What to look for when choosing an adoption agency – advice for birth moms

I have asked Bmom why she chose our adoption agency and she said, “because it was closest”.  Simple answers like this are very common amongst both adoptive and birth parents.  But I RESEARCHED our agency.  I stopped EVERY transracial family (because we are a conspicuous bunch) and asked them which agency they used.  Now, when time came to really hunt for agencies I called EVERY lead I had.  My friend had an old co worker that adopted, I called him. My cousin’s wife’s sister adopted, I called her. My MIL knew someone that adopted, I called them.  I can’t remember how many people/ families I talked to about their adoption story and their agency. It was A LOT!  I ruled out agency’s because they were rude to me on the phone and I thought, if they are rude to me how will they treat our birthmom? RULED OUT!  I ruled out agencies because they charged differently based on your income or the child’s race. So, as I talked with bmom she told me I should write a blog post about searching for an adoption agency as a birthparent.

*First things first, what kind of adoption do you want?

If you want openness choose a local agency.  If you THINK you just want letters and yearly visits, allow yourself the possibility to have a very open adoption.  I promise your adoptive family will fall in love with you and want you in their lives.  And your yearly visit just got a whole lot easier when you only have to drive 20 minutes instead of 15 hours.

You don’t know what will happen in the future.  You may plan on going out to see your baby but are unable to come up with the funds if they live out of town. If you are afraid of bumping into your adoptive couple at the store, it won’t happen.  I have never bumped into either bmom or bdad.

If you want a closed adoption, choose a national agency.  That eliminates almost all possibility of running into them.

* Call around to different agencies and pretend you are an adoptive parent.

Most agencies will roll out the red carpet for birth parents.  But if you’re an adoptive couple… you can wait.  There are a few good things that would come from this call. You see the agencies true colors.  Are they trying to rush you off the phone?  Do they charge different amounts based on race or income levels? You will most likely just speak with the secretary, while if you are a birth parent you will go straight to a social worker.  But at every company, the secretary is the “face” of the company.  So you can get a sense of what the company values when speaking with the secretary

* What services do they provide for birth parents?

I chose our agency because they offer free LIFETIME counseling to anyone involved with the adoption.  20 years down the road, if Bear has some issue he needs to discuss, he can call them.  That goes for me, The Hubs, Honey, Pumpkin, Bear, Koala, Bmom and Bdad.  If at any point we need help, we can call them.  That was HUGE for me!!! Most agencies I called offered NO or minimal counseling for the birth parents. I wasn’t concerned about getting counseling for us, but I was concerned for the birth parents.  Some birth parents need that support throughout life.

I had ruled out other agencies because the agency was not there when they needed support.  While giving birth, etc

* There is a huge support online for birthparents, join them

Joining birth parent support groups does not mean you actually have to place.  You can change your mind at any time.

But joining a group gives you the behind the scene look at what other birth parents have gone through.  Would they use their agency again? And if so, why?

(warning, bmom said it’s hard to find a positive support group, so you may have to hunt.  If any birthmoms comment with groups I will update this post)

*If you are choosing an open adoption, let people know

This one can be a little bit sticky.  While, if someone I knew said they were placing a child for adoption, they would get nothing but support from our family.  But I know that’s not the case for many birthparents, and lack of support being one of the reasons they chose adoption.  But, if you have a great support system, let people know you are considering adoption.  I guarantee you that a “good friend” has an “aunt” that is trying to adopt. *****As long as they are licensed with an agency, that may be a path you want to go down.  I knew of LOTS of people who knew someone who was considering or placing their baby for adoption.  I got very excited in the beginning, and then realized most of those leads were dead ends.  But that could be an amazing path for you.  On the negative side of that.  If you decide to parent you would hurt the adoptive couple, therefore hurt your friend and could lose a friendship over it.  There are pluses and minuses to opening it up for people to give you leads on LICENSED adoptive parents.

*Lastly,  trust your instincts.

Just because you called an agency doesn’t mean you have to stick with them.  If at any point you don’t like your agency, for whatever reason, you can switch.  If you haven’t met and fallen in love with your adoptive couple, you have nothing to lose. (as an adoptive parent, I would warn against switching agencies after you met with them because that would be a whole lot of heartache.  Hopefully you would know how you feel about the agency before it got to that point)

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8 thoughts on “What to look for when choosing an adoption agency – advice for birth moms

  1. Thanks for this post! The only thing I would say is that if you are choosing to place a child for adoption with close family or friends, that can be difficult. One of my husband’s sisters acted as a gestational surrogate for another sister (which is not the same thing, but still a situation where she carried the babies for nine months, gave birth, etc) It was really hard b.c everyone in the family was rejoicing for the sister who finally realized her dream of motherhood. It was difficult for everyone to support the other sister in her loss at the same time.

    • Yes! Thank you so much and such a great point. If you place with family you may not get the same amount of support than if you would have placed with a non relative

    • I think so. People will chose an agency just because they agency shares the same religious belief, or whatever. It’s something that needs to be taken seriously so practices that are more on the sketchy side will have to close their doors.

  2. “I promise your adoptive family will fall in love with you and want you in their lives.”

    VERY dangerous thing to say! The fact is, more than half of open adoptions close. What you should really be saying is “your adoptive family will more than likely feel threatened and uncomfortable by you, and shut you out of their lives”.

    I know your statement reflects YOUR truth and thank you for being that way! But the sad thing is that it’s not the norm.

    Your article is on the right track. Thank you for putting yourself in the expectant parents shoes. There’s still a lot to be learned about things you want to avoid in an adoption agency. Learning about coercive tactics are crucial for an expectant parent to know so they can identify if an agency is using them. For example, “matching” an expectant parent with a potential adoptive parent before the baby is born is a classic tactic of coercion and very unethical.

    Here’s some links to learn more

    http://www.originscanada.org/adoption-practices/adoption-coercion/what-is-adoption-coercion/

    http://www.origins-usa.org/Adoption_Industry_Tactics

    • Thank you so much for your comment Rachel. That makes me so sad that people would ever close off openness. That isn’t the experience I know of with any of the adoptive families that I know. I am involved with a support group for adoptive parents and ALL of the adoptive moms have/ wish they had openness. I do think (total speculation) that adoptions could close from not really getting the chance to know the birth parents. Which is why I think it’s crucial that if you want openness you choose a local agency.

      And I totally agree, there are some REALLY sketchy agencies, that need to be closed. It breaks my heart when a birthmom is made to feel guilty and needing to sign over her rights. That is just awful and needs to stop. Our agency’s role (and all agencies should do the same as them) should be to support the birthparents in the choice that they make. If a birthmom chose to parent after giving birth they would buy them a carseat so they are able to take the child home. Finding an ethical agency is crucial. I think the only way for birthparents to find that is from the recommendations of other birthparents. A website where birthparents can rate the agency they used, or thought about using. Our agency has a 50% “failure” rate. While some adoptive parents would go to another agency with a higher match rating, that 50% means to me that our agency is not pressuring anyone and truly helping them come to the best decision and supporting their choice.

      I do think that meeting before the baby is born is VERY important. I don’t think you should get matched until you are in your third trimester. But it is important to have that time to build a relationship with the potential adoptive parents. Having that time to bond and grow, if you do decide to place, will only help each other to trust and have a healthy open relationship. The trick there is that they feel at no point, like they can’t change their mind.

      When we had our failed adoption, I was devastated, obviously. I LOVED our birthparents. And still do. I am so grateful for the time that we had to get to know each other. And I 100% think they made the right decision for them. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t heart broken, but they did what was right for them and their baby. I wish she wanted to remain in contact, because I wish we could be friends today. But I respect her decision to shut off contact when she decided to parent. And I am so grateful that our agency was there to help her through that process.

      • The only way I can personally imagine closing off direct interaction with birth parents would be if their lives turned into something that I wouldn’t want my son exposed to. I am talking drugs, abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, criminal behavior, etc. I would still, however, honor letters and updates and give them the emotional support they may very much need in getting back on track. I would pray that closing off the relationship would be temporary and give them reason to get their lives together. And honestly, they may not understand on the outside because it is natural to protect yourself, but on the inside, they’d probably know I was doing right by “our” child. My love for them would NEVER cease, regardless of openness.

        So, while promising they will love you may be a promise not every adoptive family intends/or capable to uphold… it is our experience that it’s true. 🙂

  3. First, in response to Rachel’s comment, more than half of open adoptions do *not* close. There are no statistics kept on private domestic adoptions to begin with. The Evan B. Donaldson Institute did quite a bit of research and found that 95% of adoptions have some openness. I looked for the source of the information for the statement “half of all adoptions close” and it’s a post on a forum in which one person reported that someone else said that a social worker at her local agency said that half of all open adoptions from that branch of that agency close.
    Nonetheless, it’s still not true to say, certainly not to promise, that the adoptive family will fall in love and want openness. Sadly, many adoptive parents are still afraid of openness.
    Other that that, this is great advice. I would probably add something about how the agency treats expectant (birth) fathers, though.

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