When we decided to go the domestic infant adoption route, we were fortunate that through no real calculated effort, we happened to fall into an excellent adoption agency. And by “excellent,” I mean two specific things:
An excellent agency counsels hopeful adoptive parent on two fronts: (1) processing grief to heal the wounds of infertility, and (2) living in open adoption.
An excellent agency is squeaky-clean in its dealings with both hopeful adoptive parents and expectant parents. Ethics toward expectant parents may not be high on your agency checklist at the front end of an adoption, but make no mistake. It is in your long term interest, and that of your future child, to make sure that your child’s first parents are also treated ethically.
So plan on doing some research once you hone in on an agency or two. Ask to talk to past customers of adoption services (adoptive parents) and consumers of pregnancy counseling services (first parents).
20 Questions: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Choosing an Adoption Agency Needless to say, choosing an adoption agency is one of the biggest decisions you face, because you need to go where your child will be. My advice is to follow both your head and your heart.
How? First, your head. Research the agency by interviewing its counselors and asking to speak with both adoptive parents and firstparents they have served. Ask the agency
What’s the shortest wait you’ve had? What made it so short?
What’s the longest wait? Why do you think this couple had such a long wait? What did you do to help them?
What is a typical wait?
How many couples do you have actively waiting at one time?
How many placements did you have last year?
How do expectant parents find you?
What is your counseling approach for expectant parents? (Information on parenting should be easily available to people coming in for pregnancy counseling. The agency should never push, but rather provide information and support.)
How often do expectant parents decide to parent after being matched with adoptive parents?
At what stage of the pregnancy do you suggest expectant parents choose adoptive parents? (Many professionals suggest not entering a match until at least 7 months into the pregnancy. Expectant parents go through a lot of ups and downs, and you don’t want to be riding that roller coaster for very long.)
Please explain your fee schedule. (A not-small portion — up to 1/3 of the total — should be due only after placement.)
Ask adoptive parents
How long was your wait?
What kind of grief counseling did the agency offer? (Expect some support in healing from infertility so you are ready to parent whole-heartedly).
How active was your agency?
What kind of after-adoption support is available? (Look for an agency that provides post-adoption counseling or parenting classes as part of the supervision process).
What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s first family?
Ask first parents
How did you come by your decision to make an adoption plan? (An ethical agency will let the expectant parents take the lead and not push them into ANY option. This is crucial to reducing the risk of expectant parents changing their minds. The decision has to be freely made, and I would run fast from an agency that puts pressure on expectant parents to “give up” a baby.)
To what degree did you feel supported by the agency?
If you had a friend who was pregnant and needed help deciding what to do, would you recommend this agency?
How did you hear about the agency?
What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s family?
Look for healthy situations where both parties feel well-served and well-represented by an agency. A good agency will make the adoption process collaborative (with the child as the focus), rather than adversarial (where one side’s loss is the other’s gain).
After you gather the facts, let your heart weigh in on the decision. Sit quietly and find out what your intuition tells you. If you have a “feeling” about an agency, go with that feeling. Adoption — like parenting — is a very intuitive process. Adopting with your head and heart will prepare you to parent with your head and heart.
My childhood friend Juli tells me that one of the worst things about being adopted is going to the doctor. The nurse always asks about her health history, including her parents’ health history, to see what kind of risks to watch out for.
She draws a blank. Each and every time. She has no clue if the experiences she’s had with her body and mind are rooted in her genetic makeup.
A friend had some bad news recently: her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (caught early; the prognosis is good).
So what does this have to do with open adoption? My children will know.
Tessa will be able to ask Crystal at what age she started her period — did you know that before age 12 is a risk factor? She’ll know if and where cancer may occur in her genetic line.
Reed will have access to heart and lung, skin and kidney, prostate and stomach history and everything else. And if he ever has a daughter (or a son), he’ll be able to tell about the presence or absence of breast cancer in his genetic line.
I want my children to have dynamic information about the health of the people whose DNA they carry — not static information about the health of their birth parents at age 20. Open adoption enables Tessa and Reed to know over time what goes on with their birth relatives, clues to what their own medical puzzle may look like.