Girlfriend’s guide to choosing an adoption agency
When we decided to go the domestic infant adoption route, my husband and I were fortunate that through no real calculated effort, we happened to stumble upon an excellent adoption agency. And by “excellent,” I mean two specific things:
- An excellent agency counsels hopeful adoptive parent on two fronts: (1) processing grief to heal the wounds of infertility, and (2) living in open adoption.
- An excellent agency is squeaky-clean in its dealings with both hopeful adoptive parents and expectant parents. Ethics toward expectant parents may not be high on your agency checklist at the front end of an adoption, but make no mistake. It is in your long term interest, and that of your future child, to make sure that your child’s birth parents are also treated ethically.
So plan on doing some research once you hone in on an agency or two. Ask to talk to past customers of adoption services (adoptive parents) and consumers of pregnancy counseling services (birth parents).
Engage head and heart
Needless to say, choosing an adoption agency is one of the biggest decisions you face, because you need to go where your child will be. My advice is to follow both your head and your heart.
How? First, your head. Research the agency by interviewing its counselors and asking to speak with both adoptive parents and birth parents they have served (often an agency will offer a periodic orientation session in which you can do so).
Ask the agency
- What’s the shortest wait you’ve had? What made it so short?
- What’s the longest wait? Why do you think this couple/person had such a long wait? What did you do to help?
- What is a typical wait?
- How many adoption profiles do you have actively waiting at one time?
- How do expectant parents find you?
- What is your counseling approach for expectant parents? (Information on parenting should be easily available to people coming in for pregnancy counseling. The agency should never push, but rather provide information and support.)
- Please explain your fee schedule. (A large portion — up to 1/3 of the total — should be due only after placement.)
- How long after placement does the agency offer counseling and supportive services for birth parents? Does this include birth fathers?
- Describe your post-placement support for adoptive families. And for for birth families.
Ask adoptive parents
- How long was your wait?
- What kind of grief counseling did the agency offer? (Expect some support in healing from infertility so you are ready to parent whole-heartedly).
- What kind of after-adoption support is available? (Look for an agency that provides post-adoption counseling or parenting classes as part of the supervision process).
- What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s birth family? Is it what you wanted it to be?
Ask birth parents
- How did you come by your decision to make an adoption plan? (A good agency will let the expectant parents take the lead and not push them into any option. This is crucial to reducing the risk of expectant parents changing their minds. The decision has to be freely made, and I would run fast from an agency that puts pressure on expectant parents to place a baby.)
- To what degree did you feel supported by the agency?
- If you had a friend who was pregnant and needed help deciding what to do, would you recommend this agency?
- How did you hear about the agency?
- What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s family? Is it what you wanted it to be?
Look for healthy situations where both parties feel well-served and well-represented by an agency. A good agency will make the adoption process collaborative (with the child as the focus), rather than adversarial (where one side’s loss is the other’s gain).
After you gather the facts, let your heart weigh in on the decision. Sit quietly and find out what your intuition tells you. If you have a “feeling” about an agency, go with that feeling. Adoption — like parenting — is a very intuitive process. Adopting with your head and heart will prepare you to parent with your head and heart.
Lori is a mom via open adoption to Tessa, 10, and Reed, 8, and they live in the metro-Denver area. She writes regularly at WriteMindOpenHeart.com about, among other things, de-freakifying open adoption. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield and available in mid-2013.