Adoption is a big responsibility. It is a commitment that goes beyond a few months or years. This is bound to make couples and families nervous. How to choose an adoption agency? Here are some points that you can consider while selecting an adoption agency.
Adoption is not something the western world and culture is unfamiliar with, for adoption dates back to the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church era. With respect to the US, adoption played a crucial role in the post American Civil War period, when orphanages all over the country were flooded. Who can forget Michelle Magorian’s novel ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’, that relayed the account of William Beech, who comes to live with the recluse Tom Oakley? Many have cried as Tom stepped in to adopt William by the end of the book.
However, in the real world, adoption has become a complicated and long process, intertwined with a lot of legal issues. There are many adoption agencies to choose from, and many kinds of adoption programs as well. Each comes with its own benefits. One has to be indeed choosy and careful while picking an adoption agency. But what does that mean; what exactly should you be choosy and careful about? How to choose an adoption agency that will fit all your requirements? Here is a guide on choosing an adoption agency.
Tips to Choose an Adoption Agency
As a couple about to adopt a child, I am sure you have gone through the US Department of Health & Human Service’s Child Welfare website. If not, do it soon. They have an authentic guide that will take you through all aspects of adoption. However, if you go to the website directly, without reading up a bit on your own, it is going to leave you thoroughly confused, for the simple reason that it is exhaustive!
Research and Review
The first step towards adopting a child would be to find out about the adoption agencies in your city and state. There are many different kinds of adoption agencies, from professional to non-profit agencies, from domestic to foster ones. Before you begin to shortlist your prospective agencies, first decide which one is going to suit your needs the best. Accordingly survey the different agencies you know; check out their websites, better still, visit the agency in person. Gather as much information as you can about the agency. Ask them for information booklets, both printed ones and online. However, remember this is only your initial phase, the first step. Do not get drawn into any kind of commitment. Do a thorough background research.
Questionnaires and Queries
Once you have shortlisted the prospective adoption agencies, it is important to ask them the right questions so that you can compare between the different agencies. The best way to do this is to form your own questionnaire and take it to each adoption agency on your list when you visit them. Here is a set of questions that you must include in the questionnaire apart from the ones relevant to your case.
- How many children have you placed so far? How many did you place last year?
- What are the different adoption programs you offer?
- What pre-adoption and post-adoption services do you offer?
- What is the general child adoption procedure?
- How do you ‘match’ a prospective adoptee and adopting family?
- When does home study begin? How long does it last?
- How much time does it take to be directed to a referral?
- How long do I/we have before I/we decide about a referral?
- What is the detailed fee structure for the entire procedure? What does the fee include? How much do I/we have to pay for other procedures or facilities not covered in the fee?
At any point of time, do not hesitate to ask the agency any query you have in mind. It is your right to know what you are getting into. Also make sure you ask all the shortlisted agencies the same set of questions. The best idea would be to print several copies of your questionnaire and fill it when you visit the concerned agency. It will help you make a thorough and fair comparison.
Pre-adoption and Post-adoption Support
Many adoption agencies offer various programs in which prospective families can enroll to learn about the agency, its policies, methods and procedures, etc. The agency also prepares the families for the adoption procedure through pre-adoption programs, help and support. This includes preparing the couple to become parents, explaining the psychological aspects of adoption, educating prospective families about different aspects of adoption, etc. The agencies also (should) have post-adoption help and support that help families deal with different aspects such as evaluation of the placements made by the agency, seeking birth parents, financial help, etc. Both these services, viz. pre-adoption and post-adoption support, are very important and should not be underestimated. Gain in-depth knowledge about them.
People and Placements
Nobody wants to look bad. Adoption agencies are always going to place their best foot forward and tell you about their best cases. However, do not be misled by the rosy picture that the agency paints. Take the time out to talk to other families who also adopted children from the concerned agency. Ask the agency for contact details of the earlier adopting families. Transparency is essential, secrecy should be seen as a red flag. It is important that the agency protects the rights of their clients, but as a prospective client, they should cater to your needs as well. Visit the families in person the agency refers you to. Ask them about all sorts of things that you hesitated or didn’t know how to ask the authorities of the agency about.
Legality and Liaisons
By now you will have narrowed down to one or two agencies at the most. It is time for the last and most important check, and that is: legal issues. As your first step, it will be a good idea to demand the following –
- Written fee break-up along with the time frame about payment.
- Rights reserved by the agency.
- Rights of prospective adopting families.
One of the areas where legality may become an issue is the payment of fees. Hence get a detailed overview about the fee structure. A written break-up will be the best thing. The next legal issue can be: if anything goes wrong (knock on wood!), what rights do you have? What rights do the agency reserve? Ask the adoption agency for a written declaration of such things. One tip I can give here is to consult a good lawyer. He/she can throw light on the different legal aspects of an adoption procedure and what can go wrong at which step. Finally, it is important to know if the adoption agency you have chosen is licensed or not. You can ask the agency to produce proof, or you may contact respective State Licensing Specialist. Another hurdle in the adoption procedure can be the involved liaisons. Liaisons should help you; but they in fact act as a line of defense sometimes, and do not let you get close to the main authorities of the agency. Do not let that happen. If the liaisons are holding you from meeting an authority you want to meet, smell fish and see red.
These days anything that sounds too good to be true is exactly that – too good to be true. Some general pointers to bear in mind while choosing an adoption agency are –
- Does the adoption procedure sound too simple?
- Do the guarantees offered by the agency sound too good?
- Is the agency only concerned about you finding a child, or is it also concerned on behalf of the child finding a good home?
- How exhaustive and stringent was the home study?
- Are the agency personnel educationally qualified to work in an adoption agency?
- How is the overall attitude of the agency? Do they sound too professional/business-like? Are they concerned enough? Do they sound genuine?
Adoption is a noble cause; but the practicalities of it may make you feel anxious. Adopting a child is a lifetime commitment, and hence it is your duty as well as your right to be fully informed about the various aspects of adoption. The most common question that bothers the minds of parents is – is there one perfect adoption agency out there? The answer is – No; but there is one that will be perfect for you. Strive to find the one that’s perfect for you.