There aren’t many decisions more important than deciding who to marry, which house to buy, and, well, which adoption agency will be the one to deliver the child, or children, that destiny has in store for you. We all have different decision-making styles. In my practice with corporations, I coach clients to understand how their preferences can be both a strength as well as a weakness. Some of us like to pick quickly and move on, either delighted with our own brilliance or sad at the discovery that the agency we chose is less-than-perfect.
Some of us think that we have to please the agency to get our destiny’s child, so we come on all smiles but forget to look at the detail and real downsides of an agency. Still others wait and wait and wait, paralyzed to move forward until there is enough hard evidence gathered to make a move and finally decide. We are avoiding the risk that comes with every important decision we face.
Finally, there are those of us who do a thorough job of investigation, wait to decide, and then still regret that the agency they chose is not perfect enough. The fact is that no agency is perfect. Inside the agency that you chose, the staff faces a multitude of problems and challenges on a daily basis. Changing government regulations, anxious parents, internal staff struggles, funding problems, and many more issues arise within even the best agencies.
I asked ten adoptive parents for advice in seeking out an agency. These are some of the responses I received:
• We have been researching and watching the adoption field for about 10 years! So we were very familiar with the most active agencies. We quizzed our agency on their knowledge of Russian laws and how to work with them.
• Be flexible! Realize that this is not a process that is set in stone and it can change at any time. Spend the time that you are waiting to become more informed of the issues involved with adopting a child who has lived in an institution. Know what resources are available to help you. If adopting internationally, learn about the child’s culture and learn a bit of the language. Seek out others who are adopting (or have adopted) internationally so you know others who understand the process and can offer advice.
• Do your research– you are the customer. Beware of what I call the “successful adoption rose-colored glasses effect,” meaning that once an adoption is completed and the child is home, everything associated with the adoption agency is viewed with rose-colored glasses.
• Talk to as many people who have adopted and listen to them…they tell you the truth!!!
• In choosing our agency, we considered the agency’s understanding of country requirements, the time to complete the process, their costs, their sense of compassion for clients, and their honesty.
• We considered top requirements for cost, efficiency, and clear communication.
• Find an agency that fits in your price range, that has had successful placements, and one that you feel personally comfortable with. Decide what you are willing to “trade off” and stick to it, i.e.: They take longer, but we like them; or, They are more expensive, but they promise placement within a certain time frame. ALWAYS ask to speak to clients they have worked with so you can see where people look for roughly the same things in an agency: integrity and honesty (the agency does what it says it will do), effectiveness and conscientiousness (their work is fast and accurate), and cost effectiveness and value.
But how do you find out which agencies adhere to these ethics and what real clients think of them? There are basically four ways that we advise clients to begin the search process, whether for a home study agency or for an adoption referral agency:
1) General adoption issues: Visit adoption-related forums. You’ll find a wide array of opinions.
2) Ask any agency that you decide to explore for three recent clients (clients served within the last year) that they have helped from the country, or countries, you are interested in adopting from. If they cannot do this, think about moving on.
3) Ask friends who have adopted who they chose, and follow up with that agency.
4) Scan the internet. It is overwhelming to see the bazillion agencies out there ready to serve clients. Follow up with step # 2. Any way you look at it, your choice of an agency, attorney, or independent adoption consultants is both a personal, as well as calculated, decision. You may want to start an international adoption file with the Bureau of Immigration and Citizenship Services even before you identify an agency. Order your I-600A form by calling 1800-870-3676 or download a version at www.ucis.gov.