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How to select an adoption agency

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

Picking the right adoption agency

While the most important decisions you make about your adoption may relate to the type of adoption -- domestic, international, or foster-adopt, for example, the country from which you wish to adopt, or whether you are capable of parenting a child with special needs, do not overlook an equally significant decision. Believe it or not, selecting an adoption agency is one of the choices you should put a considerable amount of time, research, and effort into making. A carefully researched choice can ensure a smooth process, or at least a team of professionals to support you through the rough patches, but the wrong one can have serious consequences.

Where to begin?

There is a wealth of information on the Internet, but the trick is separating the good from the bad. There is nothing wrong with searching for agencies on Google. After all, you have to start somewhere. Once you have a list of agencies, though, be prepared to thoroughly research them all. Compile a list of questions to ask a representative of each agency. Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions. If someone is offended or uncomfortable answering them, ask why.

Contact the Better Business Bureau and research any complaints against an agency.  Additionally, contact the state Attorney General's Office to inquire about complaints. While the absence of a complaint with either the BBB or the AG does not mean that the agency is great, the presence of one (or several) should give you some pause.

Talk to former clients

Do not solely rely on the agencies for information. Seek out former and past clients. Most, if not all agencies, have a list of reference families. While it is likely that the agency chose those families because they will give glowing reviews, call each family and ask about their experience anyway. You might be surprised what you will learn. Find other families on your own who are willing to share their experiences.

Search adoption groups and blogs

There are several Yahoo Groups dedicated to sharing agency information -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Many of them do not allow agency representatives to join to ensure honesty and openness; these are among the best for information gathering. Some of the groups are general and others are country specific. Join as many as you can, research all of the past messages that relate to the agencies you are considering, and post a request for more information. Many families have done just that and heard from families who have had terrible experiences. Conversely, others learn that the agency they are considering has a great reputation. People are often willing to share openly if they know it is via a confidential email or phone call with you. 

  quotation mark open It may seem daunting and overwhelming, but the effort you put into selecting a good, reputable and ethical agency is well worth it. Above all, as you weed through agencies, remember that the ultimate outcome -- becoming a parent to a child or baby that needs a home and growing your family! quotation mark close

If you do not know where to start, post a general request for agency recommendations for the country you are considering. Then, take those recommendations and begin your research there. Repost specific requests for a particular agency.  Search the Internet for personal blogs of families who are adopting from the country you are considering, compile several, and follow them. Email the bloggers and ask them about their experience with their agency. Ask if they know other people who might share with you.

Check out our SheKnows adoption message boards here!

Making an informed decision

How do take the information you have gathered and make an informed decision?  Keep in mind that not all adoptions go smoothly, even with reputable and ethical agencies. There is much that is beyond an agency's control when it comes to international adoption. The key is how an agency handles the difficult situations. Were they supportive of the family? Did they do everything in their power to work for the family/child? Or did they ignore phone calls, put the family off, give dishonest information, and shirk responsibility? 

Also keep in mind the severity of the situation. Some digging around will uncover rather appalling situations – agencies that have lied to families about the health of a child and encouraged a family to bring home a child with severe special needs that is beyond their capability to care for adequately. Sure, it may have only happened once or twice with a particular agency and you might hear glowing reviews from ten other families, but is that a risk you are willing to take? It is important that you really consider all of the information you gather, put yourself in the various situations, and decide what is important to you. Learn from Kelli K's experience. As she says, "Listen to and research the negative things people say!"

Keep the end result in mind!

It may seem daunting and overwhelming, but the effort you put into selecting a good, reputable and ethical agency is well worth it. Above all, as you weed through agencies, remember that the ultimate outcome -- becoming a parent to a child or baby that needs a home and growing your family!

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