People are regularly asking me, ‘What agency did you use? We’re considering adoption.”
My first response is one of congratulations. Then comes the tough part: recommending an agency. It’s such a huge variable.
When we adopted the first time in 1996, we did our research. We looked at placement statistics for various agencies. We checked to see if they had been sued by birth parents or adoptive parents. We looked into their “after care” for birth families as we thought strongly that after care is necessary.
This time around was different. We started out to get a straight foster care license in hopes of helping a specific family but, in the process, realized we had room for one more. Because we came in the “back door,” we used the agency a friend was using. This is probably not the best way to pick an agency but one that has, fortunately, worked for us.
If I had it to do over, I would go about it differently. I would research the things I checked out in 1996, but I would add the following criteria for a foster-to-adopt situation:
- What connections does the agency have to CPS? It turns out those connections are crucial.
- How many foster placements did they make last year?
- How many disrupted placements did they have?
- What support do they offer foster parents (aside from licensing classes)?
- How easy/difficult is it to complete the required 20 hours a year of continuing education?
- What types of foster homes do they support? (Examples: therapeutic, basic, etc.)
- How busy can they keep us? How busy do we want to be?
- What are the ages of children that made the transition from foster to adopt last year with this agency? This is a critical question if you are looking for a baby or a child of a specific age.
- How will they support case-related hearings and mediation?
When you are anxious to get a child, it is easy to focus on doing things “right” so the agency likes you. The true focus should be, do you like the agency? Do the workers have personalities you can mesh with? Do they seem honest and above board? Are you comfortable?
This is going to be a long and ongoing relationship. Choose wisely!