After deciding adoption is the right choice for your unborn child, the next most important decision is which agency you select to facilitate the path to adoption. Google can be your best friend when delving into extensive research on adoption agencies, their goals, and their missions. However, speaking to an agency representative or actually meeting face-to-face can also give you a good feeling of whether their agency will be the perfect fit.

This journey is very emotional and not easy, but choosing an agency doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. Before beginning, Adoption.com has a helpful guide and an outline of questions you may consider previewing before interviewing different agencies. Another wonderful way to make this decision would be to make a list of what you consider important when choosing an agency.

Proximity

How close is too close for you? Do you prefer being out of state or right next door to the adoption agency that will be helping you through this important process of placing your child for adoption? One of the easiest ways to begin is by simply conducting an online search of “adoption agencies near me.” Depending on your location, there may be plenty of local options. Or, out-of-state may be your only option. Outside of a normal search engine, Adoption.com and Adoption.org have a wonderful local search tool that allows you to browse agencies in your state.

Whether you live in the same state as the adoptive parents will all be up to you, and you will make the final decision. Having your birth child and the adoptive parents close by might provide the comfort you desire as years pass on and your child grows up. On the other hand, you may want more distance between you and the adoptive parents, maintaining openness with a set amount of personal space. Some states have quicker adoption timelines and prove more beneficial for both the birth mother and the adoptive parents when setting up an adoption plan.

When pregnant, having close proximity to the adoption agency you are working with might help bring comfort in an already uncertain time and is definitely something to consider. If you lack personal support or don’t feel comfortable sharing your plans with others, your adoption agency can act as your safety net, encouraging, guiding, and helping you along the way.

History

When searching “adoption agencies near me,” remember you will also want to consider the agency’s history of work with other expectant mothers and adoptive couples. The best way to get an overall sense of the agency would be to find reviews. Sometimes reviews are in easy-to-spot places on default search engine tools, but you may need to dig a little deeper. The agency’s social media pages are a good place to start (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, etc.). These media pages will provide additional insight to their level of professionalism, their compassion and dedication to birth mothers, and their adoption process, according to the experiences others had with them.

When initially interviewing an adoption agency, you may request to contact prior birth mothers and adoptive parents the agency has worked with (upon their consent). This will help give you a first-hand account of what others’ experience was like at the agency. The adoption agency may not be able to make other birth mothers’ contact information, available to you, but it never hurts to ask. Alternatively, some agencies provide additional references/reviews from prior birth mothers and adoptive parents. It is not uncommon to request references from adoption agencies.

An additional step you can take in order to ensure the adoption agency you are choosing is a reputable and licensed establishment is checking with the State Licensing Specialist in the state where the agency is located. They will be able to determine if the agency is in good standing with the state, if there have been any complaints, and how long the agency has held its license. Reaching out to the State Attorney General’s office in the state where the agency is located would also help determine if there has been any legal action taken against the agency for some reason.

Although these things may not seem to be on the top of a birth mother’s list of questions, it is important to work with an adoption agency that is reputable and not participating in substandard business practices. The last thing you want when pregnant and placing your child for adoption is to work with an agency that isn’t licensed and able to safely see you through to birth and surrender. Thoroughly checking backgrounds will help prevent any possible issues down the road.

Differences

Remember, each adoption agency is different. Some companies are only facilitators or consultants, which actually aren’t agencies at all. An adoption agency is a licensed business that places children in adoptive homes, is staffed by trained professionals, and is regulated by the state. They can provide an extensive range of services, pre- and post-placement, such as preparing home studies, matching birth mothers with an adoptive family, providing counseling, and offering additional support for expectant mothers. Many times, they even provide or set up counseling for adoptees and adoptive parents.

As for adoption facilitators, they are a middleman, connecting hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers. In many states, these facilitators are not licensed, are unregulated, and are even illegal depending on the state; there are some laws that ban adoption facilitators. These intermediaries offer little more than matchmaking between expectant mothers and adoptive families.

Adoption consultants are companies that educate their clients and assist them through the adoption process. They typically work with many agencies and attorneys, referring clients to them. In turn, they share their expertise in the adoption field to help their clients sort through profiles, manage the home study process, receive constructive feedback, and feel emotionally supported along the way. They are not lawyers, they aren’t attached to any agencies, they are not regulated or licensed, and they are not professionally trained to work with birth mothers. They are simply advisors and networkers. Knowing the difference between adoption agencies, adoption facilitators, and adoption consultants will help in your search for “adoption agencies near me”.

As a birth mother, you will want to choose an adoption agency that contains everything you need under one umbrella. They will be able to provide counseling, connect you to a large portfolio of waiting adoptive parents, facilitate financial assistance for expenses needed throughout pregnancy, walk through each step of surrendering parental rights, and do all this with a gentle demeanor and kind heart. Having a good connection with your adoption agency and its representatives is very important for your pregnancy. The less stress, the better for you and for your baby.

Birth Mother Services Available

After beginning your research of “adoption agencies near me”, you may start to see the options available for expectant mothers. At the start of your adoption plan for your baby, it is imperative that you have proper pregnancy counseling. Even throughout the pregnancy and especially towards the end of your pregnancy and after, you will want counseling available. Finding out what type of counseling is offered, how often, and with whom is something to look into when choosing the right adoption agency. One necessity would be counseling post-birth and post-placement, allowing you the option to address your emotional and mental state after such a big life decision.

Depending on how far along you are, you may still have many sonograms, blood tests, and doctor visits ahead of you before giving birth. Does the agency provide emotional support for these visits, or do they not have enough team members to send a companion with you to each visit? What is the typical protocol if you would like the adoptive parents to be a part of the baby’s prenatal development? Throughout the pregnancy, there may be financial assistance needed to cover housing, clothing, food, other daily expenses, etc. What programs and assistance are provided to help you on your journey? Asking these important questions beforehand will help ease any stress and anxiety about getting through the months of pregnancy.

Keep in mind, each state has different limits on the number of funds an adoptive family may provide to a birth mother. Which state you are in may dictate what is covered and what is not covered during your pregnancy and postpartum period. The adoption agency will be able to explain what is allowed in your state and provide further details on how they intend to specifically meet your needs during this time.

Morals and Values

When choosing the right fit for your baby, the morals and values of the adoption agency you choose need to be considered. Many agencies charge a different set of fees to adoptive parents depending on the race of the child. Is that something that aligns with your moral compass and set values?

Open or Closed Adoption

Most adoption agencies are focused on open adoptions, but what if you are desiring a closed adoption? Will the agency support your decision for a closed adoption, or do they only facilitate open adoptions. Making sure the adoption agency can be in line with your desires for your and your baby’s future is strongly recommended.

When pursuing a closed adoption, usually the adoption agency will still hold the personal information of the birth mother in the event the adoptee wants biological information later on in his or her life. Should the adoption agency shut down in the interim, would there be an alternative option available for your personal information to be shared with the child later on in his or her life?

Choosing the Adoptive Family

Another topic to discuss is the process of choosing an adoptive family for your baby. If you’re curious what exactly an adoptive parent goes through before their profile is presented to you as an expectant birth mother, check out this article. It details exactly what is included in the home study process, how many background checks are required, etc. There is a lot that goes into preparing to adopt, and while each state’s requirements are different, there are certain basic standards expected across the board.

There are questions to consider about the role the adoption agency will play between you and the adoptive family. Although adoption agencies are typically able to provide a large number of adoptive parent profiles, what if you already have your family of choice? Would the agency help facilitate all the particulars, or do they have restrictions against you choosing a family from outside the agency? Once the adoptive family is chosen, what part in the meet-and-greets and social interaction with the adoptive family is the adoption agency also a part of? Getting a detailed overview of what the agency will and will not facilitate during the pregnancy and adoption plan will help you narrow down the agencies you want to choose from.

Most importantly, when making the decision to place your child for adoption and walking through the final months of pregnancy, you want to make sure the adoption agency you choose gives you the feeling that you are part of their family. If all the other boxes are checked, feeling as if you are in good hands and have the support you need is always the number one on the list. Sometimes a gut feeling is all you need. Whether you have lots of support or no support in your personal life, having an agency that is on your side will give you the comfort you need during this emotional journey.

Remember you are never alone and there are many resources available to provide you with immeasurable support during this time. The birth mother forums available on Adoption.com will connect you with other women that either are or have been in your shoes, ready to encourage and stand beside you in a virtual forum. There is a wide spectrum of forums, from unplanned pregnancy and general birth parent support, to birth family support. There is power in sharing your journey with someone else. So don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to be bold. As the hard questions, and trust your gut as you make your decisions. You’ll do what’s best for you and your baby.