Tips for Choosing an International Adoption Agency

Last time I talked about a CBS Special that profiled corruption in international adoption.

If you’re considering international adoption this can be very worrisome.  How do you know if an agency is ethical?  How can you be sure you’re not feeding into a system that traffics children?  There are so many things to look into and it can all feel a little overwhelming.

But you have to do your research.  Choosing an agency is so, so, so important.  I did not realize that at the time we were starting our adoption journey.  We got lucky.  Although our agency is not perfect and drives us crazy sometimes, I do believe they are an ethical agency.  But not all of them are.

And you know what happens if you realize they are not ethical after you’ve signed on with them?  At best, you walk away from them after you realize how they operate.  This can mean months of wasted time and thousands- if not tens of thousands- of wasted dollars.  At worst, you complete an adoption with them and later find out you adopted a trafficked child.

I know it is overwhelming.  But do your research, do it well, and do it BEFORE you apply to any agencies.

So how do you research?

I’m not really qualified based on my experience- as I mentioned, we did not do the research we should have.

Based on what I know now, I can’t guide you any better than my favorite blogger Jen Hatmaker.  Check out her post about this topic here.  If you are considering international adoption, memorize this.

To summarize, here are some things you want to keep in mind:

  • Once you decide on a country, talk to several agencies who work in that country.  They should all have about the same wait times.  If one agency has much shorter wait times- run!  I know far too well how painful a several-year wait can seem.  But if most agencies are telling you it’s a 2-year-wait for a healthy kid, and that’s too long, then choose another country, pray about a special needs child, or choose domestic.  Don’t go with an agency telling you they can get you a child in 6 months.
  • Get a list of referrals from the agencies you’re considering.  Of course they are only going to give you names of people who are happy.   But talk to these people and find out if the agency has a Facebook or other social media group.  Join it.  It will be filled with dozens of people who have adopted through that agency-not all of them on the agency’s referral list.  Ask the group about their experience.
  • Talk to an independent social worker.  Get his/her opinion about any agency you’re considering.
  • Adoption agencies should work on behalf of the children- NOT on behalf of the adoptive parents.  If the agency is making you promises, minimizing in country challenges, speaking poorly of birth families- run!  You may be paying them, but they should be working for the kids.  The kids should dictate how things are processed, not the demands of the adoptive families.
  • Ask how they feel about adoptive families using independent translators/investigators.  When you rely on the ones the agency/orphanage provides, you cannot be sure how they are translating things.  It is not always necessary to actually do this, but an ethical agency should at least be open to the idea and ideally supportive of it.
  • When you’re researching agencies, be skeptical.  Assume they’re not good until they convince you otherwise.  That may sound harsh, but the things that some of these agencies do is so despicable that you cannot be naive and think that all agencies are good.  They’re not.  When we were visiting our children’s first orphanage, the director told us that they had stopped working with several American agencies because they were “more concerned about business than children.”
  • Speaking of that- find out what efforts the agency makes to keep first families together.  Learn about what relief projects they’re doing in the countries they’re working in.

I know choosing an agency is a stressful decision. But doing the research now can save you so much time- and money- down the road.  At this point in our adoption, I can’t tell you how thankful we are to be working with a good (albeit not perfect) agency.  You owe it to yourself to do the research, and you owe it to the kids who are unknowingly trafficked by well-intentioned but ignorant adoptive parents every year.

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Filed under Adoption Ethics, Adoption Process, Decision Points

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