Prospective birth parents receive counseling. Pregnant women who work through private agencies receive counseling from professionals experienced in adoption. Prospective adoptive parents can benefit from knowing that these women have received and can continue to receive counseling helping them to make an informed decision that is right for them both before and after they place their child.
Agency serves as an intermediary to openness. Agencies help manage the delicate relationship between birth and adoptive parents. Many birth and adoptive parents feel uncertain about how much to share with one another and how to forge the type of relationship that will serve their respective needs and the needs of the child in the present and future. An agency can help a birth and adoptive family determine the degree of openness that will be comfortable and appropriate, can match families with similar contact goals, can serve as the resource that collects and forwards pictures and letters on behalf of each party, and can mediate any meetings between the families. The agency can provide services of this nature during the placement process, at placement and into the future as needed.
Laws may reduce adoptive parent risk for agency adoption. Agency adoptions may permit use of laws that reduce risk for adoptive parents compared to the private placement system. For instance, NJ agencies are permitted to take a surrender of parental rights from birth parents within 72 hours and without the need to reduce the surrender to a court order. This rule can greatly reduce risk of disruption for adoptive parents who usually receive placement of a child before the birth parents decision becomes final within the eyes of the law.
Disruption does not set you back to the drawing board. While agency placements provide a number of protections from risk for adoptive families, laws in most states still permit birth parents to change their minds or come forward to assert rights within varying time frames after a family receives placement of a child. Then if a disruption does occur, adoptive parents will not need to start from scratch because the agency can continue to work with and search for other appropriate matches and may be more inclined to advocate for a family who experiences the trauma of a disruption. Also many agencies have policies that aid with the financial loss that a disruption may cause. Since most fees are non-refundable many agencies may offer a new placement for a reduced fee or free of charge where attorneys may not be willing to take the financial loss of providing families with a new placement for free.
Agency relationship may permit parent outreach. Many agencies allow families to seek other avenues of finding their own birth parents. Agencies costs vary but many have low upfront costs with majority of the fees not due until placement. If an adoptive family finds their own birth parents, placement costs could be considerably lower, with the family still receiving the legal benefits of working through an agency. Birthparents counseling may also be available in these situations.
Tips For Making The Most of Your Agency Experience
Research, soul search, define your goals upfront – Know what child background information you are truly open to considering. Consider medical backgrounds and conditions, exposure to drugs and/or alcohol in utero, racial backgrounds, and degree of openness with a birth family. Research, soul search and define your goals to yourselves before defining them to the agency that you select. You will be considered for more possible matches if you are open to a broad list of backgrounds, however, if you are not truly open to certain backgrounds and races you are doing yourself and the potential birth parent who chooses you a disservice. Also if an agency matches you with a situation that you ultimately decline because you weren’t honest with yourselves the agency may call into question your readiness to adopt and how committed you are to the process. Be realistic with your expectations and what you feel you can handle.
Attend agency trainings and education – Many families spend so much time focusing their efforts on the paperwork and the required meetings that they undervalue the importance of many additional low cost or free education opportunities offered to prepare clients for parenting an adopted child. Remember, the agency’s mission is to serve the best interests of the children it places. When the call about a match comes, the process may move fast and furious. While you have the benefit of time and opportunity to focus and learn, take advantage of any and all tools to empower you to become a more effective parent for the child whom you will ultimately adopt.
Don’t forget that adoption is a life long process so also consider free or low-cost educational workshops, conferences, etc. as your child grows up.
Adoptive parents’ needs for service may be secondary to children and birth families. This statement may not sit well with most adoptive parents since they are paying fees that can add up to thousands of dollars. Adoptive parent fees foot the bill for many of the “free” services offered to birth parents, such as counseling, helping them get medical assistance, taking them to clinic appointments etc. Some of these services also ultimately benefit the children, such getting women into clinics for prenatal care, drug rehab centers, and advising them on proper nutrition..
Agencies often devote a great deal of time and attention to meeting the needs of the birth parent community before and after placement. This is not to say that agencies aren’t there for adoptive parents as well, they are, but families may need to adjust their expectations to maximize the benefits of this system. Studies have shown that birth parents who receive time, attention and counseling are far less likely to regret their decisions or change their minds, so helping support these women is in everyone’s best interest.
Seek therapy and support elsewhere – Many prospective adoptive parents start the adoption process while still in mourning for other losses. Many families may not have fully overcome their disappointment from infertility treatments. Unfortunately these families may misdirect their sadness or frustration toward agency staff in a manner that is counter-productive to their own goals. Seek out an appropriate therapist or professional support group that will allow you to work out sadness or disappointment, or just vent your frustrations about the process.