Learning about adoption was overwhelming for me. You are not alone in feeling that way! We contacted at least half a dozen agencies and read countless articles online trying to figure out where to start and what to expect. We were not only in distress about how long we had been trying for a baby, but then we learned that we could have anywhere from three months to several years on the waiting list for an adopted baby too. Then factor in the enormous price tag associated with agency adoption and we were dazed. As we began to verbalize we were considering adoption to others; we got all kinds of input. Some of it was amazing and helpful. Others only shared horror stories of adoptions gone wrong or questions of why we weren’t doing IVF like their friend, sister, cousin, neighbor did. We had to take some time and process this. Was it really what we wanted?
Fast forward several months of just setting all the agencies paperwork aside and living life… we hopped back on the train to adoption and settled down and found the right agency for us. But how do you pick the right agency for you? The agency we picked was a small agency located in Ohio that only dealt with Ohio birth mothers and Ohio adoptive families. Their cost was much lower than the national agencies and they had high placement rates with a wait time that averaged 18 months. They were very upfront about their outlooks and what we could expect. They made us feel like we COULD do this and we WOULD be parents again.
One of the top questions I get asked by people considering adoption is: “what agency did you use?” People like to know that they can trust the agency with the task of giving them the family they have dreamed of. So that’s the first place to start. If you know anyone who has adopted, ask them what agency they used. Ask them if they liked the experience. Ask them if there was anything they wish they would have known going in. Some agencies are very commutative with their families while others don’t relay every bite of information as it comes in. You need to decide what you are looking for.
Things you may want to look for in an agency:
- What services do they provide expectant mothers?
- Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
- Do they discriminate against single, transracial or homosexual families?
- How long is their average wait?
- How many families do they work with at any given time?
- How many placements do they do a year?
- What is their fee structure?
- When are the fees due?
- How do they handle expecting mother living expenses?
- Do they have “waiting” support groups or resources for you?
- Do they charge different rates for non-Caucasian children? (I know, it sounds weird, but some do!)
- How do they advertise? Check their website for how they talk to expecting women considering adoption. Are they guiding her in her decision or supporting her no matter what her decision?
- Do they support open adoption?
- How well do they communicate if you email or call with questions?
Go with your gut and don’t sign anything too quickly.
- How do they handle birth fathers? Do they see them as an obstacle or include them in the process?
You are looking for a few things by asking these questions. You need to know how they operate and what will be expected from you so there are no surprises, but you also will be able to learn if they are ethical in their practices. You may be thinking something like, “well I am not gay, so that doesn’t apply to me.” Or “I was planning to adopt an African American child anyhow, so that’s great that the fees are reduced.” But these things do nothing to promote ethical adoption or getting children to their forever families.
All this information can be overwhelming. Hopefully you have found some recommendations from friends or support groups that can help you narrow down your search to a few agencies. Once you start collecting information, you may want to start some file folders to keep each agency separate and you can then go through your own personal checklist of things you like and dislike about each agency. Ultimately, go with your gut. If something feels off, don’t ignore that. Remember they have marketing to keep them afloat and in the business of facilitating adoptions. You have to see through their glitter and make sure they are ethical for everyone involved.
Good luck in your journey!