Adoption agencies and professionals provide services to Adoptive Parents looking to adopt and to Birth Mothers who are considering adoption. Read below to get a better understanding of the services that they provide and the distinctions between the various entities.

Private vs. Public (Foster Care) Agencies

Private Adoption

Local Adoption Agencies

A local adoption agency is usually a smaller adoption professional regulated by the laws of the state in which they operate.

Advantages of a local agency:

  • A local agency’s staff is usually small and can create personal relationships with their Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers.
  • Local agencies often meet their Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers in person as opposed to mainly via email and phone.
  • Local agencies can operate on smaller budgets which can reduce costs.
  • Families usually live close to the agency, which will reduce travel time and costs.
    Public Agencies
  • Local agencies are regulated by the state in which they operate.

Disadvantages of a local agency:

  • Local agencies are usually smaller and therefore not as financially stable as national adoption professionals.
  • Local agencies employ a smaller staff than a national adoption professional. Employees are often wearing many different hats and are over-worked. Any staff turnover within a smaller local adoption agency will greatly impact the stability of the agency.
  • Local agencies are vulnerable to changes in state adoption laws. Many smaller agencies have struggled to keep up with changes in state laws and have had to shut their doors, while national adoption professionals were not affected to that degree.
  • Local adoption agencies that advertise for their Adoptive Parents or that require their Adoptive Parents to advertise on their own are not nearly as efficient or effective as national adoption professionals that have years of experience successfully marketing Adoptive Parents. Marketing and advertising for a Birth Mother is a significant component of an adoption and this places a local adoption agency at a great disadvantage



A local agency can often require its Adoptive Parents to advertise on their own to locate a potential Birth Mother, which can come at a great additional expense to Adoptive Parents.

Local agencies costs may appear significantly lower than national adoption professionals when actually they are not. Certain local agencies do not include advertising costs, Birth Mother medical and living expenses or legal costs within their quoted adoption expenses. This makes the local adoption agency costs appear lower than it actually is.

Wait Times

Local adoption agencies are limited by their geographic location which limits their outreach to potential Birth Mothers. This can result in longer wait times for families hoping to adopt.

Local agencies cannot personally answer Birth Mother phone calls 24/7 as a national adoption professional would. Therefore, women with unplanned pregnancies calling a local agency are often required to leave a voicemail. This impersonal approach will often cause a prospective Birth Mother to abandon the call and not leave a message. This limited availability can lead to fewer Birth Mothers and potentially increase an Adoptive Parent’s wait time.

Types of Adoptive Families that work with Local Adoption Agencies:

  • Adoptive Families that want in-person contact with their adoption professional.
  • Adoptive Families that do not want to travel out of state in order to adopt a baby.
  • Adoptive Families that can tolerate potentially longer wait times.
  • Adoptive Families that can tolerate the risk of instability associated with working with a smaller agency.

Finding a Local Adoption Agency

There are many local adoption agencies to choose from. Please see and for local adoption resources and adoption assistance. It also helps to speak with friends and relatives that have adopted (or know of someone that has adopted) and have them share their experiences. Once an adoption professional is chosen, it is good practice to verify their reputation and certification. Your state's licensing department can verify whether the adoption agency properly licensed and in good standing.

National Adoption Agencies

Local Adoption Agencies

A national adoption agency works across the United States, and is licensed and regulated in the states it works in. Similarly, a national adoption entity, such as ANLC, operates across the United States and is regulated by the California State Bar. This ensures that any national adoption entity is held to the highest standard in adoption.

Birth Parent Services: A wide range of different adoption services are available for a Birth Mother at a national adoption agency, which may include helping her with living or medical expenses (as allowed by state law), helping her create an adoption plan to meet all her needs, helping her find a family waiting to adopt, 24 hour support and much more. More adoption services are available from national adoption agencies compared to smaller agencies.

Adoptive Parent Services: National agencies provide home study services and connect with attorneys to provide all other legal services. National agencies and professionals reach more Birth Mothers than local agencies because of their larger advertising budgets and their relationships with schools, hospitals, pregnancy centers and other groups that help women facing unplanned pregnancies.

Advantages of a national adoption agency:

  • National agencies have more resources than local agencies and are more stable. Most national adoption agencies have good facilities with expert and professional social service team and department.
  • National adoption agencies are part of the adoption process with Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers from beginning to end. Most agencies also keep in touch after the adoption process has been completed to enable smooth communication from the Birth Mother and the Adoptive Parents.
  • National agencies have a larger staff and are more available to Birth Mothers and Adoptive Parents than local agencies can be.
  • National agencies have many hopeful Adoptive Families waiting to adopt, so Birth Mothers can search and find the right family for her child rather than being limited by the smaller number of waiting families at a smaller agency.
  • National agencies are regulated by the state in which they operate.

Disadvantages of a national adoption agency

  • Adoptive families need to be open to adopting a child from a different state.
  • Face to face meetings may not always be possible depending on where you live and where the adoption agency is located.
National Adoption Agencies


Extensive advertising often results in higher upfront fees. These services are more comprehensive and efficient compared to a local agency or adoption professional so the total amount Adoptive Parents may be asked to pay may be higher.

Not all national adoption professionals offer some sort of financial protection for Adoptive Parents in the case of a disrupted adoption.

Types of Adoptive Families that work with National Adoption Agencies:

  • Families that are looking for potentially shorter wait times.
  • Families that want a stable and dependable adoption agency that is regulated.
  • Families that want an organization with experience and a track record of successful adoptions.
  • Families that want a quick reply to their inquiries and questions.

International Adoption Agencies

International Adoption Agencies

An international adoption agency is an adoption service provider who has been accredited or approved by the Council on Accreditation (COA) and is able to provide adoption services for international adoption cases (unless an organization or individual is operating as an exempt provider or under the supervision of an accredited or approved adoption service provider).

Advantages of international adoption:

  • Around the world, there are many children that are waiting for a permanent family. International adoption is one of the many ways to start or expand your family in which Adoptive Parents can become parents to a child that is from a different country.

Disadvantages of international adoption:

  • Adoption laws for each country vary and Adoptive Parents must meet the legal adoption requirements of the country the child is from and the country where the Adopting Parents live. This may increase the time to adopt, expenses and eligibility requirements for prospective Adoptive Parents.
  • According to Intercountry Adoption statistics, the number of yearly international adoptions has dropped every year from 2004 (22,989 adoptions) to 2015 (5,647 adoptions).


The cost of an international adoption can range between $20,000 to more than $50,000 depending on the child's country of origin. Expenses can fluctuate depending on the country due to the organization handling the adoption, foreign country program expenses, travel and accommodations in addition to immigration processing and any extra court fees.

Waiting Period

International adoption wait times vary, depending on the organization handling the adoption, the child and his or her country.

Types of Families that Work With International Agencies:

  • International adoption is for families who are looking to adopt children who are 6 months to 16 years old and for those who are open to having a transracial or cross-cultural family. Most of all it’s a wonderful way to start or expand your family.

Public/Foster Care Adoption Agencies

Public/Foster Care Adoption Agencies

A foster care adoption agency is the state or county government agency that holds legal custody of children who are in the foster care system. These agencies will place the children in adoptive homes after foster care.

Advantages of foster care adoption:

  • There are more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting for permanent, secure and loving homes. Adopting a child from foster care can be a great way to help a child and grow your family.
  • Most adults will qualify to foster and adopt. This means that while marital status, age, income and sexual orientation may disqualify someone from adopting a child through a private domestic agency or an international agency, it will not automatically disqualify them from adopting a child through foster care.

Disadvantages of foster care adoption:

  • While it is possible to adopt an infant from foster care, most of the children available for adoption range from toddler to 21 years, with the median age being 8 years old.
  • Through no fault of their own, all children in foster care have entered the system due to some sort of trauma. All Adoptive Parents must undergo specific training to understand the effects of trauma and help children heal.


The cost of foster care adoption is very minimal because of federal and state adoption assistance programs that are available.

Waiting Period

Foster care wait times vary. The process to adopt a child with special needs may be completed in a manner of months (depending on state law, special needs may refer to a child with specific physical, medical, mental, learning or emotional disabilities, or may be determined by factors such as age, sibling status, race and risk factors such as a family history of mental illness). The waiting period for a healthy infant is typically between two and seven years.

Types of Adoptive Families that Work With Foster Care Agencies:

  • Foster care adoption is a wonderful option for families who are looking to adopt an older child(ren). It is also a great option for families who cannot afford the costs of private domestic or international adoption.
  • To search for local foster care adoption agencies, visit AdoptUSKids.

How to Find the Right Adoption Agency or Professional

How to Find the Right Adoption Agency or Professional

Every adoption is unique for every Adoptive Parent and every Birth Mother. Both Adoptive Parents and Birth Mothers should do their research, ask questions and make sure that they are comfortable with the adoption professional they are relying on. Adoption can seem overwhelming but the right adoption professional will be a trusted partner and will help guide you through the entire process.