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."