How to Select an Adoption Agency as Adoptive Parents
So, you’ve decided to grow your family through adoption! You’ve taken time to consider all of your options and you feel strongly that adoption is the right path for you. The next step is deciding who you will work with. This can be much easier said than done. There are many different routes for private infant adoption in the United States, such as attorneys, consultants, or licensed adoption agencies. While there is no one right path to adoption for everyone, there are important factors to think about when looking at different providers. Here are questions all prospective adoptive parents should ask when considering an agency, attorney, or consultant:
- What supports are available to me during the waiting period, while matched with an expectant parent, and after I adopt? The adoption process can be emotional, overwhelming, and confusing. It’s important that you have an adoption professional who recognizes this and can be a support to you throughout the process.
- Are they able to provide me with a breakdown of all their fees and an estimate of their average total cost of an adoption? While it’s well known that adoption is expensive, the actual cost can vary significantly depending on who you work with. As a prospective adoptive parent, you have a right to receive a breakdown of costs so that you can be certain you are selecting the right provider for you. The provider should also be able to explain what their various fees are covering.
- Is this provider able to complete my home study? Some providers, like attorneys or consultants, may only provide matching or legal services, which means you will need to contact a second agency to complete your home study. This may be an added expense that is not included in their list of fees.
- What states do they work with? Some agencies, attorneys, and consultants provide services nationwide, while others work locally or within a few selected states. It is important to know where your provider works so you can account for travel expenses and the possibility of ICPC involvement. The number of states a provider services may also impact their average wait time to adopt.
- How many other prospective adoptive families do they work with? Some providers will work with an unlimited number of families, whereas others have a cap or possibly a waitlist to join their program.
- What information can they provide about the average length of time to adopt? Wait time can vary a lot depending on what a prospective adoptive parent is open to and their personal characteristics, such as age, race/ethnicity, and location. These preferences also apply to what an expectant mother may be looking for. That being said, most providers should be able to give you a rough estimate of the average wait time for families in their program. While they can’t guarantee that you will adopt within that timeframe, it is helpful to know what is typical for their agency.
- What type of support do they offer to expectant parents before and after the place their child? Placing a child for adoption is not an easy decision. It is crucial for expectant parents to have impartial support and guidance as they consider their adoption plan, without pressure to move forward with placing if they are unsure. Best practice often involves an expectant parent having their own individual counselor. Post placement can also be a very difficult time for birth parents. Does the provider you’re considering offer post placement support to birth parents, too?
- Are they a licensed, accredited provider? Unfortunately, the adoption landscape has its fair share of scams and unethical practices. Does the provider you’re considering have a license or other accreditation to prove that they are legally allowed to facilitate adoptions? Furthermore, have you come across any information about them having disreputable practices.
For additional guidance on selecting an adoption provider, we recommend the following resources:
“What to Consider When Choosing an Agency or Adoption Professional”, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, by Lori Holden with Crystal Hass
“Choosing an Adoption Agency”, by Chuck Johnson for Adoption Advocate, a publication of National Council for Adoption
“Ethics in Adoption: 10 Questions about Birthparents that Prospective Adoptive Parents Should Ask When Vetting Agencies”, by Alexis Eyler for On Your Feet Foundation.