Saturday, November 12, 2011

reflections on choosing an agency

I've been wanting to reflect on the last three or four weeks and what I experienced while trying to gather information in order to make a decision about who we would use to facilitate our adoption. But, as you can tell from my previous post, it's been a little crazy for us in this house. I finally have a moment to sit down and finish writing about some of my experiences. I'm only sharing this because my hope is that it will help other couples prepare themselves for this part of their adoption journey:

Even though Joey would have been the better person to make the phone calls - he's more practical - I made all of them due to our work schedules, took copious notes, and reported back to him each evening.

Last fall, when we made the decision to adopt, it was right after I'd worked the RESOLVE table at a family building conference here in Orlando. I made the comment to several people that the demeanor of the adoption representatives as opposed to those from the RE practices and the pharmaceutical companies impressed me. It seemed like those who were involved in the adoption field truly cared. They were sensitive to my story, and their responses were always appropriate. They never tried too hard to sell adoption, themselves, or their organization.

My phone calls gave me a look at the different side of the adoption "business." Because what I've learned from all of this is that it IS a business. As much as we don't want to refer to it as that, it's difficult not to. We called more than 10 organizations. With some, there were no warm, fuzzy feelings AT ALL. They didn't touch on the emotional side of it. Sometimes, they didn't even ask me for factual information. It was more like, "What do you want to know?" And I get it. There are aspects of it that should be business-like. I didn't expect anyone to cry on the phone with me. But I did expect some kindness, and I didn't get it in some cases.

Don't get me wrong. I spoke to some wonderful people - people who were supportive and caring, and not condescending. But I also spoke to some people who, honestly, need to consider a different field. I emailed agencies, attorneys, and consultants, asking them to give me a call at their earliest convenience. From some, I received repeated phone calls and messages, to the point where I was ready to find out how I could block them from contacting me. From others, I received no personal response at all. We had a consultant who nicely told us our budget was one she would have a difficult time working with. Then, from a national adoption agency, I actually received stifled laughter in response to our budget. That's fine if you think our budget is low, but be professional. We had a lawyer who flat out would not disclose the practice's fees, and another who wouldn't even answer my questions until we went over every single adoption law in the state of Florida (snore fest).

The worst part, though, was listening to some of them describe their programs. I understand that many agencies have programs based on race. It's common, and we even went with an agency that does this. But the ways in which they referred to and described these programs appalled me. I spoke to two different agencies that refer to their minority (African-American) programs as "special needs." Special needs. When I asked the woman at one agency to please describe why they refer to the program as special needs, she said it's because these children are harder to place. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of special needs, other ideas flash through my mind. Downs syndrome. Physical and mental disabilities. HIV/AIDS. Drug addiction. I don't think of kids with different skin colors. This reference didn't sit well with me. Even though I liked the representative I spoke to at one of the agencies, it didn't sit well with me that an organization would actually look at minority children this way.

I don't want to act like this was an awful, painful experience to call each of these places. I do want people to know that it's not easy. I had certain expectations, a certain mentality going into these phone calls that I shouldn't have had. I had expectations of certain agencies that were wrong - both positively and negatively. I think it's important for me to share this because I don't want someone else to make the same mistakes I did, by thinking this was going to be easier than it was, or that people would be there to coddle me and hold my hand. I don't want someone else to think that these places are going to be all rainbows and sunshine and willing to help. Kind of like adoption itself, getting started in the process is not all happy.

Ultimately, it felt like calling different places to get a price quote on finding us a baby. The place with the greatest "deals" - cost, wait time, placement rates - won. In some ways, you DO have to go with "feeling" on this. Both of us had the right feeling about the agency we chose, but we also had to look at the practicalities: Would this be the best fit for us money and time-wise?

I don't hesitate telling people that I'm an emotional person. I always have been and always will be. But this process has quickly taught me that, sometimes, it's better to think with my head and not my heart.


amiracle4us said...

C and I have looked at a few agencies and his big hang up is the 'business' of it all. It doesn't bother him much in the RE office, but with adoption it does. It is a business (so hard to admit) but I think, as with any other business, there are those that care about the customer and those that are just in it for their pay check.

It sounds like you found one that best suite you both...can I ask who it is? You can email me if that is easier and more private...anglmoira at mac dot com.
thanks :)

Just the Tip said...

I love the incite you offered. I, too thought it was very odd the first time I was looking at Virginia's children available for adoption and I saw that a child's race made them special needs.
I think it may have bothered me a bit more, having two special needs children myself.
We would love to adopt a 'real' special needs child, but we simply don't have the room at our home to get approved for a home study, or the funds. Due to the girls medical issues I'm unable to work full-time.
Still, it's something that is tugging at my heart constantly, I can get it to go away for a little while & it comes back full force.

I cannot say how excited I am that you are already getting phone calls.

You must have been very thorough with your research because it's obviously paying off.

I know you probably can't tell me this (but you could email me if you need too, realisticdreams424 at hotmail dot com.)

Exactly what did they not like about your budget? The total income, or the left over after bills, etc? Also what is a rough estimate of domestic adoption with the agency you went with? I have really only looked into international. Again, if this is too personal/you can't say it's not a problem at all!

I'm so happy for you, you're going to be one great momma!

Brave IVF Girl said...

Really informative post, thanks for sharing. I'm glad you ended up finding someone you liked the work with, and it's frustrating that you had to deal with so many less competent folks.

best of luck!

Rach said...

So sorry you ran into rude people during your selection process. It sucks that so much comes down to the budget. Glad you did find a nice place to work with!

KRISTI said...

I'm so glad you posted this. It IS the ugly side of adoption but it's so important to know ahead of time!

missohkay said...

This post will be very helpful to people. The two things I wish I had done differently picking an agency: 1) Ask to speak directly to the person who I would be working with... so I could have learned that she was rude and unhelpful. Their initial question-answering person, on the other hand, was lovely. 2) Talk to people who'd used our agency before. I later joined a yahoo group specific to the country we're adopting from, and it wouldn't have been hard to find disgruntled people!

Rebecca said...

It really is amazing the steps that this involves and the differences in the types of places available. It just adds another layer of laughability to the people who say "just adopt."

The "special needs" thing pisses me off. That's terrible.

So glad you found an agency that works for you! Crossing everything for you!

someday-soon said...

So awesome of you to post about what the adoption process is like! I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there...

Dawn said...

Wow! I would never think of race as a factor for "special needs." That is horrible and so sad.

This post was so enlightening. I would have never imagined how business like some of the agencies were.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

There's some seriously complicated emotions in adoption. And sometimes, it feels a little icky. :(

Glass Case of Emotion said...

(but worth it in the end though!)

Logical Libby said...

I had to take my heart out of it completely. I had to entrust that to myself and my husband, and just focus on getting our baby. I did, however, always make sure that they had a birth mother program that protected them.

S.I.F. said...

None of it can just be easy, can it? I think going with your head is the right way to go with this though. There have been too many times in the past I've gone with my heart on this infertility journey and wound up regretting it. Sometimes, logic just has to prevail!

Geochick said...

I'm all up in my head, which made choosing an agency easier. In our limited search we only looked at one national agency and they were so slick and sunshiney that I wanted to hurl. We chose ours because they were forthcoming and have a flat fee. Granted, it meant we waited longer, but ethics are really imporant to me. (Not to imply that others are not ethical, just saying this one operates in a transparent manner, which I appreciate)

"Special needs" for minority kids? Ugh, horrible.

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