’ll want an agency that can help you navigate the state services and assistances your child may qualify for.
3. What’s your adoption budget?
Some agencies charge more than other professionals, and some charge less. However, never choose an adoption professional just because they quote you a cheaper total adoption price. The wide range in prices is due to the wide range of services offered — and a wide range of quality of service as well. The type of adoption your agency completes will also have a significant impact on total adoption costs. For example, adopting from foster care may cost less than private domestic adoption. Adopting from foster care may cost up to $2,500, while private domestic adoption can cost up to $50,000.
4. Do you prefer a national agency or a local agency?
When it comes to adoption agencies, there are two different kinds — national and local. Adoption agencies are the only type of adoption professional that are both licensed and regularly reviewed by the government. A local agency is licensed only in the state they work in, while a national agency will likely be licensed in multiple states.
A local agency, then, is reviewed every year by the state to ensure it’s complying with all laws and regulations. A national agency is reviewed multiple times per year by each state in which it’s licensed, so they’re held to more restrictions and guidelines.
Ultimately, especially when pursuing private domestic adoption, working with a professional that is both licensed and regularly reviewed creates an extra layer of safety for your family. The decision to make here, then, is whether you would prefer a national or local agency. Some feel that working with a local agency provides for a more accessible professional, which they prefer. Others would rather work with a national agency that opens them up to more adoption opportunities across the country.
5. Do you meet the agency’s requirements?
Different adoption agencies may have different requirements when it comes to who they’ll work with. Some agencies are open to working with same-sex couples or single parents, while others are less willing. Some professionals have certain religious affiliations, while others have none. In addition to family structure, some agencies also have different age requirements for adoptive parents.
Not meeting a certain agency’s requirements doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t adopt. You should, however, consider an agency’s requirements when choosing the one that’s the best fit for your family.
The most important thing to remember when choosing an adoption agency is that you have to do what’s best for your individual situation. A national adoption agency may not be the right answer for everyone, but it’s certainly a good route to go when you want to make sure you have all of your bases covered. For more information about how to choose an adoption agency, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has a few tips here.