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Interviewing an Adoption Agency

By Sara Myers

One of the first and most important steps in your adoption process will be selecting an agency to work with. Once chosen, the agency will be the key player in placing a child in your home, so it's obviously important that you understand their processes and their policies. Less obvious, perhaps, is that the people at your agency are destined to become your friends, your confidants, and your most longed-for contacts; so making sure they are folks you're comfortable with is essential as well.

Whether you find agencies on the internet, through friends, or in the yellow pages, you should begin by making an appointment to get to know them. If the agency is near your home, meeting the representatives face-to-face is preferable. Not only will it feel more personal, but meeting in person is more likely to give you an immediate sense of what the agency is like. If the agency is not nearby (some families work with agencies that are out-of-town, or even out-of-state), you may need to talk by telephone more than once to get a true impression.

At your initial meeting you are likely to be nervous and excited at the prospect of starting on your adoption journey. To make sure you get all the information you want, compile a list of questions before your appointment. Print them out with plenty of room to write the responses, so you don't end up with an unintelligible list of notes when you get home. You will be absorbing an awful lot of information at the meeting, and although you may be convinced you'll remember it all, some detail is bound to slip your mind if you don't jot it down.

While gathering data is half the point of the agency interview, getting to know the people involved is the other, equally important, half. Ask yourself during the meeting whether you feel comfortable with the agency representatives' personalities and styles of communication. Do they instill a sense of confidence in you? Do they seem knowledgeable and experienced? Are they comfortable working with families like yours? A personal rapport with the agency folks may seem trivial at the beginning, but the middle of the complicated - and very emotional - adoption process is not the time to discover you don't get along.

By the time you read this article, you likely have plenty of questions to ask already. Supplement your own list by asking advice from families in the process and from those who have completed adoptions. Ask your close friends and family members what they'd like to know, since they will be providing you essential moral support throughout the adoption. The following list of questions is not meant to be definitive, but to give you ideas of what you might like to know. Now gather up your questions and agency telephone numbers and start making those calls!

Questions you may wish to ask include:

  • Tell me about your Vietnam program. Leaving the question open-ended may give you details or raise issues that you have not previously thought of.
  • Do I qualify to adopt from Vietnam?
  • Does your agency set restrictions based on age, gender, religion, weight, family size, marital status, family structure or anything else that may disqualify me? It is important to understand that some agencies impose their own rules that are not set by the Vietnam program.
  • Tell me about your agency's experience working with families like mine. Leaving the question open-ended may give you a better indication of your agency's background working with families similar to yours. Whether this means those adopting after dealing with infertility issues, those with biological children, adopting their first child, older parents, nontraditional families, or whatever else may define your family - it is important that you feel comfortable with your agency's understanding and experience.
  • Who is the facilitator you work with in Vietnam? Domestic agencies must work with an agency or facilitator in Vietnam. It is important to know about both organizations before you begin your adoption.
  • What parts of the process do you perform and what is the role of the facilitator?
  • How long have you worked with the facilitator?
  • How do you communicate with the facilitator (telephone, e-mail, fax)? How often? How responsive is the facilitator when you have questions?
  • How many babies/children has the facilitator placed during their time working in Vietnam? In the past year?
  • What humanitarian work does the facilitator perform in Vietnam?
  • Who cares for the babies/children in Vietnam while they wait to be adopted?
  • How does the facilitator locate babies/children available for adoption?
  • What medical tests are performed on the babies/children before they are referred to families?
  • Can the facilitator provide data about the reliability of their testing?
  • What other health issues should I be aware of?
  • Can I choose the gender and age of the child I want to adopt? How likely is a child of this gender and age to be available?
  • How many babies/children have you placed during your time working with the Vietnam program? In the past year?
  • How do you communicate with adopting families?
  • What are your hours? When are you available? How responsive are you when families have questions?
  • How long can I expect the entire process to take?
  • Can you give me a breakdown of the time each step of the process is likely to take?
  • How much do you assist me with compiling the required paperwork?
  • How much can I expect the entire process to cost?
  • Can you give me a breakdown of the cost of each part of the process and explain when the money is due?
  • Is any of the money refundable if an adoption is not completed?
  • Do you offer any classes?
  • Do you offer any support groups for waiting parents?
  • Will you give me referrals for families (preferably like mine) who have recently completed their adoptions?

Sara Myers is mom to Jacob (adopted in Vietnam in 1997), Alexander (adopted in the U.S. in 1998), 3 cats, and 1 very large dog.

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