Host: How can families choose the right adoption agency for them?
Eliza Niemann: Well, the most important thing is to make sure to research several agencies. Don t just grab the first one that comes along. People research agencies through the phonebook, through the Internet, through word of mouth, which is a wonderful way to find out what different people s experiences are. Once you contact an agency there are lots of questions to ask regarding the domestic program. One is, are there certain criteria for the adoptive family? For example, some guidelines for age might be 25 to 45. Other things might be health concerns. Is it okay if I have diabetes; or if there are any other health issues that they might need to discuss? Is there is a religious affiliation that s required for the agency? Some agencies are non sectarian; some are sectarian that can make a difference too. Other questions you might want to ask are how large is the program, is the domestic program of the agency; how many adoptive families are waiting in the waiting pool; and nowadays it is a waiting pool, it's not a waiting list. Sort, of gone are the days that it's next in line in terms of the placement of a child, because birthparents are choosing, they are choosing from a pool of families. It's important also to ask about what services are offered to birthparents, not just finding out what services are offered to adoptive parents. This is a two-way street and both parties are equally as important in the planning for this child s future that s coming along and you want to feel that not only are you getting wonderful comprehensive services from the agency, but that the birthparents are also getting wonderful services as well. Type of outreach that the agency does to connect to birthparents and then how do they connect the birthparents and the adoptive parents to each other, is there a matching process to these profiles, do they use scrapbooks and dear birthparent letters? Probably the scrapbook, dear birthparent letter is probably the most typical, but definitely different agencies do different things. What type of foster care, short-term foster care is available and how do they utilize the foster care with the children when they are born. Is it a requirement that the baby after being born goes directly into the agency s foster care for a period of time or does the child need to go? Can the child go directly to the adoptive family? Fees are always a big question and this is where you want ask lots of questions because you want to know, not only what the fee structure is but how the fees are used? What area the money is going towards? Some agencies work on a sliding scale based on income and they might start as low as $5,000 for all the comprehensive adoption services and they might go as high as $18,000 or $20,000 or $25,000. Other agencies might do a flat fee and it might include everything. There is also something called pass-through expenses and it's very specific to domestic adoption and those are expenses related specifically to the adoption process and that s going to depend on the laws of the state where you reside. So, is foster care covered? What about legal expenses? What about medical expenses for the birthmother and the child? So, those are some of the things that are very critical. Probably one of the other most difficult questions that families ask is what happens when the baby is born and if there is a medical issue; what do we have to proceed with the adoption and that is the hard one for everyone; but, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself and be honest with the agency staff and if it turns out that you feel that the child s medical needs would be too severe for you to handle or more than you can, you feel you can handle as an adoptive parent, then they would find another family for that child. You don t want to enter into parenthood, not really feeling fully engaged with what's coming down the pipe with your child.