Thursday, October 20, 2011

Agency Adoptions

I was very surprised to recently learn that agency adoptions are on the decline. Instead, expectant mothers considering adoption as well as prospective adoptive parents are finding each other through social networking sites or friends and family members.

Maybe it's my age, but I'm still a firm believer in agency adoption. While expensive for the adoptive family I think a good, ethical agency is on everyone's 'side' and honors the wishes of the birthmother. The fees cover all counseling of the birthparents, all home study and related costs, as well as all legal fees. But probably the biggest service I feel adoption agencies offer is post-placement counseling for the birthmother.

I did have an agency adoption. And my counselor was open to post-placement counseling. But since I was thousands of miles away and Skype and email weren't readily available (I don't think they were invented yet), my only option was communicating with my counselor through handwritten letters. My folks would not hear of me going to a live counselor in our area.

I'm not saying agency adoptions are for everyone and it's important to note that the opinions in this post are solely my own and not the opinions of BirthMom Buds as a whole. I'm curious as to why you wouldn't choose an agency adoption. This is so interesting to me. I would love your feedback including your specific experience and your perceived pros and cons of that choice!

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  1. I'm an adoptive parent, so I hope you don't mind me chiming in. We're not using an agency, even though we really wanted to. Why?
    - We're specifying gender this time. Many agencies won't let you do that, or will charge you a lot extra to do it.
    - Many agencies have restrictions on who is allowed to adopt. We wouldn't use an agency that wouldn't allow gay/lesbian parents to adopt. Even though we're heterosexual, we don't want to contribute to discrimination. In the same vein, many agencies have religious requirements. If you're not Christian, a lot of agencies are closed off.
    - Agencies are usually far more expensive. Most of the agency situations I see are over $28K. It used to be that $40K was never seen, now it's the high end, but seen. Agency fees are climbing. I'm not talking about legal expenses or birthmom expenses, but flat out fees that are itemized as "agency fee". These are usually the highest numbers on the list.

    The lawyer we're working with works with a social worker who is counseling the expectant mother we're working with.

    I have also heard, but I cannot corroborate, that many agencies treat expectant mothers of color very poorly.

    Finally, it's very hard to know which agencies are ethical. There really aren't any sites to get comprehensive information about agencies. There are a couple of agency review sites, but there aren't many reviews, and the ones that are there focus on getting the child, as opposed to how anyone is treated.

    Just my two cents. Hope it's OK!

  2. Hi Terri! We used a private attorney instead of an agency. For us it was because of the fee's we found with many agencies that could not be accounted for. Submitting my tax returns just so my application fee can be based on my income? I would rather more of the money involved be used for the birthmom needs and adoption education. Using social networking does make me a bit leery along with you. I would still recommend that adoptions be done through an "expert" to make sure the child (ren), birthparents and adopting parents are all protected. I knew and understood my charges with the attorney and I also knew that the money to support our birthmom went right to her. All of our other expenses, background checks, homestudies with handled direclty though the providers we used so I again felt the accountability was there. Since the completion of our adoption I have heard of two agencies that do work more in this manner and know people who have used them. If someone didn't want to go through a private attorney I would recommend these agencies but I can't imagine a situation where I would advise social networking alone in such a complex and emotionally charged situation as an adoption.

  3. Thank you thank you for the comments. I am learning so much. Keep them coming!

  4. I am a brithmom and we did not use an agency. I met my sons parents through mutual friends and we had a lawyer handle all of the legal stuff. There was a social worker that I met with twice but other than that it was just paperwork.

    I really wish I had gone through an agency. I feel like I was hugely unprepared and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I feel like if I had gone through an agency they would have (possibly) discussed some of those things with me and helped me to be more educated and at the very least sparked a need for me to do more research on adoption. I needed the support that an agency could have provided.

    I chose not to go through an agency largely because of the stereotype of an "adoption agency". I knew from the beginning I couldn't choose a couple through an agency because it just creeped me out; the thought of sitting down and choosing my sons parents out of a binder based on how they look on a sheet of paper. I just couldn't do it. I immediately chose to find the couple through friends and I think after that I didn't realize an agency could offer anything else. I never really knew I could or should access an agency after that.

    I SO wish I had, for a hundred and one reasons.

  5. Oh lovedbe, I hear you. I think a lot of us are suffering because we didn't know and didn't have any post-placement support services. Some agencies offer bm counseling forever, so if you still feel like you could benefit from it, you could call around and try to find a local agency OR a local pregnancy resource center that would support you during this time.

    Also, the forum groups here on the BBuds site are very supportive. If you haven't already, you may consider joining. Blessings!

  6. I am an adoptive parent that adopted independently (without an agency through an attorney) and then a few months later began working at an adoption agency so I have seen and experienced both sides first hand. Even knowing a lot about adoption before my husband and I adopted, I still felt like in our independent adoption we as the adoptive parents as well as our son's birth mom (who we knew beforehand) did not have enough support pre and post adoption. We did not have supportive professionals to help us during the time at the hospital which made things really stressful and we have to navigate correspondence and post adoption visits on our own without anyone to facilitate or provide support which can sometimes be hard. We fortunately have a great relationship with our son's birth mom which is great, but I still feel like she needed more resources and support than what she received and I feel bad knowing she would have received that through an agency. Working with a reputable, birth-parent centered agency now, I see how much easier it is for the birth parents and adoptive parents when they go through an agency. Not all agencies are ethical and holistic in their approach so you definitely need to do research but the agency I work with provides tons of education, counseling and resources for both birth parents and adoptive parents pre and post adoption and it makes a BIG difference. I could go on about other legal, financial, and emotional risks involved for both parties when you work with an attorney instead of an agency, but I will just say that if you are working with a reputable, nonprofit, ethical agency it almost always works out better for everyone involved.