Your unofficial guide to choosing an adoption agency

Take a deep breath. If you're reading this, chances are you've already taken two very big steps in your adoption journey:

1) You've decided adoption is right for you.
2) You've elected to proceed with an agency-facilitated adoption -- not an independent, foster care or family relative adoption.

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!

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