Only you know what type of agency will best suit your needs. Some people prefer the options offered by large agencies with numerous international programs, while smaller, more personal agencies that are closer to home better suit the needs of other people.

While most international adoption agencies are legitimate and truly have the best interests of the children at heart, some agencies are, sadly, nothing short of fraudulent. The international adoption process is rife with stress and emotion without mixing in the specter of fraud. During your research process, review agency literature, attend  international adoption seminars and open houses, and talk with agency staffers. While you do all this, look for answers to the questions below:

Does the agency give you a realistic picture of the international adoption process?  

Does the agency brush aside your concerns by promising a fast, low-cost, stress-free adoption? Or do the time frames and cost estimates presented by the agency correlate to what you’ve learned during your research? If one agency promises that your adoption will be completed months faster than the time frame quoted by other adoption agencies, be sure to investigate this claim thoroughly! It’s easy to say that your adoption will take only six months from start to finish, but it’s very difficult to actually keep this promise

What are the agency’s minimum requirements for adoptive parents?

Do the agency’s requirements match the requirements of the country you’re interested in adopting from? If not, why not? (Once again, it’s important to do your research!) Do you meet the agency’s minimum requirements for adoptive parents?

How long has the agency been in business? Check out their track record – how many children have been placed by the agency from the country you’re interested in?

Are the agency staffers experienced with international adoptions?

Does the agency have full-time staff or do they use subcontractors? Are the staffers relatively new to the international adoption business or have they been around long enough to build a good track record?

Does the agency have direct links to its international counterparts? 

(“International Counterparts” would include child welfare agencies and/or orphanages.)  Or does the agency rely on intermediaries and facilitators?  Agencies with direct links generally produce swifter child referrals than agencies that must rely on intermediaries.

Is the agency accredited and licensed? 

Have any complaints been filed against the agency? If so, how serious are those complaints? You should never even consider using an adoption agency that is not licensed by the state and legitimately accredited.

Can the agency provide you with an itemized list and schedule of their fees?

Are they asking for a large deposit or all the fees up front before you will be considered for a child referral? Are any of the fees refundable if you halt your international adoption quest? Reputable agencies charge a small application processing fee (usually around $250 – $300) and expect the larger fees at various milestones on your international adoption quest, such as when you submit your dossier and when you accept your child referral. Avoid agencies that want all the fees up front – they are either so small that they have no operating budget (meaning they are probably too small to be an effective international adoption agency) or they are frauds who are only interested in the money and have no intention of helping you build a family.

Does the agency seem helpful when you ask questions?

Do they avoid giving you a real answer to your tough question by saying, “Oh, there’s no need to worry about that” or do they respect your need for information and understand your need for reassurance?

Can the agency provide you with recent references of families who have adopted from your country of interest?

If they agency gives you a list of references, be sure to call them! You’ll get a better feel for how an international adoption agency does business from someone who’s been through the process.  Ask the references what they liked about the agency and what they did not like. And if the agency cannot provide you with references, view this as a huge red flag and a signal that you should move your inquiries to a different international adoption agency.

What type of support does the agency provide to the parents who travel to their child’s birth country? 

Does the adoption agency provide a guide or translator? Will you travel with a group of other adoptive parents? Or does the agency expect you to go it alone?

Does the agency offer any pre-adoption education? 

While adoptive parenting has many things in common with parenting biological children, there are some important differences. To make sure you are ready for the challenges ahead, it’s a good idea to get some pre-adoption education. If your agency does not provide pre-adoption education, can they refer you to someone who does?

Does the agency offer any post-placement services?

The majority of countries open to international adoption require post-placement reports and photographs to ensure that the children are adjusting to their new lives and that they are healthy, loved, and well-cared for of in their new homes. The adoption agency you select should know this and be able to provide this service for you.   Or, if your adoption agency does not provide post-placement services, they should be able to refer you to an agency that does.