Choosing the right adoption agency or attorney is absolutely key. It’s a much bigger decision than buying a car, so spend at least the same amount of time researching agencies and attorneys as you would on Carfax! As you do, here are six questions to ask a potential agency or attorney:
1) Where are you licensed to operate?
You will need to be working with either an agency or attorney licensed in your state. If your expectant mother comes from another state, you will probably need to hire someone there as well, but you definitely don’t want to end up hiring three professionals, so start with one in your state. Also, make sure you’re hiring a licensed agency or attorney, not starting with a facilitator.
2) Do you market for us or do you expect us to find our own expectant mother?
Not all attorneys and agencies actively market to find an expectant mom with whom to match you. Many expect that you either do your own marketing or retain an adoption matching service, like AdoptMatch, or a facilitator. There’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure that if they are charging you a “matching fee,” or for “expectant/birth mother outreach,” that they are really spending your dollars on marketing. Find out what constitutes their marketing efforts and what their success rate is (i.e. how many actual matches do they bring in, versus how many clients find their own expectant moms).
3) What’s the highest possible cost you would anticipate the total adoption costing, not just to you, but to all of the parties involved that we will need to pay?
There are lots of parties to pay in an adoption: social workers, out of state professionals, attorneys (even if you’re using an agency), expectant mother living expenses, a home study agency possibly– make sure you get a complete list so you can plan well.
4) What kind of support do you offer expectant mothers before, during, and after the adoption?
We’re not just asking about physical support here, but pre- and post-adoption counseling, separate legal representation, support group referrals, and practical physical assistance. It’s absolutely vital for the integrity of your adoption and, ultimately, for your future child that your expectant mother be treated with great respect by you and your adoption professional. Part of respecting her ensures that she receives all of the resources that she needs to make an informed decision and adoption plan, as well as helping her to get back on her feet following the birth and placement. Make sure your professional is committed to her welfare. Stay clear of anyone who is dismissive of or speaks derogatorily about expectant/birth mothers.
5) How do you help parties determine the right match for them?
This includes asking about how the professional screens potential expectant mothers. It also includes having a heart to heart conversation with them about what your expectations and parameters are for the adoption and for the child you will ultimately welcome into your home. Any adoption professional you choose should help guide you through a thoughtful consideration of your tolerances related to drug and alcohol exposure, mental health issues, learning disabilities, ethnicity, openness in the relationship, etc.
6) What’s your view of open adoption and do you typically help clients with a written post-adoption contact agreement?
Your relationship with your child’s birth family is central to your child’s developing identity. You want a professional who will help you plan for and navigate that relationship in a child-centered manner. In our experience, it’s highly preferable that, no matter how open and loving your relationship is with your child’s birth parents, you enter into a written post-contact agreement. It will help prevent disappointment from false expectations or miscommunication later.