Agency adoptions are adoptions in which a private organization acts as an intermediary in the adoption process. (These are not to be confused with “intermediary adoptions,” which do not involve agencies.) The laws and regulations governing what is required for state permission to act as an adoption agency vary widely among the states. Licensure is not reciprocal between states. If an agency is licensed in one state, it may not have permission to place children or work with birth parents in other states.
Some agencies specialize in specific kinds of adoptions. For example, there are agencies that only place older children, or children with disabilities. There are also faith-based adoption agencies. Adoption agencies may also be public or private. However, there are many adoption agencies that work with all different kinds of parents and children.
Why People Choose Agencies
There are many reasons why people choose agencies. A common reason why prospective adoptive parents choose agencies is so that they can be placed on waiting lists. There are more people looking to adopt infants than there are healthy infants who need homes. If adoptive parents are only looking to adopt a healthy infant, they may need to wait for years.
Pros and Cons of Agency Adoption
Comprehensive Support & Counseling
Experience & Expertise
Focused Specialization - Infants, International, etc.
Lengthy Adoption Process
Agencies are also chosen by both sides because they are centralized places for birth parents and adoptive parents to find each other. Many of the other kinds of adoption rely on a preexisting relationship or connection between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. Agencies are also experienced at matching the desires of the birth parents with adoptive parents who fit those criteria.
Services Provided by Agencies
Another reason why birth and adoptive parents may choose agencies is because of the services that they offer. Agencies usually handle the screening procedures, such as background checks and home studies. They also help parties to access counseling, support groups, and other tools. Agency employees can use their expertise to help birth and adoptive parents understand their rights and the applicable laws of their states.
Birth parents may choose an agency adoption because of the anonymity that can be offered. (However, many agencies will only do open adoptions.) Others may choose agencies because that is the only method of which they know for placing and adopting a child.
The Process of Working with an Agency
One of the biggest benefits of working with an agency is all of the support and screening that it provides. Potential adoptive parents will be subject to many interviews and background checks to make sure that they are emotionally, physically, and financially able to be good parents. The specifics will vary among states and agencies, but there are some elements that are almost always present.
The process nearly always involves a home study, in which the prospective adoptive parent or parents’ home will be visited by professionals from the agency. Agencies will also do extensive interviews with the potential adoptive parents, siblings, and family members. They will ask prospective adoptive parents about their views on parenting, how they will address the topic of adoption with the child, how they will adjust to the new family member, and other relevant questions. They will also investigate the financial and employment history of the adoptive family, and will do a criminal background check.
In terms of custody, the agency will usually have legal custody of the child from birth until the adoption is finalized. However, in infant adoptions, the infant can often be placed with the adoptive parent(s) at birth.
Benefits of Private Agencies
May offer more extensive counseling services
May offer more opportunities to adopt healthy newborns
May provide more involved legal support and expertise
Benefits of Public Agencies
Can be less expensive than private agencies and even provide a small stipend
Potentially more open to prospective parents with unconventional backgrounds
May offer the opportunity to adopt children often overlooked by private agencies, such as older children and those with disabilities
Downsides of Working with an Agency
There are some reasons why people may prefer to go through the adoption process without working with an agency. A big reason for potential adoptive parents is financial. Agency adoptions can cost over $10,000. There also may be a very long waiting period, as explained above.
Birth parents may want more choice as to who the adoptive parents are than the agency will provide. Agencies have varying policies regarding how much birth parents are involved in the process.