Picking an adoption agency is hard, confusing and often anxiety provoking.  It doesn’t help when so-called experts—like me—tell you choosing an adoption agencythat it is the second most important decision you’ll make when adopting.  Talk about pressure!  I often get asked if there is a “best agency”.  The answer, of course, is “yes”, but not one best agency for everyone.  I think the enormity of the decision often blinds us to that fact.  So how should you go about picking this all important arbiter of family making?

I favor a systematic three-step approach.  The first step is done mostly online and is design to help you winnow down your choices to a select few.  In the second step you narrow you choices even more by interviewing each agency.  The third step is the all important background check to confirm your selection.  It sounds more daunting than it really is.  The last step is fairly time consuming but at this point, you should only have one or two agencies in the running, which greatly helps to reduce the time.   We include a detailed explanation of this approach, complete with all the online links and list of questions for both international and domestic adoption agencies, at our How to Choose an Adoption Agency page.  We also have a two part video on How to Choose an Adoption Agency, Red Flags to Spot a Questionable Agency, and a list of questions to ask references.

After spending some time on the internet, it’s easy to become convinced that all adoption agencies are corrupt or only in it for the money.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Oh, don’t get me wrong; some scummy adoption agencies are out there, but some wonderful ones are as well.  Not that you’d know it from reading some of the comments on the internet.  I think we hear the worst on the internet for several reasons.  When people are frustrated about their adoption, they need to vent, and the internet provides lots of places to blow off steam.  Satisfied adoptive parents are busy getting on with their lives and have a less burning desire to post glowing reports of their adoption agency.

Sometimes the venting of angry adoptive parents reveals a real problem with the agency, but sometimes not.  Adoptive parents, as much as it pains me to say, are not always reasonable.  That’s why you don’t overreact to one angry posting about an agency.  Once you start seeing a pattern, however, start paying attention.

OK, here’s the truth: the process of adoption is often messy with lots of ups and downs.  Both families involved –birth and adoptive- are making the biggest decision of their life.   What is right for them and for the child is not always clear.  Absolutes are in short supply.  No agency can make this process seamless, nor should they. You can and should expect, however, honesty, transparency, and communication.

Good agencies are child centered; they are more interested in finding homes for children than children for homes.  Good agencies come in all sizes and flavors, but in my opinion they share the following traits:

  • They stress pre-adoption education.
  • For domestic adoption agencies, they provide pre and post adoption counseling for first mothers, and support her decision either way.
  • For international adoption agencies, they have humanitarian programs in the countries where they work to help the kids that won’t be adopted and help families stay intact.
  • They don’t cherry pick the kids. In other words, they try to find homes for harder to place children.
  • They make a lifetime commitment to you and your child through post adoption services.

A good adoption agency looks more like a child-welfare agency.  It’s worth the time to find that type of agency.

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