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Best Questions to Ask an Adoption Professional

And Answers to Look for

The adoption professional you choose can have a massive impact on your experience with the adoption process. As parents considering adoption, this is one of the most important decisions you will make early on in your journey. Who should you work with? To find that answer, you need to ask some more questions.

There are hundreds of adoption professionals out there. Each will make a case for why they are the best. Because each family is in a unique situation, only you can know who will be best for you. And you’ll find that out by knowing the right questions to ask an adoption agency. Take your time, do your research and ask all the questions you can think of. A good adoption agency will be able to answer any doubts or concerns you have in an honest, transparent way.

Below, you’ll find a general outline of questions for adoption professionals. Please carefully research the adoption professionals you consider and also ask them adoption questions with information specific to their policies and procedures.

The Top 6 Questions to Ask an Adoption Agency — And Answers to Look For

1. What is your availability?

  • Answer to look for: The adoption journey can be challenging and emotional for hopeful parents and prospective birth mothers. During this time, new needs don’t always come up between the hours of 9–5. If an adoption professional is only available during regular business hours, they are likely to be less responsive in two keys ways. First, they could miss your calls and leave you worrying. Second, they could miss calls from mothers considering adoption who will then move on to other organizations. An agency with 24/7 availability is better suited for meeting families’ and birth mothers’ needs throughout the adoption process.

2. What is included in your cost?

  • Answer to look for: The cost of adoption is one of the biggest concerns for most adoptive families. Unfortunately, not all agencies are honest about pricing. Ask if the agency has fixed fees and if their price estimate is based on a best-case scenario. Some agencies will hide fees and be overly optimistic about the process in order to quote a low cost and lure hopeful parents in. Look for cost estimates that include all the agency fees, living expenses, medical expenses, legal fees and any non-refundable advertising fees. If there is hesitation or a sense that the agency is hiding something, that’s a red flag. Total transparency is the standard.

3. How is our investment protected?

  • Answer to look for: Adoption agencies handle events like adoption disruptions in different ways. While many families do not experience a disruption, some do. It’s important to know upfront what happens to your investment in an event like this. Are you able to receive back the money you’ve already paid, or is that money locked in with the adoption agency? Does the agency have a risk-sharing program to take away the potential financial loss in a situation like this? Look out for “rollover” policies, which is an industry term for saying the agency will not refund your money. These types of policies simply “rollover” funds from a disruption into the next adoption opportunity, taking away a family’s choices for how to move forward after a failed adoption.

4. What is your average wait time, and how closely do you track this number?

  • Answer to look for: The first part of the question seems obvious. As hopeful parents, you want to know how long you should expect to wait until finding the right adoption opportunity. The second part of the question, however, is just as important. Some agencies boast of low wait times but either do not actually track wait times or make major omissions to keep wait times low. So, for example, an adoption professional may say that the wait time is less than a month for their adoptive families. But, they may be leaving out that many of their adoptions experience disruptions, and families are left waiting for many months to find a second placement. Look for exact numbers from adoption agencies and ask if wait times account for all adoption situations.

5. What type of support do you provide?

  • Answer to look for: There are many facets to the adoption process. A family and a birth mother need logistical, emotional, professional, medical and legal support throughout this journey. Some agencies are “full-service,” which means they are equipped to provide support in all these areas. Other agencies can only handle one or two of these areas. The best agencies will have a specific adoption specialist assigned to each adoptive family and birth mother to ensure that you are never left alone during the process.

6. How do you find adoption opportunities for hopeful parents?

  • Answer to look for: Adoption agencies advertise to prospective birth mothers in different ways. Some are more forward thinking and responsive to the fact that approximately 90 percent of prospective birth mothers are searching for families online. Does the agency dedicate serious resources to online advertising, or is it more of an afterthought? Does the agency have the ability to advertise nationwide, or are they restricted by geography? This will determine the number of adoption opportunities available through the agency — which, in turn, will affect your adoption wait time.

Questions to Ask ALL Adoption Professionals:

There are other types of adoption professionals besides adoption agencies. Although these professionals have varying levels of capabilities, many families do consider working with, for example, only an adoption attorney for the whole process. Before choosing any professional, especially if you are considering one that is unregulated, it is important to ask a lot of questions, demand honest answers and even consider having answers put in writing.

These are a few questions to ask adoption attorneys, agencies and other adoption professionals:

  • How many adoptive families do you have on your waiting list? How do you manage this list and wait times for adoptive families?

  • Annually, how many of your adoptions are completed in other states?

  • Does the state in which you are licensed come to your offices and review your files, personnel records and make sure your organization is complying with state law and regulations?

  • How many full-time staff members do you have?

  • Do you have a social service department on staff? Can you provide me their credentials? Are they licensed by the state? How many licensed professionals do you have providing counseling services?

  • If you don’t have a social service department, who evaluates your prospective birth mothers? How are they qualified to do so?

  • If you only have one or two staff members, how do you handle staff turnover?

  • What is the estimated cost to join your organization or agency? What is included in that estimate? Does that estimate account for the “worst-case scenario” — issues like failed placements, contested adoptions, etc.?

  • Are your adoption fees fixed?

  • Do your quoted fees include living, medical and legal expenses?

  • What are typical amounts of living expenses your birth mothers need?

  • How much money can I lose in living and medical expenses if a prospective birth mother changes her mind?

  • Have you ever had a client lose more than $10,000 in failed adoption expenses? Will you put that in writing and send it to me?

  • Do your up-front advertising fees expire?

  • Are there any other expiring or recurring fees I will have to pay?

  • Will I interact directly with the prospective birth mother or provide my contact information to her?

  • Do you answer your phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week for potential birth mothers? (You may even pick up the phone and call the organization on a Saturday or Sunday evening to see how responsive they are)

  • Do you maintain and regulate pictures and letters correspondence with birth parents after the adoptive placement? 

  • Do you handle the entire adoption process from A to Z?

  • Why should I work with your organization over any others? How will it benefit me?

There are many different organizations out there, and you may find one better than the others based on your unique context. These questions to ask an adoption agency or other type of professional are a great place to start with any organization. We know that many families are already considering a specific type of adoption professional, so we’ve also compiled a list of organization-specific questions to ask below.

Questions to Ask Adoption Facilitators and Law Centers:

  • How many placements did you complete last year?

  • Is your organization certified or licensed? How so? By how many states?

  • Will you pass us off to a different professional once the birth mother selects our family?

  • If you remove yourself from the process once we are referred to another adoption professional or law firm, how do you verify the quality of work provided by the other adoption professional? How is your organization helpful if the birth mother has questions and needs counseling?

  • Is there any financial penalty if we decline a particular adoption opportunity?

  • Are there any situations in which you provide any sort of financial protection or refund for your clients?

  • How much money can I lose with your organization if the adoption doesn’t work out? What about with the other adoption professional you refer me to?

  • Are any of your up-front fees at risk? Is there any point in time where I would be required to pay the up-front fee again?

  • Are you licensed as a facilitator in your state? Is any government body reviewing whether you should be licensed as a facilitator?

  • If you are not licensed to perform adoptions in other states, then how do you know the complexities and challenges in other states? For law centers — if your attorney is the expert, what happens if he/she retires?

  • Is your organization financially stable? How do I know your organization isn’t at risk of going out of business?

  • How does joining your organization over a licensed adoption agency benefit me?

  • If I do not adopt within your timeframe, will I have to pay more money for additional advertising? If so, how long is my contract valid before I have to renew services with you?

Questions to Ask Facilitators Only:

  • What does your organization do? If you advertise and locate potential birth mothers and then refer me to an adoption professional in the birth mother’s state, who is that professional? What services will you be providing to me from that point forward? What will your availability to me be at that point in the process?

  • Since being licensed as a facilitator in your state does not mean anyone reviews or inspects your files what is to prevent your organization from merely shutting down without notice?

Questions to Ask Law Centers Only:

  • Is your law center able to practice law in other states?

  • Does the attorney who owns your organization discuss our case with the law firms you will refer our case to? How involved is this attorney in our case?

  • How long has this attorney been running your law center? How experienced were they previously in adoption?

  • If you have more than 100 cases, how are you able to handle so many? (The top adoption attorneys in the United States are typically involved in 40–50 adoptions annually. It keeps them very busy.)

  • If you refer our case to another law firm, and if you aren’t licensed to perform services in that state, are you able to stay involved in the process? If yes, how?

  • Since Bar certification does not include a review or inspection of your adoption files, and since any attorney can start another unregulated law center, what is to prevent your organization from merely shutting down and starting another one if you are sued by your clients?

  • How are you different from a facilitator?

  • Can I adopt more quickly through your organization than with a national licensed agency? How can I independently verify your wait time estimates?

  • Can you give me the percentage of birth parents working with your agency who decide to parent?

Questions to Ask Adoption Attorneys and Law Firms:

  • How many attorneys on your staff handle the adoption legal work?

  • If you have other attorneys involved, can you share their adoption experience?

  • What percentage of your practice is adoption legal work? How do you balance your other cases when an adoption case is time-sensitive? What happens if multiple adoptions occur on the same day?

  • What is your hourly rate? Is the hourly rate at risk if the prospective birth mother changes her mind?

  • Does your law firm find prospective birth mothers, or do you have your families advertise on their own?

  • Is your law firm licensed in more than one state?

  • Is there a time when your law firm would not be able to represent us?

  • Who handles our case if you become sick or take a vacation? How will that impact our ability to adopt through you?

  • Will my wait time be shorter with your organization than with a national agency? How can I independently verify your wait time estimates?

  • What is the percentage of birth parents working with your agency who decide to parent?

  • Annually, how many of your adoptions are completed in other states?

Questions to Ask Law Firms, Local/Regional Adoption Agencies and National Adoption Agencies:

  • Do you have clients advertise in states in which you are not licensed? Do you use another law firm to handle the process in that other state? Will that attorney charge an hourly rate? Is that hourly rate at risk if the potential birth mother changes her mind?

  • How many adoptions did you complete last year? In how many did you locate the birth mother? In how many did your clients’ own advertising locate a birth mother?

  • How much do you suggest spending per month on advertising? Is that money at risk if an adoption doesn’t work out? (Keep in mind that the largest national agencies buy advertisements at a discount, track their marketing success, have qualified counselors talking to birth mothers, have major networking contracts and still spend an average of $8,000–$10,000 in advertising for each successful adoption. How can a small agency or individual family expect to spend less and achieve the same results?)

  • How many clients in the past year quit advertising because it didn’t work?

Questions to Ask an Adoption Agency — Local/Regional and National Adoption Agencies:

  • Are your agency fees fixed or charged on an hourly basis?

  • Are any of your agency fees at risk if the prospective birth mother changes her mind?

  • What percentage of your agency's practice is locating birth mothers?

  • How many birth mothers who placed their child through your agency did your agency locate last year?

  • Does your agency find all the potential birth mothers, or do you have your families advertise on their own?

  • Is your agency licensed in more than one state?

  • How many adoptions in which you located the birth mother have you completed in the past five years? (This will give you an idea if placement numbers are consistent.)

  • In how many adoptions — not home studies — has your social work department evaluated and worked with birth parents?

  • Do you have certain requirements for families joining your agency (i.e. kids in the home, age, religious preference)? If so, why? Can these factors affect my wait time with your agency? What would disqualify me from adopting with your agency?

  • Can I work with multiple agencies?

  • What percentage of families adopt within your estimated wait time?

  • Do you charge additional fees for special services such as ICPC or extra counseling?

Questions for National Adoption Agencies Only:

  • If I adopt from a different state than where I reside, will I have to get my own attorney? What about ICPC? Is that included in the cost estimates you provide?

  • How many of your adoptions are completed in other states?

We know what you’re thinking: that’s a lot of questions. But this decision is too important to leave any stone unturned. It’s important that you feel completely confident in your adoption agency. To speak with an adoption professional about this choice, and to ask some of these questions, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time or request your free adoption information now

Disclaimer
Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions accepts a limited number of families into our gender-specific program. Please contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION to learn whether we are currently accepting families into this program. With this option, families pay an additional Gender-Specific Fee to help our agency locate and work with birth mothers meeting this additional criterion. This fee is in addition to other program fees and covers additional advertising. The fee is not considered part of your adoption budget. Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

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