Our homestudy agency is great, and we’ve worked with the same one for all of our adoptions. They help us get certified so we are eligible for a match with a birthmom. Matching agencies seem to be trickier. It’s hard to tell who’s ethical and who isn’t; who genuinely seeks strong matches and who just knows how to make the numbers work (more matches, not as we’ll-matched but they go through). It’s similar to finding a good doctor: the numbers tell a story, but so do the patients.
While the matching agency does a lot of work up front in in ding birthmoms and adoptive families and figuring out who to present to whom, their continued involvement can vary from coordinating pictures and letters over the next 18 years to lining up the lawyer, the homestudy follow-up, the court dates, etc. So the agency matters, at least a little and probably a lot. A bad agency will pressure people desperate to parent into doing things they don’t need to – like paying a fee just to find out about a birthmom who may not even be interested in the potential family. A great agency will have strong standards, will offer a lot of explanations and will hold both hands as a family and potential birthmom learn about the adoption process. They support you instead of making you uncomfortable, and ensure everyone has the most comprehensive information possible.
An agency’s main responsibility is matching. Outreach listings imply that they have no match for that potential birthmom from their existing family pool. That means in contracted families with home studies can have some basic conversations before you agree to sign up with the agency. In effect, you match before signing up, and are signing up to be officially matched with a potential birthmom who’s already interested in you.
In addition, you usually pay the agency once that interest has been signaled. Nothing is guaranteed; the potential birth parents may change their mind at any point! Still, you enter the agency with a pre-existing partner. It’s a little backwards from the typical progression (where you sign up with the agency, then exchange profiles, then get picked by a mom), but it’s a tricky situation for the agency when they don’t have enough families for the birthparents to choose from, and this is a good solution for everyone. Imagine our surprise then, when treated rudely when we asked if we could send our profile and parameters over to see if we’d be a good fit!
We had our first nibble, and we’re the fish in this metaphor. We found a fantastic outreach listing and contacted the agency for more detail. This can be great, when you discover a new resource. It can also be awkward, if you end up not wanting to work with them. In this case, the matching agency representative was totally wacko. She demanded we pay a consulting few before getting even basic information, and seemed very aggressive. We didn’t walk away; we ran.
We’ve been lucky in every way in our previous matches, and are looking for that same sense of partnership and support for all sides of the adoption triad. This lady was not it!