There are lots of adoption agencies to choose from and they are not all alike. One size does not fit all, at least not very well. It is important to find one that is comfortable fit for you. Choosing an adoption agency well requires examining your own preferences for various criteria – private vs. public, domestic vs. international, open vs. closed, religious vs. secular, in-state vs. interstate and many more.
Adoptive Families Magazine has been providing information and support for adoptive families through expert articles, personal stories since 1968. AFM is a great resource for information about adoption-related topics, including how to choose an adoption agency.
Adoption agencies provide a wide range of services that are important to helping you adopt a baby. If you were building a house, an agency would be like the general contractor. Agencies do most everything for you, except the legal work necessary to finalize the adoption.
When choosing an adoption agency, remember they must be regulated and licensed by the state. They provide a wide range of services, before and after placement, including preparing home studies and matching adoptive parents with birth parents. Agencies assume legal responsibility for children and place them for adoption and conduct post-placement visits and provide reports to the court.
Agencies are often confused with facilitators. Facilitators have a much narrower scope of activities than agencies. Generally, facilitators are not regulated or licensed. That means that there may be little or no oversight for facilitators. Facilitators advertise, market and make the match. Facilitators may or may not screen birth parents. They generally work remotely and do not conduct in-person assessments. Facilitators may provide counseling. If they do, it is generally done by telephone. Facilitators are not permitted in some states.
You may work with more than one adoption agency. One agency may prepare your home study or post-placement reports. A different agency may make the match or placement. In interstate placements, it may be necessary to have an agency in each state, both sending and receiving.
Understand What an Agency Does and Does Not Do
When choosing an adoption agency, it’s important to be aware of exactly what services these professionals provide. Most adoption agencies offer the following adoption services:
- Prepare profiles and websites
- Screen birth parents
- Provide orientation, education and training
- Provide counseling
- Prepare home studies for adoptive parents
- Present adoption opportunities
- Facilitate the matching process
- Accept relinquishments from birth parent
- Become the legally custodian of the baby
- Select adoptive parents for children
- Place the baby with adoptive parents
- Provide postplacement services
- Make a recommendation on whether to approve the placement
- Serve as an intermediary or facilitate future communications or visits
What to Look For When Choosing an Adoption Agency
Because many adoption agencies offer similar services, you may be wondering how to find an adoption agency that is the right fit for your specific adoption goals and preferences.
Generally, the best adoption agencies are the ones that:
- Have established programs
- Are licensed/accredited
- Are in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and state licensing entity (you can also search civil records for law suits against the agency)
- Are licensed in more than one state
Depending on your personal circumstances and adoption needs, you may also want to consider additional factors, like the agency’s requirements, size and scope, fees and more. Here are some questions to ask an adoption agency when choosing the right professional for you:
Philosophy and Requirements
- Can you work with more than one agency or entity at a time?
- Does the agency require a religious statement of faith?
- Are there limits on family size?
- Are there age limits for adoptive parents?
- Are there detailed financial questions, including your plan to pay for the adoption?
- Are mental health evaluations required?
Ask About the Numbers
- How many placements were made in the past 12 months?
- How many birth mothers are actively working with the agency?
- How many adoptive parents have been accepted in the past 12 months?
- Is there a limit on the number of adoptive parents accepted at one time?
- What is the average time from completion of the home study until there is a match?
- Understand what is included and what is not.
- Are fees flat/fixed or variable?
- Are fees paid up front, on a schedule of events, or on a fixed timeline?
- Are fees reimbursable if you withdraw?
- If there is a failed match or placement, do fees roll over to a second opportunity or do you incur another match fee or placement fee?
How Are Funds for Birth Mother Expenses Managed?
- Who decides what the budget is?
- Do adoptive parents pay out of pocket or does the agency pay?
- Are expense funds maintained in a separate agency account?
- Are funds for each birth mother segregated or are they pooled?
- Are payments made directly or to third-parties, like a landlord?
- Are payments made in cash or with designated gift cards for specific expenses, like gasoline or food?
What Happens if the Agency Goes Out of Business?
- What happens to our file? Most states require agencies to transfer your records — your application, home study, etc. — to another licensed agency.
- What happens to our fees? It depends on the agency’s management or board of trustees. Some of our families in this situation have had all their fees refunded Others have lost thousands of dollars and were left with little recourse but to file a claim with the bankruptcy trustee as an unsecured creditor. Unsecured creditors are the last in line for payment.
Remember, even if you choose to work with an adoption agency for placement, you will need to work with an experienced adoption attorney to legally complete your adoption. Herring & Mills, PLLC, can assist with both agency and independent adoptions in North Carolina.
For more information about how to choose an adoption agency or to learn more about our adoption services, please call (919) 821-1860 to schedule a consultation.