Here’s my 7 step method for choosing an adoption professional. I used it for each of our four adoptions and it never let me down. This is the single most important decision you’ll make, so take the time to really nail it!
Doing these steps gave me confidence and saved months if not years of time later on and it can do the same for you. It’s also fun, because you get to dream big and then narrow things down into a workable plan. So let’s get started…
(*families adopting through foster care, please see note at bottom)
1. Use both information and wisdom to make a decision. Trying to make an adoption decision based on information alone is the reason almost everyone who adopts initially goes into complete overwhelm. There’s so much information out there!
Many people sign with an agency prematurely just to avoid this confusion. They pick the first nice website they see–one where they promise to bring your baby home in six months. They go with someone’s suggestion from an adoption forum. Their mother’s neighbor says that her daughter had a decent experience adopting from a certain country. Or they choose an agency that has a free adoption meeting in their area.
These are all decisions made on information. We do need good information to make informed choices. But information alone is NOT enough. Unfortunately, almost every person who adopts underuses wisdom and overuses information.
What’s wisdom? Wisdom means filtering every piece of information out there through YOU. This may sounds obvious. But it’s easier said than done. ‘Expert’ opinions can be very distracting!
Although you may not be an expert in adoption, you are the only expert in YOU– the particulars of your life, your values, your dreams. This is your wisdom. and it’s the hidden precious gold of all adoption success that hardly anyone ever uncovers.
Before hiring any adoption professional, ask yourself: ‘Have I taken the time to get both good information (see #4 and #5 below ) AND accurate inner wisdom (see #2, #3, and #7 below)?’
2. Know your values. What’s perfect for you is not what’s perfect for anybody else. Get clear on the qualities and characteristics you want from the people you’ll be working with. What things will drive you crazy? Here’s a sample list to get you started:
- a specific religious orientation (or absence thereof)
- responding to questions in a timely manner
- people who have the highest integrity
- detail oriented/great at paperwork.
- communicates well
- quick response time
- people you personally click with, like and admire
- gives back to the community or country of adoption.
- long track record of overall success in adoption
- long track record of success in specific areas–completes adoption faster than average, at lower cost than average, babies and children super healthy, works successfully with adoptive parents in your specific situation (especially important for single, older, and lbgt parents).
Find a professional team who supports who you are and what’s important to you and can prove it.
3. Define your best case dream adoption scenario If I asked you what your best case dream adoption looks like, would you know? Honestly, most people are so afraid of avoiding something bad happening in their adoptions that they hardly spend any time imagining the best possible outcome. Precisely how would that look for you? (If this is hard, you’re not alone. It’s why we spend a lot of time on this in AG mentoring sessions.)
To begin, temporarily throw out all practical considerations (like money). Pretend anything is possible. Aim high. Stretch yourself. Pay close attention to your inner excitement level as you try on each & every possibility. Keep asking, can I make this picture even better? Take notes. In the next step we’ll research to find out whether what you uncovered is a real world possibility.
4. Do adoption research in ‘rounds.’ The best way I’ve found to do adoption research is in a series of ‘rounds.’ This method helps you gain information in bite sized, manageable chunks and avoid overwhelm
In the early rounds, you’re getting broad & general information, usually on the internet. Later rounds are detailed, nitty gritty and personal.
For round one, focus on getting information about: parent requirements, time frame, costs, age and health of children, how many children are being adopted per year (always use several sources). Keep a running list of questions. Don’t worry about sounding stupid. Cultivate sheer curiousity. Don’t stop rounds until you find a realistic option that you can get seriously excited about.
5. Get social proof. Once you’ve completed as many ‘rounds‘ of research as necessary to find an inspiring path, you’re going to go after social proof. This is all about finding real people who have done EXACTLY what you want to do.
You’re looking for at least three actual families who have gone down exactly the same road you want to, in every detail (same agency, etc..) within the past two years.
Comb your extended social network (or adoption forums) for anyone and everyone who knows someone who knows someone who has done what you want to do. Be persistent. Follow up on every single lead BY PHONE. People reveal things on the phone that they would never tell you online. Ask detailed questions until you’re satisfied you have the full picture . People who’ve adopted know what you’re going through and are almost always happy to help!
6. Take baby steps before you ‘sign’ agreements ! Before signing ANY contract with an adoption professional, get to know them better in a series of ‘baby steps.’ Do this by taking your list of values from step #2 and giving the agency small tasks that relate to theses values.
If you want someone who communicates clearly, ask a tough question and see if they can give you a simple, clear answer. If you want someone who is good at paperwork, ask them to walk you through one of the homestudy forms you’ll be filling out. If you want people who are patient and kind, ask tons of questions and see how patient they really are!
7. Use the inner thumbs up test: Before making your final decision, always use the inner thumbs up test. No matter what anyone else says, sleep on it. Forget about it for a day or two. Then, at an odd moment in your day, get calm and simply ask yourself, ‘what kind of a feeling does thinking about (fill in the name of this agency or person here) give me?‘ Anxious? Calm? Upset? Excited? Ask for an inner thumbs up or thumbs down. (Make sure your partner does this too). Go with the first thought that pops into your head Don’t overthink this. If you’ve thoroughly completed the above six steps, you can trust yourself and the answer you come up with.
(*note: families adopting through US foster care shoulld use this method to choose their adoption mentors–families in their local area who have successfully adopted through the foster care system.)