There are two kinds of adoption agencies, public agencies and private agencies. Public agencies, supported by the taxpayer, exist in each of the 50 states and are either county-run or centrally located at the state level. Private agencies are licensed through the state.
Each of the 50 states operates a public child-placing agency. Public agencies usually place older children and children with special needs, although many also place minority-race infants and toddlers, as well as sibling groups. Occasionally a healthy infant can be adopted through a public agency. Public agencies offer pre-adoption counseling and training, adoptive home studies, adoption assistance payment contracts, or subsidies, and some post-placement services.
State agencies also usually offer photolisting books or other means of reviewing the children who are available for adoption, such as “matching” parties or attendance at adoption staffings. Prospective parents view these listings to search for children. Many states also offer an additional adoption exchange service that will list a family hoping to adopt a child. Social workers use these listings to facilitate matches.
Prospective adoptive parents should know that a growing number of state agency adoptions in the United States are accomplished by foster parents (fost-adopt), and that many states give preference to foster parents when a child becomes eligible for adoption. Thus, prospective adoptive parents may also want to consider becoming foster parents or enrolling in a state’s fostadopt program if they choose to adopt via their state agency.
A private agency is one that is privately owned or operated but licensed by the state’s licensor of child-placing or adoption agencies. Private agencies may be nonprofit or for-profit, religious or nonreligious. Many private adoption agencies also have one or more international adoption program.
Fees can sometimes be low or are negotiable, especially when the child is of minority race or has special needs. Private agencies are often willing to work with applicants who have been denied by the state agency, such as large families or those wishing to adopt transracially. Nondenominational private agencies will usually accept adoptive parents who have been divorced and, in some areas, those who are gay or lesbian. Many private agencies also offer open adoptions or semiopen adoptions, which can lessen the waiting time for prospective adoptive parents.
Private agencies generally tend to choose the adoptive parents they want to work with. The private agencies will consider the following factors when screening adoptive parents:
• Marital Status
• Sexual Orientation
• Family Size
• Personal History
The advantages to public agency adoption are that the costs are minimal or nonexistent and the requirements for adoptive parents are flexible.The main expenses are medical checkups for preadoptive parents and legal expenses for finalizing the adoption. A few innovative private agencies in the United States charge no fees for their services, and finance their operations solely through Purchase of Services and similar programs whereby adoption fees are paid or reimbursed, but the majority charge fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to over $20,000. The most expensive may involve international travel and services. The services such agencies offer are generally the same as those offered by the state agency.
Beside the agency fees, you will also need to hire an attorney for the court work. You will have to pay the attorney fees in addition to the agency fee.
Approximate Waiting Time
Public Agency – Three to twelve months for the homestudy; one to five years for placement of a child.
Private Agency – Two or three months for the adoption homestudy; one to five years for placement of a child.
The waiting time is generally required to ensure that all the formalities are completed and the required consents are obtained from all concerned parties and authorities. Adoptive parents can bypass this waiting time by opting for a legal risk placement. In such cases, the child is placed in the adoptive parents’ home before obtaining the necessary consents. So if the biological mother objects to the adoption, the child will be taken back from the adoptive parents’ home.
There are many adoption agencies located across the country. Make sure the one you choose is licensed to operate in your state. Depending on where you are located, you may have more than one agency located near you. If you do not know where to find an adoption agency, you can log on to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Once you have chosen an agency, make sure you check their reputation and success rate.
International special needs adoption carries with it unique challenges such as language and cultural differences between adoptive parent and child. Adopting older children and sibling groups internationally often requires a longer and more complex adjustment period for the children. Sometimes, the children are foundlings from orphanages and little or no background history is available. For these reasons, adoptive families should approach international special needs adoption with great caution and only after talking with experienced adoptive families and agencies who understand this type of adoption. International adoption also involves filing of the required forms and petitions with the USCIS and getting the visa for the child to enter the United States. Some states have additional rules and procedures that may affect any international adoption.