Choosing an Agency
Choose your agency based on the programs they offer and your feelings of comfort and trust in them. After your choice has been made, get to know your agency! Get on their newsletter mailing list if they have one. Try to attend some of their functions such as picnics, fundraisers, and classes. Get to know the staff; in turn, they will feel increasingly more familiar with you. If you have the time, many agencies would appreciate volunteer help with various activities such as working a fundraiser or answering the phones for a few hours each week.
In choosing the adoption agency that fits your needs, you may wish to:
1. Educate yourself.
Members of adoptive parent groups are full of information about adoption and can often tell you about specific agencies in your area that work well with adoptive families.
2. Attend orientation meetings and information classes.
The Adoption Exchange offers both in-person and web-based orientations and classes. Click here to see what’s coming up in your state.
3. Interview public and private adoption agencies.
The Adoption Exchange staff can send you a list of licensed adoption agencies in the states we serve. For information about licensed agencies in other states, access the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
4. Call your local licensing agency.
See if any of the agencies you are considering have had sanctions on their licenses.
The following questions may help you in your decision-making process:
- Is the agency a non-profit or a for-profit corporation?
- What types of children does the agency place? Infants? Children from foster care? Children from other countries? Some agencies have several program areas and place more than one of these types of children.
- How many children did the agency place last year?
- How many children were placed from the specific program you're interested in?
- What is the agency's level of experience working with diverse families? Age of adoptive parents? Single parents? LGBTQ parents? Two Spirit parents? Marital history? Length of marriage? Religious affiliation? Number of children already in the family?
- Will the requirements vary depending on the type of child you plan to adopt? Requirements for adopting an infant are generally more restrictive than those for adopting a child from foster care.
- How much will it cost to complete an adoption? Are there sliding fees scales? When will payments be required?
- Be sure to ask for a fee schedule so you know before you begin exactly what costs are covered in the adoption fee and what costs may be added on later such as legal fees, the birth mother's and/or infant's medical expenses, expenses for travel to visit a waiting child in another state or to bring a child home from another country.
- Fees for private infant adoptions range from $5,000 - $40,000. International adoptions are generally in the same range.
- Adoptions of waiting children through public social services agencies are often free. If fees are charged, they may be reimbursed when a child from that agency is placed with you.
- We recommend that you pay for services as you receive them, rather than paying the total cost up front.
- How long does it take to complete an adoption? Each adoption is unique. However, make sure to ask about the average length of time families wait between applying to adopt and beginning the home study process. Ask how long you should expect to wait between the completion of the home study report and having a child placed in your home.
- What steps are required in the process? Although each agency's procedures vary and there are different requirements for infant, waiting children, and international adoption, you can expect to complete some or all of the following:
- Initial Interview
- Application form
- Adoption preparation classes
- Adoption home study
- When will the agency notify you of your approval for placement? Will you be able to review a copy of your home study report? If you are not approved, can you find out why not? Does the agency have a grievance process?
- What steps will the agency take to help identify the right child for your family? What can you do to help find a child?
- Will the agency study you for both in-state and out-of-state children? At what point in time will they consider helping me adopt a child from another county or state if they have not placed a child in my home within a certain time period? Most public agencies placing children from foster care are primarily concerned about placing the children in their custody. As an adoptive family, they see you as a resource for their children. Most private agencies that help families adopt children from foster care will help you adopt from your state or another state. Most private agencies placing newborns will be facilitating a match between you and one of the birth mothers with whom they are working.
- For international adoptions, are all foreign agencies and attorneys working with the agency licensed or recognized in their own countries?
- What kind of support services does the agency offer before, during, and after placing the child? What services are offered to the adoptive family? To the birth parents? Does the agency offer counseling or support groups? Are services available after the adoption is finalized?
- What if the adoption doesn't work out? Will the agency consider your family for another child?
- Is it possible to talk to families who have adopted through the agency or through the specific program you’re interested in? Most agencies will give you names of families who were happy with their adoption experience. Most states maintain complaint files for licensed agencies at the Department of Human Services licensing office. Again, parent support groups are often excellent resources for evaluations of local agencies.