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Adoption Agencies - Choosing

three step process for choosing an adoption agency


Where to Start

The Process



Where to start for Information on Choosing an Adoption Agency:

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The Process of Choosing an Adoption Agency:

Step 1: The First Cut- The goal is the narrow down the number of possible adoption agencies into a manageable list without having to call each agency.



  • Local vs. National

  • Do they place children from the country you’re interested in?

  • Large vs. Small - (# of adoptions per year of the type of adoptions you are interested in)

  • Experience (# of years on business)

  • Pre- Adoption Education (Do they stress?, is it convenient?)

  • Post Adoption Services (classes, annual gatherings, newsletter, counseling)

  • Humanitarian Aid or Support for other nonprofits that “give-back”


  • Location:
  • Countries they place children from:
  • Size: You will get more information on the agency’s expertise during the interview in Step 2, but at this stage you need to be sure that any agency that makes the first cut places enough children to be able to help you.
  • Experience. You will get more information on the agency’s expertise during the interview in Step 2, but at this stage you need to be sure that any agency that makes the first cut has been in business long enough to have the requisite experience.
  • Pre and Post Adoption Education and Services
    • You’ll need to go to the websites of the agency itself to see what they offer and how convenient it is for you to access.
  • Humanitarian Aid

Step 2: Now is the time to ask questions to gather information and to get a “feel” for the agency and its personnel. You will want to contact your narrowed down list of agencies and schedule a time to talk either in person or over the phone. Do not email this list to the agencies. You must talk with them in person to decide if you think you would enjoy working with them, do you trust them, do you like them?

Step 3: The Final Cut - At this point you should only have a couple of agencies that you are considering. Now’s the time to do some snooping.


  • State Licensing- Most states license adoption agencies. The standards for licensing are usually not particularly rigid, but you want to make sure that the agency you are considering is fully licensed in good standing. To find the licensing body in your state go here
  • Hague Accreditation- If you are adopting internationally and from a country that is a member of the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, your agency must be accredited. Hague accreditation is a good thing to look for in any agency since many Hague accredited agencies apply the Hague standards to all adoptions, and there are significant advantages to the adoptive parents from the Hague standards. The US State Department lists agencies that are Hague Accredited. It is also useful to see which agencies were denied Hague accreditation.

  • Council on Accreditation (COA)- COA develops standards of practice and accredits human services organizations, including adoption agencies. COA is the primary accrediting entity for the Hague Treaty in the US, but it also has a separate voluntary COA accreditation for domestic and international adoption agencies. A list of agencies accredited by the COA.

  • Foreign Licensing or Accreditation- Some countries have their own licensing or accrediting requirements for adoption agencies that want to place their children.

Complaints - There is no one place that official complaints against adoption agencies will be found, so you have to check several places.

  • The State Licensing Boards -The State licensing board may be able to tell you if a complaint has been filed, but they may not keep those records unless the complaint has been substantiated.
  • Hague Complaint Registry -Only for international adoption agencies that place children from countries that are members of the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption. Also, it has only been in effect since 2008.
  • Better Business Bureau -Check the BBB for all cities where the agency operates. Complaint information is available by phone and online.
  • Attorney General's office of the states where the agency operates or with the state’s Office of Consumer Affairs. Call the attorney general’s office and ask where complaint would be filed. The National Association of Attorneys General lists the telephone number and email address for the attorney general of each state.
  • Some international adoptive parents may file a complaint with the US Embassy in the country they adopted from. You can send an email asking if any complaints have been filed. Contact information on all US Embassies.


  • Adoption Agency Research, International - This is my favorite place to gather information about specific international adoption agencies. This forum encourages you to ask about specific agencies. You can also research their archives.
  • Adoption Agency Research, Domestic - A great place to get information on specific agencies, unfortunately, it is not as active as Adoption Agency Research- International.
  • Adoption Agency is an online community where adoptive parents can post their reviews and comment on their adoption agencies, attorneys, and facilitators. It has nice searching abilities and a feature that allows you to graphically compare several agencies. The graphic does not distinguish how many reviews have been posted.
  • Adoption Agency Ratings Has lots of reviews, many of them recent. Is a little hard to navigate. Look up your agency name. I like that they post the number of reviews right with the name.
  • Search the internet for the names of the key employees at the agency. It is possible for unscrupulous personnel to fold one agency after legal problems or numerous complaints, and reopen a new agency with a new name. If the employee was scummy before, they are likely scummy now.
  • Domestic or International Adoption Yahoo groups - Make sure that the forum allows you to mention specific agencies. Not all do. Some allow you to ask on the forum, but require that you take the responses by email.
  • Ask the agency for references. See our Questions for References guide for help.
  • A Girlfriends Guide to Choosing an Agency includes questions to ask references (both adoptive parents and first parents).

Compare Costs- When comparing agency fees make sure that the same services and costs are included. Some agencies are very careful to include all costs when they quote a fee, while others just hit the high points and add the “incidentals” as they go along. You will ask for detailed fees and what is included when you interview the agencies in Step 2.

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* Only includes those agencies that are sponsors or members or advertisers. Keep this in mind when referring to these resources and weigh accordingly.



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