As the Co-Founder of Trustify, a nationwide network of licensed private investigators, I understand the need to have access to all of the facts before you make any important decision. As the former Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services, I am even more aware of the importance of finding and using a reputable, ethical adoption service provider to help you build your family through adoption.
Many people enter the adoption process for the first time with the misconception that all agencies are the same. They believe if an adoption agency is working in the country from which they wish to adopt or domestically in the state in which they live, then nothing else matters. Joint Council on International Children’s Services was founded in 1975 and, due to decreases in intercountry adoptions, closed its doors in 2015. Joint Council’s purpose as one of the oldest and largest child welfare associations was to establish Standards of Practice for its members—adoption service providers, adoption attorneys, and adoption agencies. These Standards of Practice held members accountable, as members could be removed from the association due to complaints proven valid by the Grievance Board. Prospective adoptive parents would often call our offices when they were researching agencies to ask if an agency was a member of Joint Council, as that meant it met our stringent application criteria and Standards of Practice.
The ratification of the Hague Convention in 2008 provided an even greater source of due diligence. Many agencies could not meet the requirements and closed. Unethical adoption agencies were shut down. The agencies that were able to meet the requirements went through a very strenuous accreditation process, which is ongoing. Agencies must meet strict standards and keep up-to-date on changing regulations and accrediting entities. This work is not for the faint of heart or for financial gain, as any agency executive will tell you. Agents feel passionate about this work and have dedicated their lives to building families through adoption and helping meet children’s basic right of a loving, forever family. A list of accredited and approved providers can be found on the U.S. State Department’s site. However, what if you are trying to adopt domestically or from a country not party to the Hague Convention?
In these circumstances, it is critical to do your research and ask the right questions. This diligence and research is essential for any agency you wish to work with to complete your adoption. Even if they are a Hague accredited adoption agency or service provider, they may not be the right fit for your family. Following these simple steps can help you gather the information you need to find the best agency for you.
1. Do Your Homework
Make sure the agency is licensed in the states in which they work. Ask to speak to other families who have gone through the process. Ensure that the fee structure is clear and that their contracts and terms of service are transparent and meet your needs. Ask for the background of their team, the years of experience they have in the profession, their licenses, and how long they have been with the organization.
2. Determine What Is Most Important for Your Family
Are costs critical to you? Do you wish to work with a large agency that has been around for a long time with many contacts and experiences with the Department of State, orphanages, and governments abroad? One that has a large team with a plethora of education, post-adoption support services, and a travel department to handle your trip to another country? Or is it more important to work with a small agency that works with very few families each year in only a few or one country? Determine what is most important for your family, and that will help narrow your options.
3. Understand Their Mission
Does the agency have a philanthropic focus? Are the founders adoptive parents themselves? Are they faith-based? Is adoption their only service, or do they do focus on other programs and services as well? Do they offer opportunity to support the country from which you adopt? Understanding the mission, origin story, and vision for the agencies you are exploring is integral in determining whether they are a great agency for your family.
4. Ask the Right Questions
Once you have narrowed your search, asking the right questions from the beginning can be critical to ensuring they are a right fit for your family. A list of excellent questions to ask can be found on Adoption.com.
5. Follow Your Heart
Once you feel an agency is the best fit for your family through prayer, research, or referrals, follow your heart. The adoption service provider you choose will play an integral role in building your family through adoption. They will be with you through some of the most joyous, and sometimes stressful, experiences of your life. Feeling comfortable with the team you will be working with is key to having a great experience with an agency.