How to Select an Adoption Agency or Attorney

When your family makes the decision to adopt, you’ll need to choose an adoption agency or an attorney—or possibly both—to work with.  Needless to say this is a very important decision, as the adoption process can be quite complex and you want to make sure every step along the way is handled correctly.

First, let’s consider the main points when choosing an adoption agency:

1.  Network with adoption professionals and with parents who have been through the adoption process and get agency recommendations.

2.  See if the agency has a free orientation that you can attend.

3.  Call the governmental body in your state that regulates adoption agencies and verify that the agency has all the proper licensing.  Check if there are any complaints on file.  Check this with the Better Business Bureau as well.  Ask the agency for its professional affiliations and standards of practice.

4.  Ask for a copy of the contract and any literature you could read over that would provide more information about the agency.

5.  Find out what limitations the agency has on what type of adoptive parents it will work with.  (Some agencies work only with people of a certain religion.  Some will work with single people and some will not.  Some will work with gay couples and some will not.  Different agencies will have different age limits.  Etc.)

6.  Find out in detail the pre-adoption and post-adoption services the agency offers.

7.  Find out how many adoptions the agency has completed, how many have failed, and how many, if any, were later overturned.

8.  Find out how much time on average passes between the initiation of the process and the finalization of the adoption.

9.  Find out what training and qualifications their counselors have.

10.  Obtain an itemized list of all costs and fees.  Find out what expenses of the birth mother you would be responsible for.  If they ask for a large amount of money upfront, that’s a red flag.  If they make it sound like it’ll be unusually inexpensive, or that you won’t have to pay for certain things you would have to pay for with other agencies, that’s a red flag.

11.  If you are interested in a specific type of adoption like an international adoption or an open adoption, discuss with them what experience and expertise they have in that area.

12.  Find out how the agency receives medical information on the children.

13.  If the agency makes promises of being able to match you up with a child before they’ve even screened you, this is a red flag.  Anything that sounds too good to be true like that, or where they’re jumping ahead of themselves, is a red flag.

14.  Spend enough time talking with the people at the agency to get a sense of what they’re like and whether you could work comfortably with them.

Investigate multiple agencies like this, and pick the one that separates itself from the pack.

As far as choosing an adoption attorney, the main consideration is that you want the right specialist.  Adoption can be a complex area of the law, so not just any attorney will do.  It should be someone with a strong background in family law and adoption specifically.

Here too you should ask around and get recommendations.  Check with adoptive parent support groups to find out what attorneys people have had good experiences with.

Ask about fees.  (Be ready for sticker shock.  Depending on whether the attorney will be handling the adoption from start to finish, or you just need someone to consult with here and there during the process and file some legal paperwork, you’ll be paying thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.)

Just as you should with adoption agencies, spend enough time with prospective attorneys and ask enough questions that you have a good sense of what kind of people they are, how confident and competent they seem, and whether they are people you sense that you could work with.

It may take considerable time and effort to shop around and find the right adoption agency and/or adoption attorney, but it’s well worth it.  You’re looking to add another person to your family; you want to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Sources:

Jennifer O’Riordan, “Choosing an Adoption Agency.” Adoptive Families.

“Selecting an Adoption Agency or Attorney.” Adoption.com.