Question Submitted: Do you have any recommendations on books/websites about the adoption process? Also, do you recommend any agencies?
An easy place to start looking for adoption resources is christian.adoption.com. Although the site is packed with ads, you’ll also find helpful articles, blogs, and links to state-specific adoption information on laws, lawyers, and which agencies work within your state.
One book that has been recommended to me is The Whole Life Adoption Book: Realistic Advice for Building a Healthy Adoptive Family by Jayne E. Schooler and Thomas Atwood. I would also suggest just looking on Amazon by searching for “adoption” and reading through the reviews thoroughly. Some books are written from a Christian perspective and some aren’t and the reviews will help you get an idea of what approach the author is taking. Some books will contain the author’s own adoption story when what you’re really looking for is just the how-to’s on where to begin. I’m always a fan of the “Idiot’s Guide to…” books, and there’s one for adoption. This will likely be a good introduction to the process.
We have worked with two different adoption agencies now, one that has offices internationally and the other one is just in our state. There are a number of things that I would recommend you keep in mind as you try and find the right one for you.
1. Know what your values are and find an agency that closely matches them.
Some agencies may have a Christian mission statement but if you hadn’t read it you wouldn’t necessarily know that they are Christian. Read their literature carefully to get a feel for what their values are. For example, do they believe that the best place for a child is in a home with a mother and father, or do they serve homosexual couples as well? If these types of details are important to you then do some digging.
2. Ask lots of questions. You need to find out from them:
-What are all your fees? When do they need to be paid? What’s the most I would have to pay?
-Do you have any financial assistance or discounts? (Some agencies give discounts to pastors’ families.) Do you charge on a sliding scale based on income?
-What’s the average wait for a Caucasian child? A minority child? A bi-racial child? A child with special needs? How many placements do you do each year? How many people are on the waiting list?
-How often will my paperwork need to be updated? What fees are associated with that?
-Do you only do open adoptions or do you do semi-open or closed adoptions as well?
-What supports do you provide the birth parents? Will they get pre- and post-placement counseling?
-What is the process for a birth parent choosing a family? Will we meet the birth family? What kind of post-placement contact is typical between the birth and adoption families you work with?
-What services besides adoption do you offer? Do you have post-placement support for the adopting family? Do you provide resources and trainings for unique adoption situations?
-If we aren’t happy with our caseworker can we ask for another one?
-And lots more…
3. Ask around for not only a good agency, but find out who the good caseworkers are.
What I have found over the years as I’ve spoken with numerous families who have adopted is that your satisfaction with the process greatly depends on the caseworker who is assigned to you. Even though she cannot speed up the process necessarily, her contact with you, her understanding of your questions, fears or confusion about the details of the process will either be a source of stress or peace in your life. You may find a great agency and get a not-so-empathetic caseworker. But the good news is that you should be able to ask for someone else. A good agency will recognize that sometimes the assignments just aren’t a good fit and they will do their best to help you feel comfortable with who is handling your adoption.
4. Know what you can afford and don’t let your emotions change your mind.
Too often I hear couples decide that they are going to do an international adoption that is outrageously expensive and their philosophy is, “Well, we just have to trust that God will provide the funds.” Wrong. God doesn’t promise that in the Bible. He gives us common sense and requires that we be good stewards of the gifts He has already given us. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to apply Luke 14:28 to preparing for an adoption: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” So sit down with your spouse and look at your savings, your earnings, your fundraising abilities, your willingness to complete grant applications, etc., and set a number that you can handle. That number will determine whether you can do international, domestic, or a foster-to-adopt program.
5. Be aware of government requirements in your state.
If you are looking into foster care with the potential to adopt, be sure to read the fine print before signing anything. Unfortunately, many of our state governments are making it more and more difficult for Christian families to participate in foster care programs without compromising our traditional values, specifically those related to sexuality, appropriate sexual expression, and sexual orientations. Be sure that any contracts or agreements that you sign pertaining to foster care or adoption are thoroughly read, understood, and do not contradict your faith and the expression of that faith.
Regarding your question about what agencies are recommended, it’s a little hard to say. There are so many agencies available, many specialzing in different types of adoptions and most of them are not nation-wide. Recommending an agency in my area wouldn’t necessarily help anyone outside my state. I can tell you that we worked with Bethany Christian Services for our first adoption and this is nation-wide. We were very satisfied with that experience. We chose a local agency for the second adoption because they had a sliding scale fee schedule based on income. Perhaps in a future post we can list any other recommendations that people send in, both for domestic and international adoptions.
Ask around at church, at your doctor’s office, and your or your husband’s place of work to find out who in your area has adopted and with whom they worked. Then ask these agencies for other references from previous or current families. Find an agency that has an office close to you (if possible), supports your Christian beliefs, has a fair fee schedule, and has a good reputation. And most of all, pray for guidance. Choosing the agency is only the first decision of hundreds that you’ll be making. May the Lord bless your efforts!