Many people begin their adoption process by looking at local agencies. If you are wondering “what adoption agencies near me should I be considering?” or even “how do I figure out what adoption agencies near me exist?” There are a few things to consider when beginning your search for local agencies. Budget, wait time, and most importantly, ethics were all things I myself took into consideration when meeting with adoption agencies near me when we began our process three years ago.
The number of adoption agencies near me when we began our search was small. Depending on your geographic location, you might also find there are only a handful of local adoption agencies. The list got even smaller once we ruled out agencies that only worked with Christian families as we ourselves are not Christian. We then had a very short list of agencies and lawyers to meet with, and I asked all of them a few key questions I think all families trying to choose an adoption service provider should ask:
1) How many placements did you complete last year? With this question, placements is the key word. Many agencies will tell you how many matches, but a match does not always lead to a placement. If they do not know this number, cannot easily obtain it, or otherwise seem unwilling to give it to you? That is generally not a good sign.
2) What could we expect the total cost, start to finish, to be for an adoption with your agency? Most agencies present you a series of numbers: application fee, a fee to build a profile, and a number of fees which, all listed separately, do not easily convey to you what the total cost of an adoption might be. You don’t want to go into working with an agency and suddenly have some fee that they didn’t list at your initial meeting put you over your budget. While most agencies will provide you a range of what an adoption might cost, if they cannot easily provide you with a single sheet of paper that lists every single fee, start to finish, again, probably not a good sign. A reputable agency should be able to provide this and should work with you to ensure that you are only presented for adoption situations that are within your budget. However, if their average adoption start to finish costs $30k and your budget is $15k, unless you are willing to fundraise or otherwise save up to increase your budget, they might not be the right fit for you.
3) Another budgetary concern is this: what happens if we are matched and the expectant mother decides to parent? In that situation, you will have enough emotional turmoil to deal with, and you shouldn’t have any uncertainty about what will happen to the money you may have paid to the agency for this specific match. With many smaller, local agencies, the bottom line is that any money specifically for that match—expenses for the expectant parents or medical expenses—will probably be lost if the match disrupts. These agencies with small staffs and a small number of prospective adoptive parents don’t have the ability or resources to return funds to you after a match fails. However, larger agencies often have “risk-sharing pools.” This means that if a match fails, you would receive a certain portion of those funds back. This is also something to consider when creating your budget. An agency with a $15k cost but no risk-sharing versus an agency with a $30k cost and a risk-sharing pool might not seem like a difficult choice budget wise, but if you experience a failed match or multiple failed matches with the $15k agency, you could eventually end up spending more for one adoption than you would have had you chosen the $30k agency with risk-sharing.
5) This leads to the final and to me, the most important question: ethics. How can you determine if an agency is ethical? The first clue comes in how they talk about expectant parents and birth parents. There is a difference, first of all. Expectant parents are parents who are considering placing their child for adoption. Birth parents are parents who have already legally placed their child for adoption. Referring to someone as a birth mother before she has made her decision places her in a place of inequity and may not give the expectant parent
1.What type of counseling is provided to expectant parents before and
2. Do expectant and birth parents have their own social worker, or do they work with the same social worker who is working with the expectant parents?
3. What type of resources do you provide expectant parents with when they first contact your agency? Are they solely focused on what to expect from the adoption process or do they provide other resources that might enable an expectant mother to be able to parent her child?
Another great way to determine the ethical reputation of an adoption agency is to look online for reviews from other adoptive parents as well as birth parents. Odds are, you will find negative reviews for just about any agency; however, if you are only finding negative reviews or if there is a large number of negative reviews, consider looking into another adoption service provider. While this may all seem overwhelming if you are at the very beginning of your adoption journey, it is worth it to take the time to fully investigate this and any other questions you might have and, when all else fails, trust your gut. If an agency seems disorganized, take a long time to return simple correspondence, or seem unwilling or unable to answer important questions, you might have to consider looking beyond your immediate geographic area to investigate larger agencies that work state or even nationwide.