For most prospective adoptive families, choosing an adoption agency is a mysterious process in which you feel a total loss of control. At Family to Family we understand that and would like to give you some advice on ways to make this process easier. The following tips are not mysterious or a secret. They can be found on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' website at www.dfps.state.tx.us.
There are three basic categories of adoption services: private adoption, international adoption or adoption of a child through Child Protective Services. Because we are a private adoption agency, I will be discussing those tips related to private, newborn placement.
For-Profit vs. Non-Profit
Private adoption agencies can be either for-profit or non-profit. Family to Family is a non-profit 501c3 corporation in which there are no owners, only board members and staff members. Whether you use a for-profit agency or a non-profit agency is really immaterial to the services you should expect to be provided. In a for-profit agency, any profit will go to the owner(s) or share holders of the agency. In a non-profit agency, any profit must be reinvested into the agency's population that it serves after it has met its obligations to reserves and staff responsibilities. Minimum adoption standards are pretty specific on governance standards of all adoption agencies regardless if they are for-profit or non-profit organizations.
Information You Should Know
Make sure the agency you are considering is a licensed agency. All Texas licensed agencies are listed and their compliance record is public information at www.txchildcaresearch.org . When using this site, look for Child-Placing Agency under Residential Facility.
Contact the Better Business Bureau for a reliability report on the agency. Even if they are not members, the BBB may have had contact with that agency in the past.
Ask the agency for its list of criteria or specific requirements or qualifications of their prospective adoptive applicants. These should be somewhere in the initial paperwork given to prospective adoptive parents.
Some agencies have specific requirements regarding age or religion of the applicant. Some agencies only work with applicants who are infertile and have never had a biological child. Make sure you meet the criteria for the agency you are considering.
Ask the agency for written information about its adoption program. Texas Minimum Standards require that each licensed agency provide written information to all prospective adoptive parents regarding the following: services provided by the agency, financial policies and procedures, agency requirements, legal requirements for adoption and adoption registries.
Review all of this material very carefully. Adoption fees and refund policies can vary significantly from one agency to another. Financial disputes with adoption agencies are the most common complaint by adoptive families. Understanding the agency's procedures and fee policies can help you prevent a problem of this nature.
Ask for copies of any contracts that you may have to sign. A signed contract is a common request in most agencies. Know that you have a right to have an attorney of your choice review the contract or any other paperwork before you sign it.
Alternative Tips to Finding the Right Agency for You
Ask a friend or relative who has adopted. Even though the Internet has made the world smaller in many respects, the best way to find good services is through personal referral.
Do your homework! Check with the BBB, the licensing department's website to make sure you are dealing with a reputable agency.
Check references. Most agencies have reference lists. Ask the people on the list for additional references about the agency. Many won't know anyone else who has adopted from that agency, but some will. Get as much information from people who have actually adopted from that agency as possible.
Meet with the director of the agency or the key staff members in which you will be working. Determine if these are people and personalities that you can deal with while going through a very emotional process.
Transparency is the key! For many years, adoption has been approached with such secrecy and reticence. Yes, there are confidentiality factors, but your agency should be able to be forthcoming with statistics about placements, number of families currently enrolled in their program, number of birth families being serviced.
When you ask for a copy of the contract and other paperwork that you will be expected to sign, it should be made available to you with no hesitation.
You will find that TRUST is the most important issue to you during this highly emotional process of adoption. Make sure you feel some sort of trusting relationship with the agency and its employees before signing on. Afterwards is too late.
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