Choosing an adoption agency can be an overwhelming task, made even more complicated because each one is different from the next. Fees, policies, and services offered—none of these things will be consistent across the board.
There are certain services that should be offered by every adoption agency in a perfect world. That is far from the case however, which means hopeful parents have their work cut out for them finding an ethical agency.
If this were an ideal world, here are 4 services that every single adoption agency would offer:
1. Unbiased options counseling for expectant parents.
Until the power of money is removed from the adoption equation, it will continue to be extremely difficult for pregnant women to obtain truly unbiased counseling on all of their options for an unexpected or crisis pregnancy. These options would not include only adoption as the “best” choice, but carefully examine the possibilities of foster care, kinship placement, temporary guardianship, and of course parenting.
Unfortunately, adoption agencies that stand to profit large amounts of money through removing a child from its mother and placing it with another are not in a position to provide this sort of guidance. The realm of domestic infant adoption needs to undergo serious reform in order to truly operate in the best interest of mother and child.
The Donaldson Adoption Institute released a fascinating study on the topic of options counseling in early 2017 that is available online.
2. Lifetime post placement counseling for mothers who have relinquished their children.
Adoption is not a one-time event and will have lifetime implications. Mothers who have relinquished their children for adoption should have access to qualified counseling post-placement indefinitely—this means one month later, one year later, or ten years later. It is up to each individual how and whether they take advantage of it, but excellent care for birth mothers demands that it be at least available.
3. Open adoption mediation for all parties.
In an open adoption the adoptive parents, birth parent(s), and child develop and continue a relationship, and like all relationships, sometimes difficulties or conflicts will arise. Rather than encouraging adoptive parents to throw in the towel when it gets hard, agencies should remain available to aid or facilitate this relationship.
In some cases where direct contact is not possible this might mean being willing to act as a go-between for communication—perhaps forwarding letters, updates, gifts, or other correspondence between parties. It might mean sitting down in person to talk through any issues with the assistance of a qualified social worker. Far too many initially open adoptions end up “closing” (due to the decision of either adoptive or birth parent), and agencies should be committed to offering families the support they need.
4. Thorough pre-placement training and education for hopeful adoptive parents.
Because there are no regulations across the board for required training for hopeful adoptive parents, this will vary greatly agency to agency. In our personal experience, we worked with one agency that required a certain number of online webinars on various topics and another with a required reading list for home study approval. Another agency required absolutely nothing.
Agencies should provide appropriate resources for hopeful adoptive parents on relevant topics such as transracial adoption and parenting issues, openness in adoption, talking with their children about adoption, and navigating adoption issues as their child grows. There are excellent resources out there—but not all families take the initiative on their own to educate themselves. I would love to see more agencies encouraging (at the least) or requiring such education for their families.
Are there any services you did not receive but would have found helpful from your adoption agency? What would you add to this list?