The Basics of Choosing an Adoption Agency

How to begin when choosing an adoption agency.

choosing an adoption agency

Agency 101

  • A “sending” agency has custody of the child and the legal right to decide where the child will go.
  • A “placing” agency is the matchmaker between the child and the parents.
  • The “home study” agency approves potential adoptive parents.

Depending on kind of adoption you’re doing, you may work with one, two, or three agencies; if you’re lucky, your sending agency can also be your placing and home-study agency.

Which agency do I choose first?

When you set out to find an agency, it’s smart to choose the sending agency first; you want your principal contact to be the one that knows most about the child. If the sending agency is in another state and can’t do your home study, ask them to recommend a home-study agency or a social worker whom they’ve worked with before.

 What’s the difference between public or “state” agencies and private agencies? Who regulates agencies?

Public agencies are part of your state or county government. They deal mostly with foster children. Private agencies are licensed by your state’s department of social services, and must submit to regular inspections—usually one a year.

Straight talk: Many adoption agencies with religious-sounding names have no religious restrictions (“Christian” or “Jewish” in the name doesn’t mean they work only with Christian or Jewish families); some agencies with secular-sounding names actually have a religious mission. When you start looking for agencies, don’t rule anyone in or out based on the name, but do ask up front about religious preferences.

What is an adoption facilitator or an adoption consultant?

An adoption facilitator or is someone who matches prospective adoptive parents to birth mothers and/or children. An adoption consultant is someone who advises you on your path, and helps you choose an agency or attorney.

In the United States, facilitators don’t have to have any kind of license or training, and aren’t subject to professional regulations or codes of conduct. Many states restrict what facilitators can do. Even if your state permits them, but the birth mother or birth father’s state doesn’t, you’ll run into trouble. Based on our families’ experience, we would recommend against using a facilitator, unless he or she is also licensed as an attorney, or works in partnership with an adoption attorney.

If you are doing an international adoption, your agency may have to use facilitators in the sending country. Most of the complaints the U.S. state department received about adoptions gone wrong involve facilitators. If  your agency does use them, ask for a list of parents who adopted recently using the same facilitator, and talk to them about their experiences.

Do adoption agencies make money?

Adoption is a multi-million dollar business in the U.S. Even public agencies need fees to support their programs. Private agencies can be for-profit (like any other business) or nonprofit (a charity). Some of our families find that the idea of people profiting from an adoption makes them queasy. If you’re like them, you may be more comfortable going through a nonprofit agency with humanitarian programs as well as adoption services.

What happens if my adoption agency goes out of business?

If the agency is licensed, state law requires them to transfer your records to another licensed agency, so that you don’t have to start your application, home study, and so on, all over again.

What happens to your fees, though, depends on the the agency’s management or board of trustees. Some of our families in this situation have had all their fees refunded Others have been left high and dry—yet another reason to choose a large, nonprofit agency with a long track record and deep roots in the community.


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