When I first started exploring different ways to approach domestic adoption everything seemed to fall into two groups. Agency adoption v. private/independent adoption. Now I am realizing there are three types of adoptions and you can try multiple routes at a time.
First, there are full-service agency adoptions. This would be the Catholic Charities or Bethany Christian Services routes. What sets these agencies apart is that they serve individuals on all aspects of the adoption situation. The women who are facing unintended pregnancies and don't know what to do about it. Some of those women figure out ways to parent their child, while others make an adoption plan and end up with a status as a birthmother. They also work with potential adoptive families and do the home study and help facilitate the match between birth parent and adoptive parent. The full-service agency has a fee for the home study, but it is considered part of the placement fee and not a separate cost. And the services provided to birthmothers are taken out of the placement fee, so that the placement fee feels more like an indirect payment for the services provided to the birthmother.
Then there are agencies that just do home studies or just do placements. If you go this route, you have to to work with individuals from multiple organizations to first get home study approved and then get your profile in front of birthmothers to get matched. The placement agencies often don't do home studies and may be in a different state than where you live. They may even be in a different state than where the birthmother lives. I heard of a story of a birthmother traveling to another state to give birth so they could work with a particular placement agency and fall under a certain state's laws. The placement agency may provide some services to a birthmother, but for the most part the birthmother has already decided to make an adoption plan before contacting the agency. And they don't provide the same level of medical/legal services that the full-service agencies provide. These differences have implications for the fees. Since the home study agency and placement agency are different, the fees are separate. And since fewer medical/legal services are paid for out of the placement fee, it is less clear what the placement fee is actually going to (except to someone's wallet).
And then there is the completely independent route, which for a planner like me seems not to be the best way to approach this. You still have to pay a home study fee from a home study agency, and then do your own networking to find a placement. I think the placement costs and birthmother costs can vary tremendously.
As we figure out what we want to do, I am also realizing that we don't have to pick a single strategy. We can do all of the above (but then of course pay all of the above costs). I am drawn to the full-service agency approach. It seems more secure for all involved. It also feels less like we are buying a baby, but just funding services provided to us or the birthmother. But I also don't want to put all my eggs in one basket. The placement agencies have much shorter average wait times than full-service agencies. Ideally I think I would want to start with a full-service agency and then supplement with our own networking to find a private placement and see what happens.
But then we meet with the specific agencies in our area and I don't know what to do. Today we went to a group information with an agency that, going in, I was sure was the agency for us. But the entire session was disorganized. I left feeling more discouraged.
I am not sure where we stand now. One thing that I am trying to use in guiding decisions about our adoption journey is how my future grown child would react to hearing the story. It is one thing to tell a child that I paid $20,000 in fees that indirectly provided services to their birthmother and quite another to say I paid $20,000 in fees that just padded someone's wallet. The full-service agencies do more of the former and so that is drawing me to them. They also do more education so that once we get a placement we can be fantastic adoptive parents. But that education also serves as a type of gatekeeper, where the agency says the next training starts in April or May and we need to wait until then to start the home study. If we will have to wait several months or even years for a placement, I don't want to have to wait several months just to start that waiting.
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