We can’t say this often enough. Look for an agency or attorney that has completed lots of adoptions just like yours: same kind of child, same kind of parents.
- Is the agency’s license up-to-date? Check with the social services department in the agency’s state.
- Is the agency in good financial shape? If it’s a nonprofit, you’re in luck; you can check its financials at one of the charity oversight websites, like guidestar.org.
- Have there been unresolved complaints against the agency? Check with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
- Is the agency a member of one of the voluntary professional adoption organizations (the Joint Council of International Children’s Services — jointcouncil.org — or the Council on Accreditation — coanet.org)?
- If you are interested in adopting from a country that is a member of the Hague Adoption Convention, has the agency been accredited to process Hague adoptions?
At Your First Meeting
- How long have you been in business?
- How many children did you place last year?
- How many children from each of the programs in which I am interested?
- How many children did you place with a parent just like me?
- How soon after I apply will my home study begin? How long will it take? When will I know if I have been approved?
- If I am not approved, can I find out why? Is there an appeal process?
- How long will it take from home study or dossier approval to the match with a birth mother/referral of a child?
- How much time do have to decide on a referral/match?
- What happens if I don’t accept the referral/match?
- What is the total cost of adopting through each program? Can I get a written breakdown of fees and a payment schedule?
- Does the fee cover the home study, all post-placement visits, fees to the placing agency? What does it not cover?
- Do you produce an annual report that shows your financial resources?
- Do you give clients a copy of their rights with the application form?
- Do you provide a contract that spells out my responsibilities toward the adoption, as well as what you are responsible for?
- Is there a written policy of quality assurance that will address my concerns during the process?
- What are the post-placement requirements, and what placement support services do you offer before, during, and after placement?
- What happens if I find I can’t parent the child I adopted?
- What percentage of your adoptions have disrupted or dissolved? (This is the $64,000 question. Any agency that has processed more than a few hundred adoptions will have had some that failed; an agency that claims a perfect score is either very small, very new, or not entirely truthful.)
Extra Questions for International Adoption:
- Is intercountry adoption stable in my country of choice? Do you have programs in other countries I could switch to, if regulations change or if a moratorium is declared?
- Are you licensed in the sending country, as well as the U.S.? If not, are the agencies you work with licensed in sending countries?
- Do you use facilitators or private attorneys in the sending country? If so, how are they compensated?
- What information do we receive about a referral before we travel? How thorough and accurate is the medical information?
- What are the travel requirements? Do you help with travel arrangements?
- Do you have bilingual representatives, respected by the authorities in each foreign country, to obtain or assist with the referral of a child? Will they be there to assist me when I arrive? What is their experience and tenure with the agency? Do they work exclusively for you and exclusively in adoption?
- Are there country fees or mandatory orphanage donations separate from your fees?
- Does your fee cover the child’s transport, visa processing, and medical exams?
- Do you prepare my dossier and obtain the various stamps and approvals it will need? Do you arrange for translation?
- Are we expected to support the child between referral and the homecoming?
- Do you financially support the orphanages from which you place children? How often do your representatives visit these orphanages?
If you’re doing an international adoption, check the requirements of the sending country (who’s allowed to place children? what kind of parents are accepted?), and make sure they match what the agency tells you. The U.S. State Department maintains good information on each country.