Choosing An Agency Part 1

One of the hardest parts of the adoption process for many families (including us so far) can be the hunt for the right agency. You could also go the route of an attorney or facilitator (which I don’t recommend), but since we’re using an agency, I thought I’d explain how we came to find and select our agency.

Let me first disclose a little sheepishly that I have a tendency to be…. obsessive… when it comes to hunting for important things. I spent months searching for an agency that met our needs and criteria. Because of this, I want to be thorough, so I’ve broken this entry into separate chapters. This first entry will cover how we narrowed down what we wanted out of an agency, and what things you must consider before diving in.

Personal Preferences

First thing’s first. Arm yourself with the law! Know what your state (or the state you’ll be adopting from) laws are regarding adoption! This is vitally important!! Every state has different laws regarding adoption. From personal research, I’ve found that two of the best states for adoption are Texas and Florida, but there are other great pro-adoption states out there. There are also states whose laws are not considered pro-adoption, and can get you in a world of trouble and hurt. So please, carefully read about your state’s laws before deciding anything.

Next, decide on what YOU want from your adoption agency. Before you ever pick up that phone and start calling agencies, set a list for your family of what you want and what you aren’t willing to compromise on.

Race/Culture

For instance, are you interested in adopting a child of a particular race or culture? Decide on this. Arm yourself with information about trans-racial adoptions, raising children of other cultures, and how to prepare yourselves to become a multiracial family. Be steadfast in your decision. I spoke with agencies that tried to convince me to take interest in cultures I wasn’t open to, and they tried to convince me the cultures I was open to were wrong. Stay strong! You know what’s best for your family, don’t let a stranger convince you otherwise.

Open, Semi-Open, or Closed

Decide early on what adoption arrangement you’re interested in. I did months of research on open adoptions vs. closed adoptions, and learning what semi-open adoptions even were. I decided I was not interested in an open adoption, and was told by several agencies that I needed personal therapy because I wasn’t willing to change my mind on that issue! I felt bullied by these agents to change my mind. They want you to sign with them…that’s how they make money. Sad but true. They’ll tell you anything… You only need to worry about your own personal convictions and don’t let an agency convince you that you’re wrong.

Health

We decided early on that there are amazing families out there called to adopt special needs babies, and these families are truly blessed with a gift. But we are not one of these families. We aren’t called to take on a special needs child, and to say we are called to take these situations on would hurt both us and the child in the future. I was told by several agencies that I had to be open to a certain level of disability. One even told me I would never find a healthy newborn to adopt in America! Hogwash. Ignore it and move on. If you are called to adopt special needs children, make this known when you contact agencies! They’ll be thrilled to hear from you, as most are usually hurting for special families to take on these special babies.

Drug/Alcohol Exposure

Now, I’ll admit. I don’t like the way most of the adoption agency applications phrase this question. When you check yes, that you are open to some amount of alcohol exposure, sometimes it’s hard to know to what extent they’re talking about. I was told by one agency that I wouldn’t find a baby with no drug exposure. I didn’t trust that piece of advice and moved on. If you don’t feel equipped to handle something, don’t say you are.

Baby Born Situations

This term applies to babies that are available for adoption that are already born. In other words, your family does not meet with the birth mother or receive word of her and her baby before the baby is born for your to be “matched” with or accept or decline. The agency calls you and says something along the lines of, “We have a baby that was born two days ago, the mother didn’t have an adoption plan made, but she’s decided to place. It’s a boy. Are you interested?” If so, then you have a baby! If not, you can say no, and they’ll call another family. These are also called “no risk” or “low risk” adoptions, because there is no longer a chance for the birth mother to change her mind. When you begin calling agencies, ask them if they ever have baby born situations. If they do, and you’re interested in such a thing, this is a wonderful option. I highly recommend taking interest in baby born situations.

Money Money Money

Doesn’t it make the world go round? Sure does! And it limits our list of potential agencies significantly. We have a set amount we are willing to spend and able to spend, and we can’t go beyond that. Agencies that have fees starting out at $20,000 and then go up from there were marked off of our list quickly. Ones that started out at $40,000 and then went up from there made me gasp, gag, and then were crossed off immediately. If we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it. Done.

Refunds and Transfers

Some agencies, should a situation fall through (as in, you’re matched with a birth mom and she decides to parent the baby herself), will offer a partial refund. Some won’t. Some will keep your money but transfer it to another situation, so as soon as your match falls through (if it does), your fees will transfer to a new situation and a new match. I like this arrangement, because we don’t have to start over again, and we can just move to the next situation without losing any money.

Birth Mother Expenses

Birth mother expenses vary from agency to agency. Sometimes it means you’re expected to cover the birth mother’s medical fees and tests during her pregnancy. Other times it means you are expected to pay for her rent, groceries, clothes, utilities, medical bills, and counseling during her pregnancy and up to six weeks after the baby is born. We won’t do it. We were told by some agencies that we didn’t have a choice. Others don’t have birth mother expenses at all. We had to find agencies that will allow you to sign up with them knowing you won’t pay a dime towards birth mother expenses. To us, it comes down to what we feel is an ethical issue. Paying for the lifestyle of a birth mother during and after her pregnancy feels like we’re paying her off somehow, and I just can’t justify this. To other adoptive parents, it feels like a natural gesture in exchange for a lifetime of joy with their baby. To each his own, but don’t feel like you have to pay birth mother expenses. You don’t.

Faith, Secular, State

There are agencies out there geared towards just about any specific faith you can think of. There are Christian, Jewish, Latter-Day Saint agencies, and many more. There are even specific denominational agencies if you want to narrow it down. Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Assembly of God, and Church of Christ all come to mind, but there are hundreds of others. If you’re looking for an agency that gears specifically towards Christian (or whatever your religion is) families, chances are you’ll find one. Make no mistake though, just because these agencies claim to be affiliated with a specific church does not mean they are perfect or immune from flaws. Check your BBB (they make it very easy online) and research online for any complaints or law violations with whatever agency you’re considering.

Often the agencies affiliated with a church or synagogue will require that you present a letter from your pastor, bishop, priest, or elders saying that you do belong to this faith and that you regularly attend church and practice the religion honestly.

Faith-Based

There are many agencies that fall in the ambiguously self-titled genre of “Faith-Based.” In all honesty, I’m not entirely certain what these agencies adhere to, or what “faith” they follow or support. My guess? They claim to be faith-based in order to draw in potential birth moms and potential adoptive families who are interested in a “religious” adoption agency of some kind. Sometimes this is just part of their schtick, and they really don’t adhere to any specific faith, or have any requirements that say that you must be a spiritual person in order to sign up. These do offer an option for families of faith who don’t belong to a church body, and therefore would not pass the letter required from a pastor or clergyman.

State Agencies

These agencies work almost exclusively through the state system, or the foster care system. Catholic Family Charities is one that comes to mind. These agencies will help you if you’re interested in adopting one of the thousands of children who are currently in our foster care system. Fees for adopting these children are exceptionally low (some even virtually free), so if you’re interested in an older child adoption, this is a wonderful route to take.

I hope this has helped you feel a little more empowered as to what your options are and not overwhelmed. If anything, I hope that this has helped you to see that you DO have options, and you don’t have to accept the first agency that pops up in the phone book, or the first agency that tells you that you HAVE to accept an adoption arrangement or fee that you aren’t comfortable with. Know your options, equip yourself with information, and make decisions that are best for you and your family.

Next time I’ll discuss how I went about narrowing down all of my options after deciding what I wanted from my agency. It’s more complicated than picking up the phone book, but it doesn’t have to be a completely frustrating experience.

Kathleen

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Adoption Agencies

2 responses to “Choosing An Agency Part 1

  1. Erica N.

    Hi Kat,
    I haven’t read far enough ahead (yet) to know how things are proceeding with your adoption but even at this point your journey is a blessing. My husband and I are currently wrestling with the decision to adopt or go through another HG pregnancy. Fortunately, I had excellent care and enough ‘reserve weight’ that my 20+ lb weight loss did not endanger our son or myself to an extreme degree. But I remember spending hours crying in the tub or laying in bed rotating through pills and praying for relief. Even with the help of a zofran pump (if you’re not familiar there’s a great post on happybrownhouse titled “life with a zofran pump) I still dread putting my marriage and our beautiful son through that experience. And at the same time, I feel guilty for not being willing to endure it for another biological child. My husband is more nervous about adoption than I am and I know he really wants us to get pregnant again. I just can’t settle into the thought of doing it all over again. I’m sorry for ranting all over your post. I think I just need some encouragement and even if you could never reply, your story offers that. Thank you.

    • Bless your heart, Erica! I’m so glad to hear from you about your own HG journey. No HG mom ever has to apologize on my blog for opening up about their own experiences with this awful illness. My sweet friend Molly has a blog called Knocked Up Knocked Over (look for the link on the left side of the screen) and she’s been through HG twice, complete with PICC lines and Zofran pumps.

      I completely get the guilt you feel. Believe me. I was actually going to write a new post today about how our adoption journey is going at this point. I can tell you this- adoption is only scary if you go into it unarmed. But in my opinion, HG is always scary. Does that make sense? Travis and I have had our heart moved in ways we never thought possible by the Lord in this process. He’s opened our minds, softened our hearts, and worked amazing wonders in the hearts and minds of our loved ones as well {family who I never thought would support us adopting outside of our race are now on board and excited. That’s God right there.}

      I can’t tell you what to choose between another HG pregnancy or adoption, but I can tell you that I know how hard that choice can be. It was incredibly difficult for me to let go of my dream pregnancy, and actually I only just now got past all of that. But I fully believe our family can only be furthered through adoption, and I’m really excited to see it happen. My current favorite blog to stalk is http://shockleyfamily.blogspot.com/ . They are a wonderful Christian family, and I need to add this blog to my favorites list. She is such a huge encourager, and all four of their babies are adopted transracially from the US. They’re just amazing, and have completely changed my attitude about adoption. So maybe reading some positive adoption stories from happy families can help ease your fears. I don’t know. Only you can know what will be best for your family, but I would say at least consider adoption. I absolutely understand your hesitations at the idea of putting your sweet little boy through all of that, and that is the very reason I decided I can’t do it again.

      Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment. I’ll be keeping you and your family in my prayers as you work your way through such a difficult decision. If you need to talk, please feel free to email me at lovemakesafamily@yahoo.com.

      Kat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s