As someone who has done an international adoption and had a mixed experience with the adoption agency, I can share with you some tips when choosing an agency and what red flags to look for. This is a major life decision for you, your family, and your prospective child, so I always advise parents to do the research. There is no rush, even though once you have made the decision to adopt internationally, you will certainly be excited to get things rolling. However, time spent up front can actually save you time and potential heartache later.
Start by comparing several adoption agencies who provide adoptions in the country or countries you are interested in. Check online reviews and ask the agency you are interested in to provide references from parents whom you can actually speak with about their experience and satisfaction with the agency. Obviously, if they cannot or will not provide references you can validate, not just anonymous “testimonies,” or if the references you do get are not stellar, move on.
If the adoption agency cannot itemize all of the fees for you, including telling you about any incidentals or unexpected costs that might come into play, then that is a clear problem. If they are an experienced, reputable agency, they already have a very good idea of what the prospective parents can expect to pay and what financial surprises may come up along the way. Additionally, if you have compared agencies who deal with the region you are interested in adopting from, and one is far more expensive than the others, that brings into question their ethics. You do not want an adoption agency “feeding off of” the anticipation and sometimes desperation of adoptive parents.
Ask a lot of questions. If you think any of the agency’s representative’s answers are questionable—especially as you are inexperienced in the subject—research it and find out if the answer was valid or if indeed it was potentially unacceptable. Don’t be afraid to ask further questions. After all, it is their job to make you feel comfortable with the entire process and to provide a service to you. Any credible agency won’t mind answering a myriad of questions. In fact, they should expect it.
Laura Christian, in her article, “How to Avoid Unethical Adoption Agencies,” recommends checking around to see what sort of process is the norm for the country you wish to adopt from. She also strongly suggests that prospective adoptive parents check with the state the adoption agency is based in to find out about the status of their licensing. As always, the key is doing your homework, and if something does not seem right to you, ask questions and explore it further. Don’t let the excitement and eagerness to adopt override caution and research. You will be thankful for your diligence later.
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