Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why we chose our agency:

When we were in "research phase," one of the hardest things was deciding on an agency.  It is incredibly difficult to find reviews for agencies online and I'm not really sure why.  Most forums do not allow discussion of agencies on their boards.  I understand that because these free forums rely on the advertising dollars of agencies who wouldn't appreciate negative reviews posted all over the forums.  I don't rely on any advertising dollars, so I'll give you my honest opinion. ;)

I had several agencies on my short list and I went through the pros and cons of each.  I drove myself crazy for about two months.  I contacted several agencies and some took up to two weeks to get back to me.  Craziness.  Then I showed DH my pro/con lists and he quickly said it was obvious.  We chose American Adoptions. 

So, why did we choose them?

  1. Reputation
    1. While it was difficult to find reviews online, I have met people and received e-mails from people.  I have only heard one negative thing about this agency in all of those reviews, and I will discuss that in more detail in the "cons" section.  
  2. Limited Financial Risk (BIG ONE!)
    1. There is the real possibility in any domestic adoption that the birthmother will choose to parent.  Statistically about 20% of American Adoptions matches are disrupted. 
    2. One of our biggest fears with a disrupted match is the loss of money and the resulting inability to financially pursue another adoption.
    3. American Adoptions really calmed our fears about that loss of money with their Limited Financial Risk Policy.
    4. Basically if our match is disrupted, we will not lose any of our agency or match fees.  They will be rolled into our next adoption match.  Now, if we chose to not pursue another adoption, then we would lose that money. 
    5. We are covered up to the first $5000 of legal fees and we would lose anything above and beyond that.  Typically the legal fees will not be over $5000 before TPR is signed (termination of parental rights).
    6. You do lose any travel expenses.
  3. Quick response time
    1. As I stated earlier, some agencies took way too long to respond to our questions.  In my opinion anyway. . . 
    2. With American Adoptions, we have always received a response within an hour or less.  E-mail is my preferred method of communication, but we can always get someone on the phone as well.
    3. I (like most moms who are new to adoption I assume) have a lot of questions and I like being able to get a quick answer.
  4. National scope
    1. This can be a pro and a con depending on how you look at it.  I'll discuss the pros here.
    2. Having a national scope really shortens your wait time.  The agency works with expectant moms through the nation, so you essentially have more possibility of being chosen because there are more moms looking at your profile.
  5. Location
    1. For us, the agency is close enough that we can go to meet with them if we so desire.  Ironically, we haven't actually gone to the agency.
    2. Our proximity to the agency also means that we were able to do our homestudy through them and not worry about making sure all of our paperwork was exactly what the agency needed.  Their social worker already knows exactly what the agency needed.  However, they can help you make sure your homestudy social worker does all of the right things even if you are located farther from the agency.
  6. Expectant Mother/Birthmother Support
    1. This was very important to me.  I wanted to be sure that the birthmother doesn't feel like she was used and discarded.  I want her to feel like she was supported and given her options and felt loved through the process.
    2. American Adoptions provides 24-hour support to the birthmothers and post-adoption support as well.
    3. The expectant mother is also assigned a support person throughout the process who advocates for her.
  7. Budget
    1. American Adoptions gives you the option to name your budget.  They have a suggested range for their Traditional and Agency-Assisted programs, but you get the final say in how much money you are comfortable allotting to your adoption budget.  
  8. Gender Specificity
    1. Many agencies do not allow this.  While we chose not to be gender specific, this is an important thing for some people, so I thought I would put it here.  It does require an additional fee of $3000 for additional advertising costs
  9. Profile
    1. They make our profile for us so we don't have to try to make it on our own.
    2. All of the profiles look uniform, so you aren't being chosen by an expectant mother based on your scrapbooking skills or lack thereof.  
  10. Large size of agency
    1. While some people may look at this as a negative thing, this gives us confidence in the agency and their abilities to do what they say.
    2. Having 300-400 matches a year means that they have this process down and they understand the possible scenarios we may encounter.
  11. Shorter Wait for Match
    1. Due to the national scope and size of the agency, wait times are usually shorter.
    2. For the Agency Assisted program (African American), we were told that the typical wait for match is 1-4 months.  Now, this is no guarantee and the wait time is affected by a variety of factors.  We know many couples who were matched incredibly quickly (one family was matched just 3.5 hours after going active) and we are prepared for whatever may happen.
  12. Adoptive Parent support
    1. We were assigned an adoption specialist whom we can ask our questions.  It gives us a personal touch in a larger agency.
  13. Non-Profit Status
    1. We did not want to work with a for-profit agency
  14. BBB Rating
    1. They got an A+
  15. . . . (I feel like I am forgetting some things, so I may come back and add more when I remember.)
  1. National Scope
    1. In contrast to using a local agency that only works in your state:
      1. You will most likely have to travel outside of your state and stay there for up to two weeks (or more) while you wait for ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)
        1. This was not something we really understood when we chose domestic adoption, so I'll go into a little detail here.
        2. Each state has their own laws in regard to ICPC and you can drive yourself crazy trying to research each state.  So, we plan to wait for a match and then research the state the birthmom is in.
        3. Basically, the state that the baby is born in has to approve you and then your home state has to approve you before you can take the baby out of the state he/she was born in.  The time varies, but during that time at least one parent has to stay in the birth state.
      2. This also means that you have to budget for travel expenses and you won't necessarily know when you need to travel.  It is highly suggested that you get the the hospital ASAP and that baby could be born at anytime.  
      3. For us, we also have to take into consideration the fact that we will most likely bring our daughter with us and we may need another family member to come along to help with her.  
  2. Discipline Policy
    1. Now, this is the one negative review I heard from someone.  
    2. Let me state first of all, that this is not a negative for us, because we don't use physical discipline in our home.
    3. American Adoptions does require you to sign a discipline policy stating that you won't use physical discipline with your child.  I realize this may be an issue for more than just the one person who told me this, so I thought I should put it here.  It is a policy in certain states (I can't remember which ones), and because American Adoptions works nationally, they choose to have all prospective adoptive parents sign it.
  3. Expense
    1. While we don't feel that American Adoptions expenses are much different than other agencies we contacted, adoption in and of itself is expensive.  
    2. Again, we like the ability to name our budget within a range.  
    3. While we know that foster-to-adopt is a much more budget-friendly way to adopt, we feel like agency adoption is more appropriate for us.  I encourage you to explore your options if the budget is a deal-breaker. 
  4. You must be open to tobacco exposure in the newborn.
    1. Statistically 75% of mothers who decide to place their baby for adoption are smokers.  So, American Adoptions requires you to be open to cigarette exposure.
    2. Exposure to other substances is up to individual families.
  5. If the expectant/birth mother you are matched with is outside of KS, American Adoptions will partner with a local agency in that state to help complete the adoption.  You have no control over which agency this might be and in our case, we would not have chosen that agency if we had the chance.
  6. (Added 10/19/2012)  We found out through some friends who also used American Adoptions that if you ask for an audit or itemized receipt (for taxes) American Adoption will give you a refund of any funds that weren't used.  I cannot believe that they don't automatically give you any of your money that was not used, but that is how they operate  So, we called them and ended up getting a little under $1500 back that wasn't used.
  7. . . . (Again, there may be some things I'm forgetting.  I'll update when/if I think of them)
 So for now, we are still waiting for our homestudy write-up.  We are still within the range that our social worker told us it would be.  We expect to get it sometime next week for review and then we will go active sometime after that.  So, all of these pros and cons are based on our experience thus far.  We obviously have not gone through the match process yet.  I'll plan to add to my review as we go along.  

Good luck with your decision!


  1. Great review! I will probably be directing some people to this post as I get a lot of questions about why we chose AA and you summed it up quite nicely. I'm so excited for your family!

  2. Thanks Katie. I was getting a lot of questions too, so I decided to just put it all in writing.

  3. Thank you so much. We are in the middle of our home study in CT and we just signed up with them. The initial packet came last night.

  4. This is a great post! We are seriously thinking about starting to research and possibly decide on an agency. This helped a lot. :)

  5. Thank you very much for this review

  6. Definitely your post provides a great and useful resource every reader must adhere. This is truly a must read and admire. Thanks a lot for sharing!