Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Choosing the Right Adoption Agency for You

In our journey to adopt the second time around, we've looked into many different agencies and situations.  One of the first things my husband and I do when researching adoption agencies or looking into available situations is to ask for a breakdown of fees.   Over the past couple of years I've come across a few situations from a particular agency in my state known for its costliness (among other things) and when I asked for a specific breakdown of fees I was ASTONISHED to learn how much money went towards their "advertising costs."   I also found it ironic that for an agency with such high advertising costs, they always seem to be searching for families to go through their agency by posting situations in online forums.

Take note, adoption professionals:  Please Don't leave messages or announcements in online forums or social media asking if anyone is interested or knows of anyone who is interested in adopting a baby with an approaching due date without an estimation of the costs.  Doing so is like a Realtor posting an ad with a picture of a house which has just been listed and asking all potential homeowners "Is anyone interested in buying this house?"  Of course people are interested in buying the house, but no matter how great the location or how gorgeous the home is, if it doesn't fit into the buyer's budget, then it's just not a realistic option for them to look into!  The real question isn't "Is anyone interested in buying this house?" but rather "Is this house within your price range?"

Similarly speaking, with infertility affecting 1 in 8 couples in the U.S.,  and/or for many families who may not necessarily be affected by infertility but who would love to provide a safe and nurturing home for a child through adoption OF COURSE PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN ADOPTING!  So why don't more people adopt when situations arise?  Because being interested is NOT the same as being able to afford the costs of adopting which  is where one of my biggest pet peeves about the adoption process as an adoptive parent lies:  That adoption can be so costly! 

Dear Adoption Agencies with Particularly High Fees, 

Please don't get anyone's false hopes up by advertising situations and asking if anyone is interested, but rather, just come outright and say, "Those of you who have at least $45K in your adoption budget, please inquire- no other families will be considered."  Yes, I realize there won't be as many inquiries, but it will save both parties a lot of time and save prospective adoptive couples (and their friends and families who are so eager to pass along such information) extra frustration and heartache.  
                                                  Sincerely, Me

I understand that medical care and legal fees cost money- I get it- and certainly birthparents may need some financial support during a pregnancy, but I just don't understand how some agencies can feel good about themselves for charging an arm and a leg for "advertising" or other fees.  Do these agencies exist to find homes for children or are they in the money-making business of buying off birthparents and in return selling babies to the highest bidder?  I know that sounds extremely cynical of me, but it's an honest frustration I have.  When I come across such agencies, it makes my husband and I much more inclined to want to adopt a Waiting Child through the foster care system, because the intent of The Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption and other such foundations and agencies is to find families and homes for children, NOT to make a profit.
 
Speaking of child-centered adoptions, I fully agree with what Dawn Davenport, an adoption advocate and the Executive Director of creatingafamily.org, wrote in this post:

“OK, here’s the truth: the process of adoption is often messy with lots of ups and downs.  Both families involved –birth and adoptive- are making the biggest decision of their life.   What is right for them and for the child is not always clear.  Absolutes are in short supply.  No agency can make this process seamless, nor should they. You can and should expect, however, honesty, transparency, and communication.

Good agencies are child centered; they are more interested in finding homes for children than children for homes.  Good agencies come in all sizes and flavors, but in my opinion they share the following traits:
  • They stress pre-adoption education.
  • For domestic adoption agencies, they provide pre and post adoption counseling for first mothers, and support her decision either way.
  • For international adoption agencies, they have humanitarian programs in the countries where they work to help the kids that won’t be adopted and help families stay intact.
  • They don’t cherry pick the kids. In other words, they try to find homes for harder to place children.
  • They make a lifetime commitment to you and your child through post adoption services.
A good adoption agency looks more like a child-welfare agency.  It’s worth the time to find that type of agency.”

My husband and I were very pleased with the private agency we went through for our first adoption for the following reasons:

1)      As a non-profit agency it was affordable; not “cheap” but affordable

2)      The agency provides free lifelong counseling to birthparents (if they desire) and

3)      The agency we used does not charge “more” or “less” for children based on race of the child.  I REFUSE to support any agency which charges more for a child based on skin color.  Some would argue that it’s just a matter of economics: white babies are more “rare” than multiracial or minority babies, but there are more multiracial babies and children available or in “supply”; therefore the higher the demand the higher the price and vice versa.  Even so, it just doesn’t seem right to me.

4)      The agency required pre-adoption education stressing the importance that adoption should be centered on THE CHILD and that although birthparents and adoptive parents are crucial to the process, their needs come second to the child’s needs.

After much thought and research over the past couple of years we found another adoption agency which meets the criteria of our first adoption agency: it is a non-profit agency which charges on a sliding scale based on income, they do not charge more or less based on race of a child, and birthparents who go through this agency are provided with ample support- emotionally and financially- and they play an active role in choosing which family adopts their child.  Such criteria meets our definition of an "ethical" adoption agency.  We were approved to adopt through this new agency a year ago and thankfully our Home Study from our original agency easily transferred over which helped to save a TON of paperwork and time on our part!

Another advantage for us as adoptive parents going through this new agency is that the number of families that they work with at one time is substantially lower than our other agency- which has literally hundreds of prospective adoptive couples, which is GREAT if you're a birthparent considering adoption, but not so great when you're hoping to adopt and have to compete with other couples in the exact same situation.  

Criteria for choosing an adoption agency depends on what things are most important to prospective adoptive couples- or birthparents.  Speaking of which, I thought it was very interesting that as part of the application process with our new agency (we are still with our old agency as well) in an attempt to get to know their clients, we were asked to rate the following three statements in order of importance to us:

"____  I want to have a baby in my arms as soon as possible.  I am not as interested in specific characteristics; I just want a child.

____  Birth parents race, intelligence, and general characteristics are very important to me.  I am willing to wait longer in order to find what I'm looking for.

____   Although I am anxious to adopt, cost is very important to me, therefore I am willing to wait for birth parents with minimal financial need."

Such statements can be very helpful in determining what is a priority to you and what kind of an adoption agency would fit your needs.


Other questions to keep in mind if you or someone you know is considering adoption and researching agencies are:

-How long has the agency been in business/licensed?

-Is the agency Hague accredited? (for international adoptions)

-What are the fees?  Are any of these fees refundable? 

-Can the agency guarantee the placement of a child?

-How many adoptive placements does the agency have, on average, per year?

-What is the average waiting time to be matched with a child?

-How many prospective adoptive couples at a time does the agency work with?

-Does the agency encourage closed or open adoptions?

11 comments:

Amanda said...

I would love to know what new agency you are using!

Mary said...

Amanda- We are going through Premier Adoption they are licensed to do adoptions in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Our first adoption was with LDS Family Services.

Amanda said...

I thought your first one must be with LDSFS. Thanks for the info. I saw that you have been matched already. How long did you wait from signing up with Premiere until you were matched? Thanks so much.

Mary said...

Actually we have not yet been matched with Premier. We are currently fostering two babies who are expected to return to their parent's care in August. Speaking of which, I've actually thought about doing a post about waiting to adopt through a private agency while fostering at the same time.

Amanda said...

Oh, okay. Thanks!

Amanda said...

I just saw that you were expecting and thought that meant you had been matched.

Mary said...

How I wish it meant the same thing! :)

Amanda said...

I'm sure! Good luck!

ROBYN Chittister said...

For our second adoption, we wouldn't use an agency that charged fees according to the race of the child. We also wouldn't use an agency that discriminated against prospective adoptive parents on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. It narrowed down the field for us, for sure. We ended up going through a facilitator, which was not what we wanted to do.

Eddie said...

I would like to suggest that you can also research to at Adoption by Shepherd Care as they too are providing the service of adopting the child.
Colombia Adoption Care Information At Adoption By Shepherd Care

c said...

A good adoption agency looks more like a child-welfare agency. It’s worth the time to find that type of agency.”

I agree with that advice from Dawn. To me, the first priority of that type of agency would be to make sure that the expectant mother is in the best emotional place possible to make the decision about her child's future. One hears about women having "crisis pregnancies" whereas it may be more accurate to say that they are "pregnant in a crisis situation". Thus this means addressing and identifying the "crisis" first so that they can then concentrate on the pregnancy and make a less compromised decision.
When an emom rings an organisation and says "I am pregnant and I have A, B, C, D issues", a caring organisation would say: "Let's sit down and look at A, B, C and D issues and see what we can identify some solutions to help improve your overall situation, even if slightly (especially important if there are other children they are already parenting). Then we can see how to move forward". Adoption might still be the option but the overall picture will be able to be looked out without feeling behind the 8 ball.
On the other hand, if an emom rings an organisation and says "I am pregnant and I have A, B, C, D issues", and the organisation considers those issues to be reasons for adoption without ever making attempts to actually adress those issues, then to me, that is not the type of agency I would want to use. Making a decision while one is behind the eight ball means making a decision in a compromised position.

One thing I hear a lot about on adoption websites is about the agency making sure that the emom "is committed to her adoption plan". No woman should feel that she must be committed to an adoption plan until after she signs TPR. An agency should make that clear to both emom and prospetive adoption parents in a firm but kind way and makes sure that both parties act accordingly.

I do know that some agencies encourage emoms to think of their child as belonging to the prospective adoptive parents while in utero but that is NOT in the best of the child. When an emom starts to do that, she is, in effect, starting to think of what is in the best interest of the prospective parents.

In regards to this:
"The agency required pre-adoption education stressing the importance that adoption should be centered on THE CHILD and that although birthparents and adoptive parents are crucial to the process, their needs come second to the child’s needs."

Absolutely definitely the child comes first and the birthparents come second because they are the ones making the decision for the child. The needs of the prospective aparents are of no relevance to the birthparents actual decision. The prospective adoptive parents should of course be reated kindly and with respect by the agency, it is just that their wishes and needs can't really be part of the emom's decision - othrewise the adoption ends up being in the APs best interest rather than the child's.