Choosing an International Adoption Agency
Your first step in adopting overseas is choosing a reputable, licensed adoption agency—it's your strongest ally during the often confusing and time-consuming process. Adoption immigration laws are strict and complicated, so you'll want to choose an agency adept at knowing the system.
The best place to start looking for an agency? Talk with a member of clergy, contact a local adoptive parent support group, get a list of agencies within your state from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC), or even check with the International Adoption page from the State Department's website, where they often list agencies that work in conjunction with certain foreign countries. From your prospective list, hit the phone and get answers to some basic questions. Ask for literature outlining agencies' policies and get lists of referrals of prior clients.
In addition, here is a list of questions to ask:
- How long has the agency been in the business of international adoption (the longer, the better)?
- How well do they understand the culture, customs, and laws of the country in which you're seeking to adopt?
- How many adoptions has the agency successfully completed? How many have failed? (It's also recommended to check out the agency's history through the Better Business Bureau and the licensing office in the Department of Health and Family Services in the state in which it operates.)
- How up-to-date is the agency with the current Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations, as well as individual state requirements? (Not only are there national adoption standards, but each state also has certain criteria that must be met.)
- What are the adoptive parents' requirements? (Each agency has its own set of guidelines concerning income, marital status, age, and so forth.)
- What kind of medical information is usually available on adoptive children?
- Does anyone within the agency regularly visit the foreign orphanages in which the agency is partnered?
- What is the average turnaround time from paperwork completion to adoption? (It could take less than a year but up to three.)
- What are the costs? And what do they cover? (Use $12,000 to $30,000 as a guideline, with most international adoptions falling in the $20,000 range. Always ask for an itemized list of expenses to see what the fees cover, such as legal and medical fees, travel expenses, and document fees.)
- What other services does the agency offer during the pre-adoption (such as orientation seminars) and the post-adoption phases (help in obtaining a birth certificate)?
Once you've decided on a specific agency, you'll be asked to fill out an adoption application. Though each agency formulates its own list of questions, you should be prepared for the intimate nature of some questions, such as your view on religion and your level of commitment to it, your feelings about other races, whether you have a criminal record, or even if you've ever had a substance abuse problem.