The following is a guest post from our friend, Maxine Chalker, who is an adoptee and the Executive Director of Adoptions From The Heart, which is an adoption agency that she founded over 30 years ago. Maxine shares her insight and experience on how to choose the right adoption agency to work with on your journey to adopt. Enjoy!
Choosing the right adoption agency to work with is one of the most important things prospective adoptive parents can do. Here are some tips to help you think about making this decision.
Opportunities To Learn The Unexpected
Education should be a core aspect of what adoption agencies do. Many agencies offer courses for prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents, but usually the classes are confined to the basic topics you’d expect: parenting an infant, transitioning into the school years, things like that.
Obviously, those are important subjects, and you’ll want to learn everything you can on competing theories of parenting and the particular challenges that face many families built through adoption.
But in your research, look for classes that you wouldn’t expect to find. Estate planning? That knowledge could come in handy. Try to find an agency that can be a true resource for your family, one you’ll keep going back to when you need support or guidance.
That’s another important point. Make sure your adoption agency’s services will be available to your family well after placement.
Be sure the adoption agency you choose also offers opportunities to meet and learn from other families who chose adoption, along with expectant parents who chose to place their children for adoption.
Learning how different types of adoption, and different degrees of “openness” in the case of open adoption, from real parents can go a long way in helping you consider your own options.
At Adoptions From The Heart, we find that our expectant parent panels are extremely helpful, because they give prospective adoptive parents insights on how real expectant parents consider adoption profiles, and thus, how to effectively and truthfully craft their own.
Individualized Attention Is Best
Check on the agency’s staff levels. Many small agencies won’t employ enough qualified social workers to assign one to each prospective adoptive family. Be wary of entering a situation in which the person meant to advocate for your best interests is being pulled in multiple directions.
Tim’s written before about one of the biggest fears that prospective adoptive parents often come into the process with, that an expectant parent will change their mind about their adoption plan at the last moment.
It’s true. This is a big fear, and it’s not unfounded, so look for agencies that offer a “disruption policy.” Adoption disruptions, when a child’s biological parents choose to parent after relinquishing their parental rights but before their “revocation” period (which varies according to state law) ends, are painful.
But they happen, and can be extremely costly for adoptive parents. Make sure your agency will credit your placement fees toward a future placement, just in case, and will offer you counseling during what can be a very difficult period.
In essence, try to find an agency that goes out of its way to protect and help you through this journey, while always putting the health and well being of children as its first priority.
My biggest tip, though, is that once you’ve found an adoption agency that you want to work with, relax. You’ve been through a lot, and now you’ve found professionals who want to help.
Maxine Chalker is the founder and executive director of Adoptions From The Heart. While AFTH is now one of the East Coast’s largest private placement agencies, Maxine started it herself, out of her home, in 1985. Maxine embraced Open Adoption early, and is now devoted to promoting the philosophy in any way she can.