Take a deep breath. If you're reading this, chances are you've already taken two very big steps in your adoption journey:
The process of choosing the right adoption agency is one that deserves time and attention. When you're starting out, it's easy to believe that getting your new child quickly is what's most important, right? Wrong!
Often families who've been through the process regret that they didn't take others factors into consideration. They realize that bringing their baby home is just the beginning. Adoption is a lifelong journey.
The agency you choose is important. It becomes an invaluable resource as your family grows and develops. Finding counselors and health specialists who are sensitive to the unique issues raised by adoption is much easier if you work with an agency that offers good post-adoption services. Any agency worth its $10,000 to $20,000 fees (in some cases) should be as committed to post-adoption practices as it is to front-end services.
Unfortunately, many prospective parents view their agency and its social workers as gatekeepers or police officers; nothing is further from the truth. Agency workers are, first and foremost, children's advocates. Their goal is to identify and prepare people who'll be good adoptive parents.
Potential parents who have had experience only with domestic adoption may be surprised when they start inquiring about international programs. Many times, agencies have more waiting children overseas than loving, stable homes with qualified parents! If you meet the basic emotional, financial and personal qualifications to adopt, you'll find that agencies will be just as interested in making things work as you are.
Take the time to select an agency that feels like a good fit. Then you -- and your adopted child -- will enjoy the benefits of a supportive relationship that can (and should) last a lifetime!
Consider the following questions and topics while you make your decision:
Location. One of the biggest misconceptions about adoption is that you must choose an agency located in your home state. If you're adopting internationally, there are countries, like South Korea, that have strict state-specific guidelines, but generally families are free to choose from agencies around the country. Just make sure the agency you're interested in is licensed to place in your state. One drawback, though, to choosing an agency from far away is the potential loss of meeting local families who have used the same agency. You may also be asked to fill out special interstate paperwork, which can slow down the adoption process. And you'll have to find a social worker in your area to do your home study, which will reduce direct contact with your primary agency. (Most of your direct communication will be with your social worker not the agency program director.)
Fees. These vary. Some agencies have a sliding scale. Others do not. While cost is certainly important, never work with an agency that you do not feel comfortable with simply because it is cheaper. You might wind up switching halfway through the adoption and waste valuable time and money.
Specific program experience. Some agencies have lots of practice dealing with certain countries. Others have great track records with domestic placements. Make sure your agency has completed a respectable number of successful adoptions in the plan that interests you. If your agency is pioneering a program in a country that has just opened its doors to U.S. adoptions, check for a strong reputation in facilitating international adoptions from other countries.