IAG 015: 7 Common mistakes to avoid when selecting an adoption agency [podcast]


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In this episode you’ll learn what NOT to do when selecting an adoption agency.

7 common mistakes

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When you have a BIG life decision coming up – would you LOVE to know what common mistakes people have made when making that same decision? I say YES – absolutely! 

Think about this: when you decide to move – sell your house and buy another. It’s a big decision – you need to think about where to move – when to move – if you have kids, are there good schools? Who can tell us what it’s like? You definitely want to do lots of research and then make your decision.

So, why should it be any different when selecting an adoption agency or attorney to help you build your family?

Today we are talking about the 7 common mistakes to avoid when selecting an adoption agency:

1. Not doing your homework.
2. Not getting enough references.
3. Choosing only based on what’s closest to you.
4. Choosing only based on cost (aka the cheapest).
5. Choosing only based on your home study agency.
6. Choosing based on advertised extremely short wait times.
7. Analysis Paralysis.

There is no one right way to choose an adoption agency or attorney – but there are many wrong ways. Most hopeful adoptive families get overwhelmed with how to choose – and for good reason. There are over 2000 agencies and attorneys in the U.S. – so where do you start?

Start by learning from others who’ve been there – those who’ve done what you want to do.

Here’s a BIG myth about adoption: you have no control. Through 2 adoptions I’m here to say – you have more control than you think. 

One huge control you have is being prepared. As with any big life decision – where to go to college, finding a job, buying a home – preparation is KEY for:
1. Boosting your confidence
2. Ability to achieve success
3. Minimizing risks (emotional, time and financial)

OK – here is the breakdown of the 7 common mistakes to avoid when choosing an adoption agency:

1. Not doing your homework.

This is the biggest mistake – signing an agreement to work with agency or an attorney before you do your homework. Not doing your homework can cause you to possibly:

-Have to start over with another agency or attorney
-Suffer financial loss
-Suffer emotional stress
-Delay your adoption process.

You need to know exactly what the agency or attorney will do for you all throughout the process. I’ve heard of families not reading the fine print of the contract – or not understanding everything – then when something bad happens, like a failed match/placement – you can lose time and money.

3 Reasons why doing your homework is good a thing:

1. Birthparents.

-They will have a better opportunity to build a great relationship with you because you’ve taken the time to understand what open adoption is and how that can help all of you.
-If you learn about & see the birthparent perspective, it will help you all communicate better and build trust.
-Check out Things I wish all adoptive parents knew this is a post by a birthmother, who graciously shared her opinions.

2. Agency/Attorney.

-Able to better work with you if you understand the process.
-You won’t feel like you have to have your hand held so much during your journey.

3. You – the hopeful adoptive mom and dad. 

-Learning more = confident in the process – not surprised by things you cant control.
-Learning more = confidence in your agency or attorney.
-Learning more = reduce the possibility of making mistakes that cost you time, money and stress.

ACTION: How to do your homework? = my free posts all about domestic infant adoption. = my ebook 7 Steps To Domestic Infant Adoption – you can get on Amazon. = 4 free adoption resources to help you.


2. Not getting enough references (or worse – none at all).

Not all agencies or attorneys are right for everyone.

Don’t choose an agency or attorney only because someone you know had a good experience with them. Just because someone you know had a good experience with an agency or attorney doesn’t guarantee you’ll have that same experience. You need many references.

Working with an agency or attorney needs to be a personal relationship and one you are comfortable with.

When we first started, my wife and I called and emailed ~ 10 people for references about the final 2 or 3 agencies we thought we could work with. These folks provided some great insight because they’ve already worked with them. And you may be surprised to know that not everyone gave glowing reviews.

–Ask agencies/attorneys for references you can contact – phone and/or email.
–Call/email them – collect & write down their answers so you can compare.


3. Choosing an agency or attorney based only on how close they are to you.

It’s been estimated that 95% of adoptive families make the mistake of just selecting a local agency because it’s convenient – or closest to you. Local agencies CAN work for you – just don’t automatically go with them until you research the national agencies too. 

Local agency/attorney can provide good resources such as an in-person adoption information meeting. These can be a great way to introduce the idea of adoption. It can also help your spouse feel better about adoption if they are reluctant.

Consider researching national adoption agencies. Here are some benefits:
–They work with adoptive families in a lot of states – not just yours. Broader reach usually means shorter wait times.
–Better matches (less risk) due to more experience working with birthparents.
–Better communication – usually due to a larger staff who are available after hours and weekends.

Consider – an online network of agencies/attorneys all over the US. This type of network will help you match faster. Listen to Infant Adoption Guide Podcast episode 13 at to hear my interview with ParentMatch founder Dr. Lori Ingber.

–Research National adoption agencies 
–Learn about – see what agencies/attorneys are there & contact them.

4. Choosing an agency or attorney based only on cost (aka the cheapest).

Not all agencies/attorneys are equal – and neither are their costs. Adoption costs you pay for go to providing professional services for hopeful adoptive families (you) and the prospective birthparents, which includes legal service and advertising/networking to find match.
–More costs = more help from the agency/attorney. Services like additional advertising/networking, profile creation, birthparent expenses,etc
–Less costs = less help. Think of this as more of a DIY.

–Create a spreadsheet or Notebook – list agencies/attorneys that you may want to work with.
–Find out what agencies charge and what they cover in their costs.
–Find the best agency/attorney that suits your adoption budget.
–Research 4 Domestic adoption agencies with sliding scale fees and 3 agencies with little or no upfront costs.

5. Choosing only based on your home study agency.

Don’t choose your agency based on the fact they will be the ones completing your home study. This ties in with common mistake #3 (choosing an agency only because they are local). You need a local agency to complete the home study, but you don’t have to use them for match/placement.


–Research the local agency just like any other agency.
–Ask the same questions, get references, and compare with other agencies.

6. Choosing based on advertised extremely short wait times.

I’ve seen some crazy short wait times advertised. Some even say you can adopt in weeks vs months. Be careful. If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is. 

In open adoptions, the birthparents choose you. It is impossible to know how fast you will be picked.

Agencies and attorneys can – and should offer the average times for hopeful adoptive families – but you want the details behind those numbers.

–Ask each agency or attorney to define “wait time”. Is it the average wait from signing the contract to match or to placement? Get them to tell you specifically what their average wait times are and for what period of time (last year, last 3 years, etc) they are getting those averages.
–Check their references.
–If they have an really short average wait time – be careful and scrutinize them.

7. Analysis Paralysis. 

This can be a big problem. Yes, this is a BIG decision – maybe the biggest of your life so you don’t want to mess it up. But don’t over analyze either. It’s easy to over analyze because of fears such as:
1. Choosing one & it takes way too long to adopt.
2. Choosing one that isn’t honest or ethical and we lose money & time.
3. Choosing one that doesn’t handle adoption scams/fraud well.
4. Choosing one that isn’t financially or legally stable – you lose time & money.

It is important to do homework (mistake #1), but careful not to over-analyze.

So – How do you know if you are analysis paralysis?

Answer the following questions honestly:
Has it been 6 months since you’ve started researching agencies and attorneys?
Have you narrowed down your search to less than 5-10?
Are you having trouble finding even 1-2 that you could work with?


–Ask yourself the questions above to see if you are over-analyzing.
–If you are, make a plan to narrow down your choices to 5 or less. Remember, there isn’t one “perfect” agency or attorney. You need to find the one that most closely meets your adoption needs.
–Check their references, compare, call them – and START.

–Selecting the right agency or attorney to lead you through the adoption process is one of the most critical decisions on your journey.
–You should have realistic expectations about the support they can expect from their adoption professional.
–Find out before you hire an attorney or agency what you can and should expect from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
–Own your adoption journey. This is the biggest journey of your life – building your family.
–You are not powerless. It is up to you to be educated & prepared.
–Avoiding these mistakes will help ensure that you choose the right adoption agency or attorney who will help you reach your dream of building your family through adoption.

Those were the 7 common mistakes – now here are a few things to do when looking for an agency or attorney:

1. Look for agencies that are licensed and have NO legal red flags (lawsuits). Example: There recently was a Utah adoption agency that was involved in a string of disputed adoptions and now has lost its license to operate in Utah. So they can no longer engage in child-placing activities. Ouch. A quick Google search will find information like this about any agency your are looking at.

2. It is very important that the agency cares about everyone in the adoption triad – the child, the birthmother, and you. This means good birthparent counseling. Adoption is a hard time for birthparents, so providing counseling is the right thing to do.

Would you help me with getting this podcast into the ears of more adoptive families just like you?

I love it if you’d leave an honest review on iTunes – it is easy to do: go to, click on view in iTunes and you’ll see where you can leave a review. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that – the more reviews, the more the podcast will be featured and found.

QUESTION FOR YOU: What mistakes have you went through or avoiding when choosing your adoption agency or attorney? Click here to leave a comment.

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