Sorting Out The Adoption Process: Part 1 Choosing An Agency

Let me start by saying, I don’t have all the answers; we didn’t do everything right no matter how hard we tried. When it really comes down to it focus on one thing: I believe that the right child comes into the right family at the right time.  So, know that you can try your best to get on the right path, but ultimately if you believe the previous statement as I do, then know that eventually the right child will find his or her way to you no matter what. It is just a matter of time. I know this is a hard statement to believe.  I need to remember this on a regular basis even though I know it to be true.  I have seen this happen at work too many times not to believe it in my heart of hearts to be so. I could tell you crazy stories of how children have come into families.  (I cannot share these for the sake of confidentiality.) And surely I think you know by now that I feel that very way about my little boy.  There is no doubt in my mind he was meant to be ours. 

When we started the adoption process my husband and I decided that we would have an Adoption Palooza and spent a full weekend sorting out all of the adoption information that we had received in the mail, looking at more programs on-line, and writing a pros and cons list with the goal of choosing an adoption agency by the end of the weekend. We are both the kind of people that weigh out all the options,  often times too much,  before making a decision.  What ended up happening is that we were able to narrow it down to a few agencies and then had a list of questions to ask each one at the end of the weekend.  It was overwhelming and seemed near impossible to choose.  In the end, what attracted us to the agency we choose the first time were 1) they called you back and you could speak to a live person when you called, 2) they had a credit policy that meant if a birth mom changed her mind the fees would be applied to your next adoption with the exception a few things 3) their wait times were proven shorter than most agencies we were looking into because they worked with birth moms all over the country and advertised a lot and 4)You didn’t pay any money to the agency until you were matched.

What I will tell you is that we didn’t pick the right agency the first time around.   Even with all of the research we did, there was so much we didn’t know to look into.  What is worse is that I work in international adoption so I had some notion of how adoption worked and felt that was a plus.  What our first agency did right is that they matched us quickly with a really good fit. Our family and the birth family had many things in common and we waited just 7.5 weeks on the waiting list to be matched.  We didn’t see that one coming! What went wrong is that after the match, after we paid a large sum of money to the agency, we heard hide nor hair from them throughout most of the adoption. Every time we asked about something they would say, that is not a service we do.  Hmm, they advertised themselves as a full service agency but operated very much more like a facilitator.  The worst part of the whole thing was that while we weren’t hearing from our agency, our birth mom was not getting any support either.  In  my mind that is absolutely unacceptable. 

The year following our adoption the agency we used lost their license.  They did get it back again, but many of the concerns we had were some of the reasons they lost their license.  To be sure you understand any investigations or complaints made about an agency, you can contact the state’s department of licensing (this is often Children and Youth Services) or in some states complaints are monitored by the Consumer Affairs office of the state Attorney General. If you are doing an international Hague adoption then you can also check with the Department of State and the Council on Accreditation for Hague Accredited Agencies.  I did call the Attorney General of our first agency’s state, and then I was able to ask questions of the agency based on the concerns they mentioned.  Our first agency was very good at talking about changes they had made, and seemed to be open and honest with their answers.  Should we have been more concerned? Maybe or maybe not – I have to keep in mind that in working for an adoption agency I understand that sometimes I bend over backwards for people and they still aren’t happy. So, for these reasons I think that you have to take people’s on-line reviews or complaints with a grain of salt. 

I am very fortunate to have worked in social services throughout my career. In many instances, I have worked with young moms in underprivileged situations.  I have also worked with kids as long as I can remember.  So, I ended up being my birth mom’s social worker much of the time as well. While I had most of the basic skills to do this, this was also not a role I should have been in as an adoptive mother.  I grew to fall in love with this funny, outspoken, friendly young lady but yet there were times when I had to be the one to tell her “no” we couldn’t do something because it was against the rules and things like that. It became awkward because the more I got to know her the more I deep down wanted to do anything for her.  My head and my heart had to argue with one another and eventually decide what was the right thing to do in the situation.  What we learned and want to share is this – make sure you find an agency that supports your birth mom. This is one of the most important aspects of adoption.  She is in a tough spot in life. She may not have anyone else who agrees with the choice she has made or who can help her weigh out her options.  She may feel lonely, depressed, uncertain, and even if she doesn’t it is not your place to be the social worker.  A really good agency will have a social worker for the adoptive family and another separate social worker who is working with the birth family, but this is not necessarily a must as long as someone is supporting both parties.  This way everyone’s best interest can be considered.  Additionally, I want to stress that the birth mom has the right to decide to parent her child.  (I’ll probably write another post on birth families.) That is her right and any agency, person or entity that tells you we are “pro-adoptive parents” is a red flag to me.  We had an attorney’s office tell us this.  I don’t want anyone to give up a child for adoption unless they choose that path as the best plan for them.  If a birth mom wants to keep her baby then let her keep her baby.   I have known a couple of instances where a birth mom did not want to keep her baby but a series of events led her to do so.  In both those instances that I know of, I believe those children were meant to be in their birth families.  Action step : Ask how often an agency is in contact with the birth moms? Are they available 24/7 to birth moms? Do they have a birth mom and adoptive family whom you could chat with to see how she/they was/were  treated? How long does the agency work with a birth mom before attempting to match her with a family?  Do they have a separate social worker for the birth family and the adoptive family?  What are some of the ways they support their birth families?  Try and get a feel for how they would treat a birth mom who was questioning whether or not to place their child for adoption. 

 In the interest of trying not to overwhelm you (sorry if I already did), I’ll stop here for now.  There is just so much that goes into choosing a program and an agency that I want to break it down as much as possible.  I am happy to write on any topic that may be of interest to you concerning the adoption process, so feel  free to contact me if you have specific questions.

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