Choosing Your Adoption Resource

At The Cradle we ensure that all members of an adoption are treated with respect and honesty. Unfortunately, not all adoption resources take this approach. If you are considering adoption as an option for your pregnancy, make sure you choose your adoption provider carefully. Here are some things to think about:

While it’s easy for any organization to SAY they respect expectant parents and their decision-making process, many clearly have an adoptive parent focus, profit motives and an adoption agenda.

If on a website you see expectant parents who are considering adoption referred to as “birthparents”, be wary. Calling anyone who has not yet made an adoption decision a birthparent may be an indicator that the organization has an agenda --- they wish for all expectant parents to choose adoption.

An easy way to learn how an agency really feels about expectant parents is to look at how they address adopting parents’ concerns. Look through the Adoptive Parent section of their website and see if you like how expectant parents and their decisions are being portrayed.

If the discussion about placement decisions is portrayed as easy and quick, be wary. The decision to place a child is never going to be easy and you shouldn’t be pressured into making a quick decision. You deserve to work with a resource that understands this and fully respects your decision-making.

If their website is telling adoptive parents that their ”system is extremely successful in creating a comfort level with Birthparents and has proven to be very instrumental in supporting follow through with the adoption plan” you can tell their “support” is there to steer you towards adoption, not support you no matter what you decide.

If you see on a website “It is our goal to find you the right birthmother as quickly as possible,” or our mission is “to help women find courage in choosing adoption,” you should see red flags. What if you aren’t “the right birthmother” or aren’t 100% sure about adoption? How will you be treated? These statements are signs that they have an adoption agenda.

Even if you are very clearly set on making an adoption plan, your decision should never be taken for granted or pressured. It is common for a woman to have a change of heart once her baby is born. You should NEVER feel like your adoption agency will be disappointed if you ultimately choose to parent. They truly should support you no matter what you decide. Don’t let yourself be relegated to a position of someone who cannot make an informed decision for herself. Adoption has come a LONG way recently, primarily because expectant parents are no longer passive participants but, rather, very active decision-makers.

Federally tax-exempt organizations (those with a 501(c)3 status) are subject to a lot of regulatory scrutiny. They must prove to the government that they are not conducting adoptions for the purpose of making a profit.

Don’t be fooled by an agency that says it is “non-profit” but isn’t a 501(c)3. “Non-profit” status is meaningless unless the organization is federally tax-exempt. If your agency claims to be non-profit but is not tax-exempt, they may be trying to fool you into thinking that they exist for charitable purposes.

Ask to see their audited financial statements. All clients have the right to see these. If they refuse to send these to you, you need to ask yourself what the agency is hiding.

When considering placing a child for adoption, you deserve to know how the agency screens people interested in adopting. You want to make sure that your child will be safe, of course, but may also wonder how the adoptive family will tell the child about you and your adoption decision.

You need to rely upon an agency that takes time to really understand who the prospective adoptive parents are and that they understand how important it is to talk openly about adoption to the child from a very young age. And, even if you are not sure you want an open adoption with ongoing direct contact, you deserve to have that option should you change your mind later and want to reach out to the child and family later on.

Be sure to compare what the agency tells adoptive parents about what they need to do to become qualified with what the agency tells expectant parents about how adoptive parents are selected. One agency, for example, says to expectant parents, “our screening process is often more extensive than nearly any other adoption agency in the country” yet tells adoptive parents that “Initially, the home study process frightens some families… Our goal is to make the process both easy and relaxing.”

You should be able to choose from a wide range of families. And if you are interested in ongoing contact of any kind with the family, that should not pose a problem. One agency routinely tells expectant parents that if they are interested in open adoption, they will need to wait a long time to select the family and that their child may end up in foster care during this wait. This is nonsense! There are plenty of families that not only accept ongoing contact with birth families, but welcome it.

And should your baby be born with special medical needs, your agency should stand by you and your child and find a suitable adoptive family. Do not settle for anything less!

Ask the agency how much it spends on counseling services to expectant parents before, during and after the adoption. Is it as much as the agency spends on advertising?

Don’t take the agency’s word for it. Ask them to send you a copy of their audited financial statements. These will show you exactly how much money the agency spends in different ways and whether they are making a profit on doing adoptions. If they won’t send you this, ask yourself “what are they hiding?”

Even if you don’t think you want or need counseling services, you deserve that service should you choose. If you decide afterwards that it may help to talk to someone about your feelings, wouldn’t it be nice to know you could reach back to your agency? Wouldn’t you want this for someone else who may be struggling?

The internet has enabled many startup adoption resources. Many of these organizations will not stand the test of time. Yet adoption is a decision for a lifetime.

A recent blog post from an adoptive parent searching for connection to a birth family tells the story well.

I need to know if there is anyone on this list who knows of a pro-bono attorney who could take on a case from the standpoint of "birth parents rights." The agency from which I got my daughter was closed by the time my daughter was two. Per our agreement, I was to send pictures each year, but my daughters' birthparents and birthgrandparents are not receiving pictures or letters of updates.

It’s important to ask yourself “will this organization be around for me and my child 5 years from now, 15 years from now, 50 years from now?” A good indicator that an organization will be around into the future is how long they have already been in existence. A strong social service organization will stand the test of time.

Adoption is one of the biggest and most important decisions an expectant parent will ever make. Reputable agencies will encourage you to have trusted family members be a part of the counseling process. If you are living across the country from friends and loved ones, you will be isolated from having their support and perspectives during your decision-making time.

This note was sent to The Cradle by a sister of a Cradle client who came to us considering placing a baby for adoption who ultimately parented the child instead.

"I know that The Cradle’s primary service is adoption, but I want you to know how important your services are to mothers who are not sure if adoption is what they want. I will help your organization in whatever way I can, for many years to come, to insure that you are able to continue to provide a safe, non-judgmental, pressure-free environment for women facing the difficult decision of adoption, and to ensure that you are able to continue to nurse these precious children who all deserve a loving home."

Had this mom’s counselor suggested that she move across country to deliver in private or encouraged her to keep the fact that she was considering adoption for her child a secret from her family, she would likely have made a different plan. A plan she may well have regretted later when the truth finally came out.

If the agency you first contact arranges for a different agency’s representative to meet with you, you should wonder how well you will be served throughout the adoption process.

Ask your counselor how she or her agency gets paid for providing services to you. Is it on an hourly basis? If so, they will likely have a financial reason to limit the number of sessions you have with her. Will the agency only get paid if you make an adoption plan? That may well lead to pressure for you to follow through on an adoption plan. Is there a limit on how many post-placements visits you can have? You have a right to know these answers.

Even if you don’t think you want counseling, it should be a service you are entitled to should you later decide you could benefit from talking through some things. Ask yourself if you really needed to talk to someone about your plan, would your counselor be available for you? Would you even know how to reach her? Would your counselor get to know you personally so that you felt comfortable sharing private matters with her?

Every expectant parent wants the same thing for her baby: that he or she be healthy. And, usually, this is exactly what happens. But sometimes, babies are born with unexpected medical needs such as Down Syndrome or other genetic problems. Look at what kinds of promises your adoption resource makes to prospective adoptive families. Does your resource make statements such as, "Most clients want a healthy child with no special needs" or "We do aggressive Birthmother Outreach to help you adopt a healthy baby"? If so, what will happen to you if your baby is not completely healthy? Will your resource stand by you and work to find a family that will welcome your baby?

Ask your adoption resource if they are committed to you regardless of the health of baby. Ask if they have ever turned away an expectant parent because her baby was not completely healthy. There are many good adoption agencies that will help you accomplish an adoption plan, if that is what you want, regardless of whether your baby is healthy or not.

Adoption isn’t supposed to be about creating “designer families”. It’s supposed to be about giving your child a family who can provide him or her with those things that you do not feel ready to provide. Nature doesn’t let you choose the gender of your baby; an adoption resource should not let an adoptive family choose the gender of their baby.

If your adoption resource allows adoptive families to select gender, then this is a big signal that they have an adoption agenda. Most adoption resources that allow adoptive families to select gender will charge the family a higher fee! If your baby’s gender is highly desired, then the resource will make more money if you make an adoption plan. You might find yourself being pressured to place your baby, even if you are considering parenting your baby.

Healthy adoptive parents just want to be parents, and they don’t look to adoption to help them form a family in a way that can outsmart nature.

This is important because being licensed means that the organization has oversight. Someone looks over their records, client materials and general operations to ensure they are complying with the law. It also means that you as a client will have someplace to register a complaint if something goes wrong or if you don’t like the way you’re being treated. In short, it provides clients with added security that important matters are being handled appropriately.

Make sure that the adoption resource you choose isn’t misrepresenting themselves. If, for instance, you see Illinois Adoption on a website and that organization isn’t in fact licensed in Illinois, be wary! If that organization is representing themselves as an Illinois resource, they should be subject to the consumer protections the state of Illinois has put in place. Click here to see a list of agencies that are licensed in Illinois.

Ask if the organization was ever put on probation for being in violation of licensing standards or if there are outstanding complaints against them. In Illinois you can also check on this by contacting the Department of Children and Family Services.

Any reputable adoption resource will be happy to explain their licensure to you. If you sense any hesitation or if the answers to your questions seem overly complicated, that should raise a red flag for you. And if an organization actually brags on their website about NOT being subject to state-mandated restrictions, lots of red flags should be flying!

What do they really want?
Personal information helps the provider decide how marketable your baby is; how many prospective adoptive parents might be interested in your baby. They’ll focus on your race, the father’s race, your health and potential pregnancy complications.

Providing profiles to you right away is a way to push you into an adoption decision. Seeing a family waiting for a baby can make you feel obligated to move forward with an adoption plan. You are, in fact, under no obligation to place your child with a family, even if you have chosen them from a profile. You can change your mind about adoption during your pregnancy and even after the baby is born. Only after your legal process is complete will your decision become final.

What should your provider do?
Listen. They should listen. This is your story, your decision. You should get a chance to look at all of your options. What would your life look like if you decided to parent your baby? Where would your support come from? If you choose adoption, what kind of family are you looking for? How much openness would you like?

Sarah placed her son for adoption 5 years ago. She saw both an adoption attorney and a counselor. This is her story:
“When I was considering adoption, all I wanted was information. I met with an adoption lawyer first. The first thing I said when I walked in the door was ‘I only want information’. I had no idea if adoption was the best choice at the time so the last thing I wanted to feel was pushed into it.

The attorney talked to me for no more than 10 minutes about my situation. Then she pulled out 15 profiles for me to look through ‘just in case’. I was overwhelmed. I went home and cried. I almost gave up on adoption right there. Then I met with a counselor at The Cradle. She listened to me, explained the process, openness, and support after adoption. She was honest about how I would feel. She pushed ME to make sure I had considered every option.”

Bottom Line
If at any point, even after your baby is born, you feel pressured by your agency to make an adoption plan, look elsewhere.