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.
I often tell people that there is no perfect agency out there, but there are a lot of great ones. You can get recommendations from people, but the agency that they loved might not be the right agency for you. Every family has different priorities to consider when choosing an agency. If you read the previous post and decided that you wanted to find an agency first, this post will help you to know what to look for while the last post will help you to find the agency which is the best fit for what you want in an agency. If you would prefer to find your child first, you can use this post to decide if there are any agencies you do not want to use.
Agency policies– The most common reason to rule out an agency is because of their policies which place additional restrictions on families which go above and beyond China’s requirements. These might include:
- Requiring you sign a Statement of Faith, which usually limits services to protestant Christians and rules out Catholics or those of non-mainstream denominations such as LDS or Jehovah’s Witness.
- Not allowing families to adopt out of birth order, or continue an adoption during pregnancy. There can be good reasons for these policies, but there is no point in considering an agency which doesn’t allow a practice which you know is right for your family.
- Using travel groups. While a few agencies which use travel groups can get you into the next group without a delay, most people who use an agency with group travel will not be able to travel immediately–a big priority for some families.
Individual family situations– Some agencies are better than others at requesting waivers from China, working with single parents, expatriates, or military families.
Time to be matched with a child– This is probably THE ONE biggest priority for most families. Some families will wait two years to be matched with a girl with minor needs under age two while others will be matched six months after their dossier is logged in. Why? Different agencies. Your wait time will depend on how open you are to age, gender, and special needs, but also how many files your agency receives and how many waiting families they have. An agency should be able to give you a general time frame for matching based on what your child preferences.
Support during the process– Many first time adoptive families would like an agency which provides a lot of hand-holding while experienced families might be comfortable filling out paperwork without much direction. Some agencies include authenticating documents as part of their service, some will do so for an additional fee, and some don’t offer this service at all.
Travel arrangements– Many people prefer to avoid travel groups while some have no preference. Agencies will often have a hotel preference, at least in Guangzhou. This might be important if you want to be able to use hotel points to stay for free. Want to book all of your own arrangements? Scared to death of traveling in China so you feel easier knowing your agency will handle everything? A more detailed look at some of the differences between agencies, including travel, can be found in this post.
Ethical concerns– For some people, it is important to choose an agency which provides aid in the country which they work. Some agencies are a strong humanitarian presence in many counties. A few even do family preservation work in addition to adoption. Families which have come to the China program after adopting through another country program will often look for an agency with the highest ethical standards because they have experienced how often unethical agencies will overlook child trafficking in order to make a buck. You can read about agencies which have been found to have a substantiated claim by the Council on Accreditation here.
Finances– Cost is an important factor for almost everyone who adopts internationally. Looking over an agency’s cost sheet is important. Some agencies offer grants to children who are harder to place. Many parter with an organization such as Brittany’s Hope to provide matching grants for families. Some offer financial planning services for their families. While many families focus on the agency costs, I did a detailed analysis of why it can be difficult to determine which agency is the cheapest. Even travel arrangements can play into agency cost if you had planned to save on travel through frequent flier miles or hotel points but later discover you cannot use them because of your agency travel regulations.
Pulling it together
Take some time to consider these different aspects. Which are most important to you? Do you feel it’s fine to wait a year to be matched because that gives you longer to save up for expenses? Do you feel that hotel arrangements are pretty trivial compared to finding an agency with high ethical standards? You know you can deal with filling out your own paperwork or put up with travel groups as long as you find the agency with the lowest costs?
There is no right or wrong answer here. But you will find that when you are looking for agency recommendations, it is easier to get targeted answers if you are more specific than “What is a good agency to use?” In the final post in this series, I will give you some tips for finding the right agency for your family now that you know what your ideal agency looks like.