What are the Risks, and How Can I Protect Myself?

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the risks of adoption: bait and switch international adoptions, disrupted adoptions, hidden adoption fees, and birth mother scams. You’ve researched, and you’re ready to build a family with adoption, but how do you navigate all the hidden pitfalls?

Don’t try to do it yourself. Find a reputable adoption professional to handle your adoption; many pitfalls can be avoided if you have the right counsel right from the start. Visit our directory for a list of adoption agencies; foster care organizations; adoption attorneys; child welfare workers; and other adoption professionals.

The professional you choose to handle your adoption will greatly depend on what your specific needs are, but to start, here is a basic list of what to look for:

  • Look for an adoption agency or adoption professional that handles adoptions with a high success rate, and find out whether they are accepting applications from potential adoptive parents at this time.
  • Make sure that the agency or professional you are inquiring into works with people in your situation. For instance, if you are adopting internationally, you’ll want to make sure the organization or individual is accredited to handle intercountry adoptions, or similarly, if you want to adopt a newborn, that they handle those kinds of adoptions.
  • Do your research on each prospective organization or individual. Do they have a physical address, or just a website? Are they licensed? If you are adopting internationally, you must work with an adoption professional that are accredited, licensed and familiar with the Hague Convention. Some adoption professionals and agencies will have orientations that you can attend. Also, find out if they have brochures or any written materials with fees and other information for you that might not be available on their website.
  • Look for a demonstration of ethical behavior. Did they give you a list of the potential costs before asking you about your financial status? (Some adoption professionals will adjust the cost, depending on how much you tell them you make) Are they making inflated sounding promises? Did they give you a realistic idea of how long an adoption might take? (1-2 years is the standard, but sometimes it can take longer)
  • How much does the agency or adoption professional charge and when are the fees paid? Find out how much the home study and placement fees are for your adoption. In cases of international adoption, find out what the travel fees are, whether they are included, and how many potential trips you may need to make to the country in question. If the organization or individual doesn’t give you this information, or won’t give you an estimated total of costs, this may be a red flag.
  • If your case is private domestic adoption, what are their policies in working with the birth mothers and birth fathers? State laws have to be adhered to concerning the rights of the child’s biological parents so that there will be no contest to the adoption after the placement has happened.
  • Can you find references from adoptive parents and adoptive families that have worked with that adoption professional or adoption agency before? Understand that they will only provide you examples of success stories, but you’ll have some inside information at the very least. The Internet is a powerful tool; check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been logged against the adoption professional you’re thinking of working with. Find out how long have they been in business, and their motivation for opening.