Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Picking an agency

I thought since some people who are new to adoption read this, I might do some topics that everyone in the adoption world can relate to.  I will try to do a variety of topics.  So, let's get started.  In adoption,you have to first decide if you are doing domestic, foster care or international adoption.  Well, domestic can be either private or foster care.  International is my forte so to speak.  When originally looking into adoption, we were going to do foster care.  However, we only wanted to adopt,not foster.  In NC, you can not adopt unless you foster first.  Many have asked us why we don't adopt children in the US who need a family.  Everyone is different.  For us, we originally looked into doing that.  We went as far as going to a group home in Wilmington to visit a few children not too long before we went to Russia.  So, yes we did explore our options.  Just international seemed more for us.  There is nothing right or wrong about going international or domestic.  Every child deserves a home.  We could not afford a private adoption of about $50K to $60K back in 1999 when we first looked into it.  Have no idea the costs now.  Can only imagine.  We even looked back into foster care this go around when we were thinking of adopting again.  Called social services and they do not want to adopt to someone with more than 5 children in the home.   My neighbor in a subdivision across the street wanted to add just one more child.  They had 4 bio children w/ one of them having special needs.  They wanted to adopt one more child w/ special needs to complete their family.  Social services told them they had a special needs child at home and could not get any more.  What?!  And they wonder why more don't adopt from foster care.  Geez.  Here, you had two willing families in this area wanting to adopt children out of foster care and were told no.  The neighbor ended up going abroad as well for 1 more child and their family is complete.  For us, it is 3 more and our family is complete.

Once you decide on international or domestic, you have to find an agency that does either.  Finding the right agency is key.  It really is.  I have seen tons of couples heartbroken, broke and emotionally distraught over the years b/c of choosing the wrong agency.  It happens.  It is hard to trust an agency once deception has happened.  Hard to recover from and I don't think you ever recover from it.  Key to picking a good agency...get a dart board.  LOL.  I'm just kidding.  Really, ask questions to people.  Don't rely solely on the references that the agency gives you.  They will be helpful indeed.  However, you need to search out info yourself as well.  Be proactive.  Not reactive.  An agency is not going to give you bad references just as you would not put down bad references on your homestudy.  Just doesn't do anyone any good.  So, do accept the references the agency gives you as they help immensely.  But also find some of your own references.  Easy to do with forums out there now discussing things.  And do NOT be afraid to ask about bad cases.  Okay, here's an example.  For Bojan, we used Life Adoptions out of CA.  Great btw.  But, in the beginning, I was having some reservations.  1) I'd never heard of adoptions from Serbia.  At the time, there had only ever been 11 adoptions in 13 years.  So rarity was an understatement.  More nowadays.  2) The director was associated with Orson Mozes.  For those who don't know who he is, he has been convicted as a scam artist and caused many to lose their adoptions, hope and faith.  Not to mention scammed them out of millions of dollars over the years.  At the time, we were talking of adopting Bojan, Orson Mozes was NOT on the media.  It was hearsay I had heard at the time from many others on the web.  So, I asked the director bluntly about him.  She defended him, which as fine.  But, she also gave me peace of mind.  We went ahead with Bojan.  So, bottom line, you have an uneasiness, ASK QUESTIONS!!!!  Put your mind at ease.   A good agency will never refuse to answer your questions.  Mine always have.  Despite some of the stupid questions I've asked. LOL.  (Thanks Sandy & Jeny!)

Now, another way to find a great agency is to go by someone else's recommendation.   Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.  And remember, I told you to treat the agencies as a business.  Yes, they are non-profit but they are indeed a business.  They are providing you a service in return for payment.  They have deadlines too.  Right now, my agency is desperately needing my contract.  It is done, just waiting for funding.  They expect you to cooperate and you need to expect the same of them.   A good agency will do this.  We have a wonderful agency.  In case any of you are wondering, we use Kids To Adopt out of WA state.  We used them w/ alyona and Nik and are using them again to adopt the 3 from Bulgaria.  Again, sign of a good agency is repeat business. BTW, there is good and bad w/ every single agency.  I don't care if you think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Somewhere along the lines, there will be someone that has not had a good experience.  Adoption is just that way.  Not all cases are 100% rosy.  Just doesn't work out that way as adoption is so variable.  You need an agency that will roll with the punches.  Mine does.  I trust them w/ everything.  Know there will be bumps.  I don't know of very many adoptions that happen w/ at least one little "hiccup."  It's all par for the course. 

We have personally used Frank Adoption Center, Kids To Adopt, Life Adoptions, Mandala(no longer in business), and Carolina Adoption Services.  We have lucked out I must say.  The places we have done business with have been superb.  Simply superb.  We've been through 4 homestudies(thus far), and 28 post placement reports.  Having a good agency makes life easier.  Anything easier during an adoption process definitely helps!  Do the research.  We did.  It is not coincidence that we have had great agencies thus far.  I chose Kids To Adopt originally b/c my friend Teresea had used them and recommended them.  I had used FAC b/c of recommendation from friends AND I had attended one of their seminars.  So, in review, choosing an agency should be based on:

1)  Recommendations from others
2)  Repeat business from previous adoptive parents
3)  Cooperation of the agency
4)  Ask questions (willingness of agency answering the questions)
5)  Gut feeling (yes, some of it is just pure instincts)
6)  Being proactive
7)  Make sure they have a program you want

If you do the above, you will have a peace of mind that you have chosen the right agency to have an intense relationship over the next few months to few years.  It is very important.  Start early in looking.  It helps. I can tell you I wouldn't trade our agencies for the world.  They are very supportive.  That is important to.  I am not just another person to them and that means something.  It means that they are invested in this adoption as well and will work hard to make it happen.  Now, that is a sign of a good agency.  Hope I put some ideas out there to some trying to choose agencies right now.  Choosing the wrong agency will cause so many issues and the cost of switching agencies in the middle of an adoption is beyond expensive.  Good news is that if you do your research and ask questions, you will do just fine at picking out an agency.  Good luck to all those on their adoption journey.  Will try to have Tuesday's Tallies later today. 

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