If you find this post helpful, you might want to read the expanded version in my book which includes even more information on this and all aspects of the China adoption process.
Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for in an agency, how do you go about finding an agency which matches that criteria? Rainbow Kids has 36 agencies listed with a China program, and there could be more who have not chosen to list themselves there. Trying to narrow down that many choices is daunting!
Most people will start by getting recommendations. If you know anyone in real life who has adopted from China, that is a good place to start. Where they happy with their agency? If so, what did they like about it? If you don’t know anyone, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a private message via Facebook (I don’t accept most friend requests but do check my message requests daily) and I will be happy to recommend a couple of good agencies.
If you have an agency in your town or general area, that is certainly an agency to consider. It’s convenient to be able to attend classes there or to drop off papers directly. However, it is not necessary for your placing agency to be in your area. Many people use placing agencies in a completely different part of the country where they live. Don’t feel an obligation to use an agency simply because they’re close.
Your next stop should be the Rate Your China Adoption Agency group on Facebook. You will get more feedback than you could ever want from parents who have used the agencies. No agency employees or volunteer advocates are allowed to join.
However, I do feel you need to keep some points in mind when soliciting opinions:
- Ask specific questions. If your priority is matching time, post a question like “We are looking for a reputable agency with a shorter matching time for young girls with minor needs. Can people who have adopted recently give me your recommendations?”
- Be aware of the timeline. As you might have noticed above, I strongly recommend being prepared to ask “When did you adopt with them?” a lot. Agencies and policies change frequently, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. You don’t want to miss out on a great agency because of outdated information.
- Make sure you have the same priorities. Many people in the Rate Your Agency group will say you should NEVER use ______ agency because the agency uses a committee to decide a match if multiple families are interested in a child. If you don’t have a problem with committee decisions, or not being able to adopt two at once, or whatever issue, then you can freely disregard those negative reviews.
- Go directly to the source. It’s always best to contact agencies directly with questions about their policies.
- Be aware that there is no perfect agency. Every single agency that I can think of has made a mistake at one point or another. If my agency made a mistake that caused a mess in my adoption, I probably wouldn’t recommend them either. When you are listening to reviews, what you want to look for is persistent negative reviews. Don’t give too much weight to one person’s bad experience because, while regrettable, mistakes are going to happen.
When you have a shorter list of five or six potential agencies, go look at their websites. Is it clear and easy to read? Look over their information on program fees. Request the password for their waiting child photolisting to see what sort of files they have available and how they present the information. I have some potential red flags listed in this post.
Do a google search for the agency name along with the keyword “ethics” or “fraud.” Check the Council on Accreditation’s list of substantiated complaints.
Now it’s time to contact any agencies that you haven’t crossed off the list. I would suggest that you give them each a call. Ask a few questions and listen to the contact person chat about their program. How did you like the contact person? Many people will “click” with one agency more than others. Next, send a follow up email with an additional question or two. See how quickly you get a response. If an agency doesn’t make a potential client a priority then be skeptical that you will get any better service as a paying client. You can formulate your own questions based on your priorities, or if you need inspiration I have questions sprinkled throughout the blog series I linked to at the top of the post and a full list in the appendix of my book.
Finally, choose to go with the agency that is the best fit for the priorities you have, taking into consideration the feedback you have received and your personal experiences when you contacted agencies. Best wishes on your adoption journey!