One of the first things folks ask when they found out we are adopting is “how did you pick your agency?” That answer has several facets, as do many big decisions. First of all, it is difficult to compare agencies; while each agency is required to do mostly the same things, each agency is not required to call each step by the same name. In fact, several agencies use similar titles for different steps in the process. As you can imagine, it was extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible to compare apples to apples. So, we had to prioritize what was most important to us in regards to the agency. We decided it was of the utmost importance that our agency was on the up-and-up and honest as far as we could tell, (which would decrease the chances of them being involved in child trafficking), we wanted the children to be well cared for—whether in an orphanage or foster care system and we wanted the option to get a child as young as we possibly could.
1. Reputation was a huge selling point for this agency. This agency’s founding couple went to congress to get laws passed for international adoption 50 years ago. As far as we could tell, the social workers at each branch worked diligently to follow the law and in some cases, the agency shut down an office in another country because of workers suspected of pushing the legal limits (notice I didn’t say breaking the law, ethics are not the same from culture to culture...i.e. bribing is not acceptable behavior here, but in other countries it is. Our agency wanted nothing to do with questionable behavior.) There is the hope that they can reopen those branch offices, but a child’s safety is paramount to how they run their programs. Also, this agency's first priority is to keep the child with his or her biological family, second priority is to find an adoptive family within the country and international adoption is the last option. We agreed with those priorities as well. We eventually went with this agency based on a personal recommendation, their current reputation and historical reputation.
2. Our agency provides three meals a day to children living in orphanages and some children (such as ours) have been in foster care their whole lives...with an assumed high level of care. Also, our agency provides children with regular medical check-ups (well baby checks) and medical care as needed.
3. Our agency follows country laws in regards to adoptable ages. While S. Korea used to send out kids at 4 or 5 months, 18 months to 2 years is still pretty young in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, there have been a few of those dreaded horror adoption stories in the news. Parents spending time and money to go pick up a child from a “private” agency in another country only to find out the agency had shut down or “moved.” Or worse, they bring home a child and later find out the child was kidnapped from his or her parents. Sometimes children are even sold to a “private agency” to put up for adoption. I don’t write all of this to scare you away from adopting, just be wary of deals that sound too good to be true. If a private agency can place a kid in your arms in weeks instead of months or years—do some more investigating. The agency you choose does a great deal to provide peace of mind, both in the short term as you wait and in the long term after you have your child home. Happy agency shopping!