Questions to Ask an Adoption Agency or Law Firm

Whether you are a potential Adoptive Family looking to adopt a child or Birth Parent(s) looking to create an adoption plan for your child, you should be confident of the quality of the adoption agency or adoption professional you are choosing. While you will have questions related to your specific situation, you might not necessarily know what you should be able expect of them.

There are universal standards, practices, and general ideas that all adoption professionals should hold themselves to, and they can also give you information that will help you get the most out of your adoption experience. Do your research in advance; you don’t want to be surprised later on, after you are committed to a certain path.

With that in mind, here are some questions you should definitely ask adoption professionals:

Ask adoption professional

Questions for Prospective Birth Moms to ask:

Compliance with State Regulations

These questions can help you decide if the professional or agency follows state regulations.

  • Is there an attorney on staff who is licensed by the State Bar?
  • For adoption agencies (held to a lower standard than law centers/firms), is there a person from the Department of Social Services on staff? If not, what is the organization’s relationship to the Department?
  • Independently, you should check and see if the adoption entity has a negative record with the State Bar or Department of Social Services.

Counseling

Counseling can help ease tensions often found in the adoption process. Ensure that these resources are available to you to make the adoption process healthier for everyone.

  • What counseling services do you offer? Is it free for Birth Parents?
  • What are the qualifications of the available counselors?
  • Does the counseling offered extend beyond the relinquishment?

Communication

Communication is the number one way to ensure a good relationship on all sides. Keeping a wholesome connection with your chosen Adopting Parents and the adoption professional is essential for a happy and successful adoption.

  • Can you reach someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case of emergency?
  • How often can/should you communicate with the Adopting Parents or adoption entity? How often will they contact you? What is the expectation in communicating with Adopting Parents?
  • How long does it usually take to get a response once you reach out?

AP Screening Process

Do you get to choose the family who raises your child?

  • Do you review profiles of various families who could possibly raise your child and pick the one you feel is best, or does the adoption entity choose a family for you?

Open vs. Closed Adoption

Knowing what kind of relationship you will have with your child's Adoptive Family can help the communication between parties.

  • Do they offer open adoptions or only closed adoptions? Be sure you know what your relationship can be with the Adoptive Parents so you can determine what level of communication you want.
  • To what extent does the adoption entity facilitate the relationship between the Birth Parents and the Adoptive Families?

Questions for Adopting Parents:

Compliance with State Regulations

These questions can help you decide if the professional or agency is established in their practice and up-to-date with state regulations.

  • Is there an attorney on staff who is licensed by the State Bar?
  • For agencies (which are held to a lower standard than law centers/firms), is there a person from the Department of Social Services on staff? If not, what is the organization’s relationship to the Department of Social Services?
  • Independently, you should check to see if the adoption entity has a negative record with the State Bar or Department of Social Services.

The Wait List

Learn how you can gauge the time you may have to prepare for your new child physically, mentally, and financially.

  • What does the waiting list look like?
  • How long does one typically have to wait before even being considered?
  • How is this waitlist managed and how often is it updated?

Counseling

Counseling can help ease the tensions often found in adoption, such as commitment issues, financial stress, and emotional wellness. Ensuring that your professional has these resources available to you makes the adoption process healthier for everyone.

  • What counseling services do you offer? What is the cost to Birth Parents (if any) and is it available for Adopting Families as well?
  • What are the qualifications of the available counselors?
  • Does the counseling offered to the Birth Mother extend to options outside of adoption?

Communication

Communication is the number one way to ensure a good relationship. Keeping a wholesome connection with both the Birth Parents and your adoption professional is essential for a happy and successful adoption.

  • Can the Birth Parents get into contact with the adoption entity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case of emergency?
  • How often can you expect to communicate with the Birth Parents and with the adoption entity? How frequently will you get updates about the status of the matching process?
  • What are their preferred means of communication, and how long does it usually take to get a response?

Fees and Expenses

Use these questions to determine the cost of adoption and if the adoption entity has any un-advertised, hidden costs, or even if, worst-case-scenario, they may be trying to scam you.

  • How much will the entire process cost? Do you pay everything up front, or will there be additional charges as you progress through the adoption process?
  • Is everything absolutely free for the Birth Parents? How much will you have to pay for the Birth Mother’s expenses, on average?
  • Are the costs required of the Adoptive Family on a sliding scale based on income, or are they a flat rate for everyone across the board?
  • Is there a fee for the home study?
  • Do they supply a breakdown of all fees and costs of the program prior to engagement?

Eligibility

Some or all of the things listed below could be a consideration with some adoption entities, so make sure you understand whether you are eligible to adopt with them, or whether you might have to undergo a longer wait time as a result of any of these factors. You should also ask about the screening procedures Adoptive Families must go through, as they usually vary at least slightly from organization to organization.

Are you eligible to adopt, given your:

  • Socio-economic status?
  • Status as a newly married couple?
  • Status as partnered but not married?
  • Status as a single parent?
  • Age?
  • Gender identities and/or expressions?
  • History of serious diseases or illnesses?
  • Religious identity?
  • Military status?

The Birth Parents

Knowing basic information about the Birth Parents can help you better choose whether to agree to an opportunity and to better prepare your home for the child.

  • How does the adoption entity find Birth Parents?
  • How are they taken care of prior to the adoption process? Are they given post- adoption support as well?
  • How are Birth Mothers evaluated?
  • How are Birth Mothers matched with Adoptive Families?
  • What happens if you decline an adoption opportunity?
  • What happens if a Birth Mother changes her mind?

The Child

Asking specific questions about the child can help you better prepare physically and mentally for their highly anticipated arrival.

  • Will you be able to choose the sex, race, or age of the child?
  • If adopting a child who has already been born, do you get to choose the age of the child?

Open vs. Closed Adoption

  • Do you offer open adoptions, closed adoptions or both?
  • To what extent does the adoption entity facilitate the relationship the Birth Parents can have with the Adoptive Families?

What do most Birth Mothers tend to expect out of the process?

Knowing what kind of relationship you will have with your child’s Birth Family can help open up communication between parties which will better suit the needs of the child (first and foremost) as well as both sets of parents involved.

References

Adoption is a difficult process, so having additional support can be beneficial during this process. Former Adoptive Families can give advice, while support groups and clinics can provide assistance. Check to see if your adoption professionals have references for Adoptive Parents.

  • Are they able to provide you with extensive references from former families who have adopted through them?
  • Are these references from reliable sources?
  • Are you given the ability to contact these former clients?

Additional Questions for Adopting Parents in International Adoptions

If you are planning on adopting internationally, you should ask all of the above questions, but you should also ask some more that are specific to adopting from international programs:

Travel

Traveling is both time consuming and costly, so be being prepared for it will help reduce stress when it comes to the adoption process.

  • Do you have to travel to meet your child in his or her own country? If so, does the agency cover the travel/VISA costs?
  • Who handles any travel arrangements?
  • How often do I need to visit my child before finalizing my adoption?

International Ethics

With international adoptions especially, it is important to do research to make sure that the agency or adoption professional hasn't been involved in questionable cases overseas. Many international adoption agencies also have specifications when it comes to adoption (such as marriage laws or gender laws). Thoroughly researching these specifications beforehand can help to avoid any adoption delays.

  • How does the adoption entity ensure that the child being adopted is a documented orphan?
  • What is the status of the Birth Parents' rights regarding their children?
  • Is the agency or adoption professional following international as well as domestic laws?
  • How is the agency or adoption professional able to ensure that the child is being taken care of in their current location and what other opportunities are the children given other than through adoptions?
  • Do they provide financial assistance?

Placement

These questions are generally listed on an entity's website, but should definitely be asked about if not found there.

  • How many children has the adoption entity placed this year?
  • How long have these programs been active, and has their status as active programs ever changed?
  • How many children are currently available for adoption? Is that subject to change, whether because of regulations changing, moratoriums, or other factors?

Specific questions you should ask any adoption professional upon your first inquiry – and ANLC’s answer:

How long have you been in business?

Adoption Network Law Center (ANLC) has been led by Kristin A.F. Yellin, Chief Counsel since 2007, and helping build families through adoption for many years prior.

Will you provide a direct person of contact throughout the process?

ANLC provides you a personal support team throughout every step: Adoption Consultant, Media Coordinator, Client Liaison, and Adoption Advisor.

What is your average wait time?

ANLC's Adopting Parents are selected by a Birth Mother, on average, within 4 to 13 months.

How many adoptions do you complete in a year?

ANLC completes approximately 200-250 adoptions on average annually.

What marketing services do you provide?

ANLC will market and advertise you through multiple nationally promoted websites PLUS provide exposure on Social Media.

ANLC has prominent nationwide advertising campaigns on the leading search engines and has relationships with health and social services organizations to reach Birth Mothers.

ANLC will provide you a personal Media Coordinator who works with you to create customized web and paper marketing profiles.

What information will we receive about the Birth Parents?

ANLC will obtain as much information as possible about the Birth Parents' health history, ethnicity and social background. ANLC will also seek a release from the Birth Mother to obtain her pre¬natal medical records.

What happens if the Birth Mother changes her mind? Do we lose the money we gave in Birth Mother support?

ANLC will continue to provide services at no additional cost if a Birth Mother changes her mind or if there are unforeseen health issues. In addition, circumstances may provide for a refund of Birth Mother Support.

ANLC is committed to providing every Adopting Family with services until a successful adoption is achieved.

How do you handle Birth Mother support for living expenses?

ANLC oversees or personally manages your Birth Mother support. Support for living expenses is disbursed through a client trust account, either by ANLC or through a legal entity in the Birth Mother’s state.

Do you have financing available?

ANLC will assist you in obtaining financing by recommending several financing programs for your adoption.

Of course, there are many other questions you can ask, but you should have the answers to at least these questions as you go further into the adoption process. The adoption professional should give you the answers to these questions in a direct and honest way. Any unknowns should be cleared up as soon as possible in order to avoid any misunderstanding or, worse, potentially unethical organizations trying to capitalize on your desire to adopt.