Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Important Agency Question

This topic may seem like it's coming out of nowhere considering that it was this time two years ago that we were researching agencies, but since coming home with Abe, we've been asked a lot of questions by people interested in adoption about the process and how to choose an agency. Choosing an agency is a huge decision, one that took us four months of research to make. The decision is partly made by your gut feeling, but one black-and-white issue I always recommend people really look at closely is the issue of finances.

Agencies should have a crystal-clear breakdown of the expenses you will be expected to pay, with time-lines of when things are due, along with specifics about what each expense covers. I caution people strongly if they encounter an agency that asks their clients to pay everything up front. This should be a red flag.

Along these lines, be sure to ask the question, "What happens if our adoption is postponed for any reason?" There are couples out there who don't ask this question, get deep into the adoption process, and suddenly find themselves pregnant. This is life. Ted and I believe strongly that any agency should have a reasonable policy about this occurrence. It feels fair that the agency should keep what the client has already paid to use for whatever costs have been incurred up until that point.

Of course, it's also not fair for an agency to lose money when an adoption is postponed. But it also doesn't feel fair for them to charge "reactivation fees" (sometimes in the thousands of dollars) or to cancel your adoption completely with no refunds of any of the thousands of dollars already paid, as some agencies do. Agencies who choose to implement these policies are certainly entitled to do so. However, they should also be crystal-clear about these policies with prospective clients from the very beginning. Not all of them are, though, which is the reason why I'm writing this post.

So. While it's not the most heart-warming topic to think about when exploring adoption, it is certainly an important thing to consider. Any agency who hands you an expense report that leaves you scratching your head may not be the best agency to go with. Do your research. Compare the expenses of many agencies and ask specific questions about what each expense goes towards. Ask for a list of the agency's clients who would be willing to serve as references for the agency. If you are not given references or excluded from the agency's events, you might want to consider going with an agency that is more transparent with their policies.

It's often hard to see beyond the glossy brochures and heart-wrenching DVDs provided in agency literature. But it will be well worth your time to buckle down and do it.

...and in the end, after four months of research and almost signing on with another agency, we are so very thankful we found Gladney. They truly are the "gold standard."


More Dorrs said...

Wise words from wise folks.


Nicholas said...

What a gift and "guide" for new adoptive parents. Sometimes the heart can override the mind and leave one holding the bag when this process begins.

We feel very blessed to have had a wonderful experience w/our agency as well. There are so many good ones and a few bad ones. But those few bad ones can really taint adoption as a whole by concentrating on the almighty dollar! It's really disgusting what some people will do for a buck.

Bringing Baby Home said...

Agreed. We almost went with Gladney the second time around, but stuck with CHI because of our s.w. and it was much easier with them again than to start anew. It's such a hard decision.

Eryn said...

Thanks again, Lori for taking the time to personally talk this stuff through with me. It really helped us make a decision.

We made our change to Gladney official...we told the "other agency" and thankfully, they were very gracious and nice about everything and will be pleasant to work with as we complete our homestudy. Thanks again!


Unknown said...

I agree, Gladney is terrific. So far it's been great working with them. What did it for me was how honest and upfront they were about money and the process in general.

Carol said...

Gladney rocks! I agree that they are the gold standard. Living so close to the office, I can also add that the people in person are so gracious and kind and they so truly love the kids they are working for! Thanks for the post.

mama becca said...

ditto albertson :).

Erica said...

Great post! I agree with you. This is such a hard choice but one that is VERY important. We too had a good experience with our agency. There are definitely some bad apples in the bunch. Thank you for posting this.

Danni and Tommy said...

Yes, I agree the agency you choose is just so important. This is such a valuable resource for those starting the process. It is important to also look at the homestudy agency as well. For us, that was our biggest mishap. It's been close to a year since Jude came home and we are still "dealing" with them.