Doug and Deanne Walker have 19 children, 10 of whom are adopted. These loving parents have been up and down and all around adoption, and seem to me to be an endless bucket of adoption knowledge and wisdom. On top of that, the Walkers are welcoming, inviting and friendly! This series of articles (watch for them on Tuesdays and Fridays from now on) covers everything from being an organized home executive to failed adoptions to finding the right agency. So as you read, imagine taking a comfortable spot on Deanne’s sofa as she openly shares her insight into each topic.
1. Reasonable Fees
International adoption agencies work on a “pay as you go” system. This means there is more risk for you, the Potential Adoptive Parent, as you will be spending money along the way before there is even a match made.
In domestic adoptions you have more options. When adopting a Caucasian baby, application fees are required up front. But if you are adopting a child of color you can select an agency that requires no fee until the match is made or until placement. This includes application fees. Choose an agency where the fees will roll over to another adoption if the birth mother chooses not to place.
For all types of adoption, choose an agency that does not require or suggest extra fees or birth mother living expenses.
It’s a big plus if the agency allows you to network with other agencies, so you can have several applications in at once. If the agencies require money “up front,” it can become a financial burden and sometimes impossible to network.
2. Good Service
Through researching you will find agencies who have the reputation of placement in a reasonable amount of time without excessive requirements. Choose an agency that communicates well over the phone, emails, and in person. An agency that is willing to answer your questions without making you feel like a burden is worth pursuing.
3. Good Reputation
Reputation is everything when it comes to adoption agencies! Start your research early by looking online, including Facebook and Yahoo, where there are groups that rate adoption agencies. Consider joining adoption support groups and learning first-hand from other adoptive parents about specific agencies.
Beware of agencies with numerous stories of ethical problems or overcharging. Talk with an agency representative–you can usually tell if the agency is all about money or about the child and building families, from that first phone call.
Some traits of specific agencies may be neither bad nor good and you will have to use your best judgment for your circumstance. Some may be more lax with paperwork. This could speed things up for you, but may also bring about a legal battle later. Some agencies may seem to be overly cautious. This allows you peace of mind, but may create more paperwork and delays in getting your child.
Do your research before getting tied to an agency. Without doing so, you may get a great education about them, but not until you’ve already invested a lot of time and money. By then it’s too late and you may or may not get your child.
Stay up-to-date with agencies and their reputations. What was a great agency a few years ago, could be an agency to avoid now.
Sometimes it’s hard to step away from an agency because their reputation is soiled–especially when thinking about the innocent children involved, waiting for good homes– but there is no shortage of horror stories when it comes to bad agencies. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked in if there are any “red flags.” One common horror story is that of agencies that play on prospective adoptive parents’ emotions by keeping babies in “cradle care” in preparation for an adoptive family. When the family calls, the case worker tells the family they have a baby who fits their family perfectly, then makes an appointment for them to meet. The natural feelings for the prospective parents to have are those of deep concern and anxiety for the parentless baby–knowing that this child needs loving care now. These agencies can be pretty sure it’s a done deal when the parents keep the appointment, and they can get away with charging the regular adoption fees PLUS an additional $10k or more for the family to take the baby home.
4. Appropriate Rules
Although nothing about adoption is easy, a reputable agency will make the adoption process fairly smooth.
Some agencies make up their own rules above and beyond what is required by governments including:
- Requiring religious statements to be signed
- Limits on family size
- Prospective Adoptive Parent age limits
- Medical checks on all family members
- Extra letters of reference
- More specific, unnecessary background information
- Detailed financial information including your plan to pay for the adoption
- Mental health evaluations
- Research into your extended family, including your siblings’ education and careers
- Intrusive questions regarding your past and your intimacies as a couple
Much of this is going too far and cause feelings of invasion as well as fear that the agency may decide, from their research, that you’re a “bad parent.” You, as a potential adoptive parent, need to decide what you are willing to put up with when it comes to agency rules beyond what the law requires.
In short, don’t be so desperate for a child that you would do anything to get your baby. If something about the agency doesn’t feel right, walk away. Be proactive! Do your research, network among those who have experience. From Deanne: “In each case, we have believed that we would be led to the child intended for us. But that didn’t stop us from doing our research and being proactive.”
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