Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Madonna and many others are building families through adoption. While celebrities might make it look easy, the Better Business Bureau recommends doing your research when enlisting the help of an adoption agency. Adopting a child is a complex, lifelong experience; it is also a legal transaction that can be complicated and expensive.
According to the most recent numbers from adoption experts, there are more than 125,000 adoptions annually in the U.S. While not all adoptive parents rely on an agency, professional help can be key to creating your family, as well as navigating the various laws and requirements. Last year alone, eager families vetted adoption services with the BBB more than 35,000 times.
“There are many different paths to adoption and the services, expertise and competency of agencies vary,” said Alison Southwick, national BBB spokesperson. “Because the process can be expensive, complex and take years to complete, you want to make sure you’ve got the best people showing you the way.”
When searching for an agency, BBB recommends that adoptive parents:
- Research your options – Many factors will have a large impact on the type of agency you choose such as adopting a child from foster care, opting for an open or closed adoption or a domestic versus international adoption. You may also choose to adopt a special needs child who might have physical or mental health issues.
- Understand the laws – No matter what option you choose, there are state, federal and international laws that will drive the adoption process. Getting a good grasp on the governmental requirements and procedures will help you evaluate the expertise of adoption agencies and give you a better idea of which path for adoption is best for you. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adoption website is a good starting point for looking into adoption laws and other adoption-related resources. Visit http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption.
- Get advice from other parents – Your best source of information may be people you already know who have adopted. If you don’t know any families that have adopted, ask friends and family. There are also many support groups both online and community-based for adoptive parents. Through these support groups, you can learn from the experience of others about the adoption process, including which agencies they were happy with and which ones they weren’t. If you choose to work with an agency, many have their own support groups.
- Vet the agency with experts – Always make sure that the adoption agency is properly licensed to offer the promised services in your state and, if applicable, with the country from where you intend to adopt a child. Also check the agency out with your BBB; if the agency is an Accredited Business it is required to meet BBB’s standards for ethical conduct and resolving complaints.
- Visit several agencies – Before deciding on any one adoption agency, try to visit and meet with several. You can often arrange an appointment to sit down and discuss what services they offer, what you will be required to do, as well as what you can expect in the adoption process. Many agencies also have informational group meetings that may answer many of your questions. Make sure the agency has extensive experience in the form of adoption you want to pursue. Find out what kind of pre- and post-adoption support the agency will provide, such as social programs that foster friendships among waiting and adoptive families, educational or cultural opportunities to allow families to learn about their children’s home country, programs for adopted children, teens or adults and counseling services. While adoption fees will be dependent on many variables, an agency should be able to disclose any required fees in advance, as well as any refund policy.
For more advice you can trust from BBB on evaluating businesses and services, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.