Choosing an adoption agency: Questions to ask

Author: 
Siobhan Rowe
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

Many families enjoy a good relationship with their adoption agency and are thrilled with their adoption experience. You are more likely to have a similar experience if you do your homework first. Here are some basic pointers on what to ask a prospective agency.

AFABC receives many enquires about how to select an adoption agency. This article is a general guide on what questions you should consider before you make your choice. You will probably have questions that we have not included here; these are just guidelines that we assembled by talking to agencies, adoptive parents, and from the experience of the AFABC staff.

Be aware that there is no “best agency.” Each is different, just as each adoption experience is varied.

Waiting to adopt a child is an extremely emotionally challenging experience; it can also cost a great deal of money. Try to bear in mind at all times that agency staff are not just working with you. They have many other families to serve and that, as in any job, they will come across unexpected problems, which can slow them down.

Right from the start

You will be spending a great deal of time with agency staff and sharing much personal information with them. Finding a good fit is important for both parties.

  • Before you contact an adoption agency in person, call them and request that they send you an information package. Carefully check out their website. Do this for as many agencies as you can so that you are making a choice from as wide a pool as possible.
  • You will receive a great deal of information when you meet or talk on the phone. Don’t rely on your memory; take good notes.
  • Before you register, ask if they have information sessions where you can hear about their services or if they are willing to meet with you and explain what they can offer you and how they work.
  • We suggest that before you make a selection you take the time to ask as many questions as you can—visit the agency in person if possible—and carefully gauge your feelings about the answers you receive.
  • Find out if there are any restrictions on who can adopt through their agency and whether these vary with the different programs that they offer.
  • Once your homestudy has been approved and you are waiting for a proposal, ask the agency how they will keep you informed about progress with your case.
  • If English is not your first language, the agency should be able to provide service in your language.
  • Connect with AFABC. This will allow you to meet and get in touch with other families who have gone through the process already; they can be one of your most valuable sources of information.

Education Program

Ask the agency about the subjects covered in their adoption education program, how long the program is, what speakers they invite, and whether the learning is done in a classroom setting or through independent study.

Homestudies

Ask how soon after you apply will your homestudy begin. Find out what factors determine how long a homestudy takes. Ask if the agency will accept a homestudy from another agency (you may want your homestudy registered with more than one agency, or you might decide to change your agency).

Number of adoptions completed

It is tempting to evaluate an adoption agency by the number of adoptions they process in a given year. It may seem like an obvious indicator of service, but numbers of placements, high or low, are not going to determine the ease of your adoption experience.

If you do ask how many adoptions they facilitate, ask them to break that figure down into local, international, direct placements (where the birth mother chose the family without agency facilitation), and how many placements there were where the birth mother chose the parents through a homestudy.

Pre- and post-adoption support

Ask about the kind of pre-and post-adoption support the agency offers. Do they have support groups for waiting parents and for their new parents? Ask if someone at the agency is able to assist you to find resources if they don’t have what you need immediately. This might include finding contact information for orphanages or adoption facilitators who work with the country you are considering, connecting you to doctors or other referrals, and finding articles and resources.

Ask if they will help you after your adoption if you need assistance with medical and behavioural issues with your child, or with problems like post-adoption depression.

References

Ask the agency if they will provide you with contact details of families they have worked with who would be willing to speak to you about their adoption experience.

Birth parents

Ask how they work with birth parents pre- and post- adoption and whether they have a birth parent support group. Find out how early they match birth and prospective adoptive parents. Ask what costs you will incur if a placement falls through. Ask the agency how many birth parent revocations they have had.

Openness

Very important in local infant adoption is how the agency handles open adoption. Ask about the agency’s attitude toward openness. Do they encourage birth parents to meet with adoptive parents? How will they support you with relationships with the birth family at placement and on a long-term basis?

Fees

Ask what the general range of costs for adopting through each of the agency’s programs are, what the fees cover, what is the expected payment schedule, which costs tend to be variable and how the agency will inform you of any unexpected costs incurred. It is important to read everything the agency gives you carefully and make sure you are comfortable with anything you have to sign.

With an international adoption, fee structures are complex. It can be difficult to get a complete picture of the costs because there are so many steps in the process. Fees can include translation of documents, notary fees, court costs in the child’s country, orphanage donations, travel costs, facilitator fees, and immigration fees. Costs should be clearly broken down. If they are not, ask for clarification. Learn about the adoption process so you can ask about and understand the costs involved in each stage.

If there is a facilitator involved in your international adoption, ask if the fees are broken down separately or included in the agency fee. Compare the adoption consultants as well as the agency and find a fit with personality and values. In the case of China, find out if you will be travelling with a group of prospective parents or as individuals.

International adoption

Information about international adoption programs can be overwhelming—once you’ve asked your questions, write down the information and evaluate it at your leisure.

Don’t use websites as a way to short cut your research on international adoption; they should only be used as an initial introduction to an agency.

Ask how many adoptions the agency has facilitated from the countries from which you are considering adopting.

Ask if they have articles, resources, and helpful information for families when they travel. Make sure they have information on the adoption process, costs, eligibility and medical issues in the country from which you are thinking of adopting a child.

Find out if they have travel supplies lists, information on the culture of the country you wish to adopt from, and information on gifts/orphanage donations you can take with you.

Ask if the agency will give you names of other families who have adopted from the country you are considering and whether this will include people who have also had difficulties (adopted children with unforeseen special needs) as well as those whose adoptions went smoothly and according to their expectations.

Problems with a social worker

Hopefully you will get on well with your social worker, or at least feel that they are doing a good job. If not, ask how the agency will respond if difficulties do arise.

Complaints

Hopefully you will have no cause for complaint, but, just in case, ask how they handle internal complaints and ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. Be aware that BC’s licensed adoption agencies have an official complaints process.

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