What to Know About Adoption Agencies

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on May 04, 2022

The adoption process can be an exciting time. But it can also be confusing and overwhelming to understand the process and find the right agency. An adoption is a special event that will significantly impact you and your future child’s life. Building your knowledge, preparing the right mindset, and learning parenting techniques can help you prepare for adoption. 

How to Find an Adoption Agent

Adoptions agencies may seem like they only help hopeful adoptive parents. But they also provide support to birth parents and help find families the child could fit into. Adoption agencies provide education and counseling to ensure that everyone is making an informed decision on their placement choice. 

Most agencies will assign an adoption agent to assist you in the process. This person will do home studies, and they’ll make sure you have the resources you need for parenting. They’ll also get in touch every few months in the beginning to make sure you and your new child have what you need. 

The adoption agent works for the agency, but they are your ally. They’ll be able to help answer any questions you have about the process or the child. 

What Is the Adoption Process?

The adoption process can take a while. Adopting a child doesn’t happen quickly. But it does depend on what type of adoption you pursue. 

If you’re adopting a newborn from the U.S., it can take a few months or a few years. Adopting a child from foster care may not take as long, but it can be more complicated. If you’re adopting internationally, the time will vary based on the country and referral process. 

Qualifications for being an adoptive parent can include: 

  • Providing a stable environment
  • Being mature, dependable, and flexible
  • Being an advocate for children
  • Working with your family or child welfare worker

While many people have the characteristics needed to adopt, eligibility will vary from state to state. You can check with your state to find laws about eligibility requirements on who can adopt, be adopted, or place a child for adoption.

There are two types of adoption, closed and open adoption. You and your partner will need to decide what kind of adoption you're comfortable with. Then you’ll discuss this with your adoption agency and adoption agent. 

Closed adoption. In this type of adoption, no information about the birth or adoptive family is available. There’s no contact, and only non-identifying information will be shared about the child and birth family before the child joins your family. Depending on the local law and paperwork at the time of adoption, birth records may or may not be available to the adopted child when they turn 18.

Open adoption. This type of adoption allows the possibility of a relationship between birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child. This may include open communication between the parties. If you’re adopting an older child or teenager, they may already know identifying information about their birth families. This type of adoption also could allow them to communicate with birth siblings. 

There are three main types of agencies or services you can work with in a domestic adoption

  • Public agency adoption
  • Private agency adoption
  • Independent private adoption with the help of an attorney

If you’re adopting outside of the country, you’ll be dealing with intercountry adoption. The placement process for this type of adoption will depend on which country you’re adopting from and what agency you choose. 

In this case, there’s typically less information about the child’s birth and family history. The adoption cost can also be a bit higher. When considering intercountry adoption, you’ll need to consider cultural and language differences. 

How to Find an Adoption Agency

Researching an agency's background before starting your adoption process is crucial. Finding a reputable, licensed private adoption agency may seem daunting, but there are steps you can take to find options. These include: 

  • Contacting the State Licensing Specialist where your adoption agency is located
  • Contacting the State’s Attorney General’s Office to see if legal action has been taken against the adoption agency
  • Requesting three references from the adoption agency
  • Finding an adoptive parent support group near you to join
  • Contacting the Better Business Bureau about the agency

If you're looking for an agency in another country, ensure it's Hague-accredited. Good adoption agencies are focused on finding the best family for a child, not finding a child for a family. You'll want to make sure the agency serves you and the birth parents. When both receive respect and support, the process can go more smoothly. 

When it comes to choosing an agency, there are no set criteria. You and your partner will want to find an adoption agency that aligns with your personality and morals. 

Some adoption agencies are incredibly structured and require scheduled appointments. Others allow people to call whenever or drop by if needed to talk or consult.

When looking for an adoption agency, you'll want to find one that's community-minded and gives back. An ethical adoption process is critical for all parties involved. Many adoption agencies are nonprofit, but you can find for-profit adoption professionals and agencies. 

Choosing an Adoption Agency

Whether you go with a public or private adoption agency or an adoption attorney, you’ll want to make sure they’re licensed. Once you’ve established credibility, you should go with the option that makes you the most comfortable.

You’ll want to find someone who understands your family’s values, priorities, and ability to care for children. 

You can start your search online, in books, in articles, or in person. Sometimes it's best to do all four before deciding on the right adoption agency for you. Don't take an agency's word for being reputable. Make sure you've put all the research into the agency you decide on. Then trust your gut. If something feels wrong with the adoption agency you chose, you can always try another. 

What to Consider Before Adopting

When deciding to adopt, look at your motivations and ability to enhance a child’s life. You should consider if you’re willing to change your home to help accommodate your adopted child’s needs

Show Sources

SOURCES: “How Do I Find a Reputable Adoption Agency,” “What Does An Adoption Agency Do?”

Adoption Center: “Types of Adoptions.”

AdoptUSKids: “Who can adopt and foster?”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Thinking About Adoption: FAQs.”

Children’s Bureau: “Exploring the Pathways to Adoption,” “How to Assess the Reputation of Licensed, Private Adoption Agencies.”

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