When my husband and I first decided to pursue adoption, we had no idea where to begin. We knew different agencies handled different adoptions, but how should we go about selecting an agency? On paper, everyone looked good, but after several rounds of interviews we finally made our selection. Our agency has seen us through two adoptions from two different countries over the last five years, and we think the world of them. Though the selection process was difficult, I’m glad we took the time to ask the right questions. Here’s what you need to know:
The first thing to consider when choosing an agency is, Where are they based? Ours happened to be headquartered out of state but had a regional office right down the road. This proved important when questions came up and we wanted some face time with our social worker and country program manager. If you are pursuing domestic adoption, does the agency operate in multiple states? Do they support both open and closed adoptions? Are they an “A to Z” agency, meaning they can handle everything from your home study to your post placement reports, or does the agency just handle matching and placements?
- Placement Statistics
Every agency is different in terms of their breadth of work. Be sure to ask how many children they placed last year. For international adoptions, which countries do they work with and how many children were referred last year? Does the agency place children with single parents or same sex couples? A great question is: “How many children have you placed with families that are like mine?”
The timing of your adoption is important. Find out the average timeline from application to home study, from home study to approval, and from approval to referral. For domestic adoptions, what is the average length of wait until matching? Are there things you and the agency can do to shorten the wait? For international, what is the wait from referral to travel? Is there anything (such as awaiting regional court approval in country) that can extend the wait? If so, is there anything the agency can do? What does the agency do to help families as they wait?
It’s no secret that adoption can be expensive. What is the average cost of your prospective program? Does the agency require all the fees upfront? Do they charge more (typically 4%) if a family pays by credit card? Are any of the fees on a sliding scale based on income? For both domestic and international, there can be pricey travel expenses involved. Is there a breakdown of other fees necessary to complete your child’s adoption?
How does the agency present a prospective adoptive parent’s profile? How do they present the birth mother’s profile? How does the agency handle birth mother expenses? Do you pay the agency and they allocate the funds, or do you pay directly, or through a monthly stipend? What happens if a match falls through? Is there an attorney on staff licensed in state? What is the agency’s communication frequency with both the birth mother and the prospective adoptive parents like throughout the process?
How long has the agency been working in the country you’re considering? How many families are currently waiting in the country’s program? How are referrals handled? Do they have in-country reps? How does the agency get information from the orphanage/foster family after you have been matched with a child? What kind of support do they offer when you travel? What happens if a country closes? Can you switch programs? How do they handle communication between referral and travel?
It may not be at the top of your mind now, but it’s important to learn what kind of post-placement support the agency offers its families. If your child has medical or behavioral issues, will they help you navigate the system to get the resources and services your child needs? What about support for the parents? Do they offer any groups or guidance?
Unsure where to begin? Call and request information packets from multiple agencies. Look at their websites and read testimonials. If after your interview with the agency you think it might be a good fit, ask if there is a recent adoptive family you can talk to from your same program. It may seem like a lot of questions, but any good agency will be both prepared and willing to answer your questions.