Picking an agency

When people picture their family, they usually have some context: I’m white, my husband’s black, our kids will be somewhere in between and of whatever gender biology gives us. There’s no choices to be made and gender is the big surprise. For us, we have no idea what our family will look like. Everything could be a surprise…or not.

At this point in our adoption refresh, we’re trying to choose our agency and type of agency. For example, our first agency said,

Choose your match parameters. If a birthmom picks you and fits those parameters, that’s your match.

Well, having had a few less than ideal possibilities, we don’t want to use that approach again – despite the perfection of our match through them. We got really lucky, but may not the next time. Knowing people like Kat and Spencer out there raises the bar!

For our next adoption, we’d originally talked to the agency about an existing situation they’d posted way earlier. All agencies struggle with having the right families to match with their birthparents. Sometimes the existing pool doesn’t include the kind of families the birthmom wants to see, or vice versa. At that point, they often reach out to a broader community to find a match that will fits everyone’s needs. That match didn’t work, but the agency remembered us and called us with Remy’s case. We were so thrilled with our match, and with K! We skipped the whole agency choice and enrollment altogether.

This time, we’re trying to decide what our best fit looks like. Big or small? Regional or national? Our adoption parameters haven’t changed (race, drug/alcohol history, medical, personality match), but we’ve had trouble finding an agency whose priorities match ours. For example, we are uncomfortable with strong religious views, as we’re casual Christians. We’re also looking for agencies who get detailed backgrounds and focus on both what the birth and adoptive parents are seeking.

What support do they offer their birthparents? Have they run into any legal problems while placing kids? Have they been in the news? We actually dropped an agency like a hot potato because of some high-profile cases they were named in. They came highly recommended by an adoption lawyer we’d worked with, but that made us uncomfortable – as did some of the questions on their questionnaire.

We do agency background checks, read reviews, and get references. Then we ask them, if we make it that far, what their statistics look like: how many placements do they do a year, where, how many disruptions (adoptions that fall through) a year, how many years in business, accreditations, etc.

In general, you’ll wait longer for the right match at a smaller agency. Disruption statistics are also informative; a big agency does you no good if a lot of their matches fall through. Our perspective? If an agency has a high disruption rate and doesn’t roll fees over into the rematch, we walk away. To us, that means they can’t back their services, and we want no part in that. We’ve also found some agencies help multiple smaller agencies match families. You get both: a traditional agency experience where they’re trying to match birthmoms with families, and exposure to cases that may be a great fit from an agency you didn’t know existed.

This is not our first rodeo. We know this decision can make or break the adoption process, success, and quality. So after all of our research, we’ve narrowed it down to 2-3 agencies who seem to meet our qualifications: broader pool, focus on matching people, not statistics, respect for all parties in how they’re treated and how they’ll work together over the course of a lifetime, and a decent way of handling disruptions partnered with a low disruption rate. Over the next few weeks, we’ll finalize that choice and get our homestudy in place. Piece by piece, we’ll put this puzzle together.