I have to admit something that may surprise those of you who know us: When we started the adoption process, we did not really do our homework. We did not research a million agencies and ask tons of questions. We did not spend hours online figuring out which path to take. Now typically I'm not big on the whole "just follow God and he'll figure everything out" mentality, because I think God gave us brains for a reason and he wants us to use them. But sometimes God says "go" and you don't figure anything out -- you just go. That's how our adoption journey got started.
Two years and one sweet two-year-old later, we have learned some things. These are not necessarily things I wish I would have known, because as it turns out we didn't need to know them. But they are things that I now think it is important for prospective adoptive parents to know as they go about choosing an agency. So here you have it -- 14 questions I think prospective international adoptive parents should be asking agencies:
1. What is the mission statement / expressed purpose of your organization?
2. Are you Hague-accredited? If so, have you ever been denied or lost your Hague-accreditation?
3. What is the salary of your director? (This sounds awkward to ask, but hey - lots of companies have to publish those numbers anyway and personally I think it says a lot about the organizations priorities. Keep in mind that the director's job is HARD and they deserve to get paid a fair market wage for what they do, like anyone else.)
4. What kind of support do you offer post-placement?
5. What is the relationship between the stateside agency staff and the in-country staff? Specifically, how exactly does the agency oversee how each child's paperwork is processed in-country? How does the agency ensure 100% integrity in this process?
6. How do you communicate with families at each stage of the process?
7. What is your policy on out-of-birth-order adoptions?
8. Does your agency facilitate continued contact with birth families post-placement?
9. Does your agency support family preservation (i.e. trying to prevent a child from needing to be placed for adoption by providing support to the birth family) and reunification (reuniting a child with his/her birth family after they were placed in an orphanage if the parents wish to reclaim the child) whenever possible? How do they do this?
10. Does your agency do any humanitarian work (besides operating orphanages) in the countries where they operate?
11. Has your agency ever been disciplined for unethical practices by the governments of any of the countries in which they operate?
12. When was your last disrupted adoption and what were the circumstances?
13. What would happen if a child's adoption was finalized in their country of origin, but they were denied a visa to come the US?
14. Are your in-country agency representatives ever asked for bribes in order for government paperwork to be completed? If so, how is this handled?
I want to reiterate that, by and large, we did not have to learn the importance of the answers to these questions the hard way -- our agency was amazing, I am constantly blown away by the way they serve the people of Ethiopia, and I believe that our process was handled ethically from top to bottom. I kept thinking throughout the whole thing, "Man, were we naive... but thank God we are with YWAM!"
To read more about YWAM programs to support pregnant women in need, family preservation, and local Ethiopian adoptions, click here and here.
To read more about their continued contact with birth families, click here.
To read about their humanitarian work, click here or here.
To read more about how they oversee their in-country staff, click here.
I could post a thousand more links, but if you want to know more just poke around their blog and website for yourself. :)