At this point in our adoption, we have worked with three different agencies: the agency that performed our homestudy in Illinois, our placement agency (which compiled all of our information and sent the dossier to China, and the agency that updated our homestudy when we moved to China.
Just a reminder...Wikipedia defines a home study/homestudy as: a screening of the home and life of prospective adoptive parents prior to allowing an adoption to take place. In some places, and in all international adoptions, a home study is required by law. Even where it is not legally mandated, it may be required by an adoption agency. Depending on the location and agency, different information may be sought during a home study. A home study can be used both to aid the prospective parents in preparing to raise an adoptive child, and to rule out those who are not fit to be parents. The ultimate purpose of a home study is for the benefit of the child, not the parents. Therefore, screeners are instructed to be thorough in their examinations.
Choosing an agency is similar to the process of choosing which route of adoption (domestic, foster care, international, etc.) to adopt from...once you start looking at the details, hopefully some will rule themselves out and others will present themselves as real possibilities.
My recommendations when choosing an agency are:
- Get referrals from friends and family members. Ask about their experiences with agencies and ask if they would use them again.
- Do your internet research.
- Look at the adoption fee list for the agencies. I say this, not to find the cheapest, but to see if they are relatively consistent across the agencies. I would be wary of any agency that is drastically cheaper or more expensive.
- Call the agencies and talk to someone. Find out about the pre- and post-adoption services provided.
For us, it ended up being relatively easy to decide on a local (an Illinois) agency to complete our homestudy. That’s because only a few had experience working with other placement agencies in international adoptions. The bigger task was deciding on a placement agency (the one that collects all of our paperwork, finds a match for us, and arranges for travel, etc.). I first contacted a few of the large, big-name agencies. One of the agencies quoted me a very, very short time frame in which we would be matched with a child. It was not consistent with what I was seeing online and had heard from other agencies. The whole conversation made me very uneasy.
I had found a small agency, LaVida, online that listed working with expats on their website. I hoped to talk to someone that had used LaVida and I mentioned it in passing to our social worker. She was actually working with a family that was using LaVida and I was able to talk to the family and get their feedback. We’ve been pleased with our agency. They seem to have everything streamlined; they handle a lot of the little details (collecting our paperwork, having it authenticated/approved), mailing things in to the different government agencies, etc. We found our third agency, the one that updated our homestudy when we moved to China, through recommendations from friends.
It all comes down to doing your homework!
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