After making the life-changing decision to adopt, the first question many prospective adoptive parents ask is, “What are the best adoption agencies near me?” This can be a difficult question to answer unless you have a better understanding of the type of adoption you are planning for your family. This is the first step in the research necessary for beginning the adoption process. 

In beginning your research on what are the best adoption agencies near me, you may not be sure of the type of adoption you are interested in completing. You may be open to various options in the adoption process. If you are one of those prospective adoptive parents who is unsure whether you would like to adopt internationally or through a private domestic placement, it is most critical then to choose an agency that is able to finalize international or domestic adoptions. 

What are the best adoption agencies near me for international adoptions? 

If you decide that you are interested in adopting a child through international adoption, the best adoption agencies near you for international adoptions will meet certain criteria or are accredited if you plan to adopt from a Hague Convention Country. Some prospective adoptive parents go into the process knowing exactly from which country they would like to adopt. Other parents are open to children from any country or at least certain regions. Staying up-to-date on which countries are open or closed to intercountry adoptions is important. The Office of Children’s Issues at the United States Department of State regularly reports on closures or slow processing in respective countries. You can access that up-to-date information on the United States Department of State’s travel website.

In researching what are the best adoption agencies near me for international adoption, you should go into the process understanding what countries are closed or have very long waits. Researching this information on the Department of State’s website will make it easier to access whether the agency you are researching is ethical and sharing the correct information with you. Some agencies will unethically share that they can complete adoptions in an unrealistic time frame or can place children for adoption from closed countries. 

If you are going to adopt a child from a Hague Convention country, it is important that the agency you use near you is accredited by the accrediting entity. The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (the IAA) established the requirement that adoptions from Convention countries could only be finalized by accredited agencies. The Department of State designated the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity as an accrediting entity. This process helps ensure that the adoption is completed according to the regulations stipulated in the Hague Convention and helps ensure your adoption is completed ethically, and you are adopting a child who is actually an orphan. Although the accreditation may seem like the accrediting entity has done their research for you, it is still pertinent to do your own research in determining what are the best agencies near you. A list of current accredited agencies and adoption service providers can be found on the state department website.  

Once you have made a decision from which country you wish to adopt and whether it is a Hague Convention country or not, it will be a little easier to narrow down what are the best adoption agencies near you. You can begin to search for adoption agencies that complete adoptions in that country. It is easy to find a list of those adoption agencies by country and state on Adoption.com’s directory website.  

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential adoption agencies, it is important to create a list of questions to ask when you begin your research. Some of these questions can be answered through the agency’s website; others are best asked in an informational interview with the staff or at an interested parents’ meeting which is held by many agencies.

International adoption can, but not always, be more expensive than a private domestic adoption. The cost to adopt varies from agency to agency and country to country. In determining “what are the best adoption agencies near me,” it is important that you have an understanding of the costs associated with the entire adoption and ensure the agency is transparent with those costs.

Great agencies will also provide resources to families outside of the administrative process. Adoption service providers can provide parent support groups, recommendations for great international adoption medicine clinics, and resources for families both pre- and post-adoption finalization that fall outside the realms of what is needed to complete an adoption.

What are the best adoption agencies near me for domestic adoptions? 

International adoptions have decreased steadily, exponentially, and without an increase predicted. Although some countries have stayed consistent in their placements and time frames, like China, there are a great deal of variables that make intercountry adoption a risk that many families would not like to take. 

Families who wish to build their family through adoption and feel that domestic private adoption is a better option for them have other factors to consider when determining what are the best adoption agencies near me.

In general, it can be helpful to have an adoption agency in close geographical proximity, whether you are completing a domestic or intercountry adoption. This is not critically important, but some prospective adoptive parents prefer being able to attend orientation or informational sessions at an adoption agency’s headquarters. They may want to drop off paperwork by hand or meet their adoption service providers who will be helping them throughout the process in person. However, having your agency near you is only necessary if they are your home study agency, but more on that later.  

When deciding what are the best adoption agencies near me for a domestic adoption, you will see the benefits of an agency located near you. It will likely mean that your child’s birth parent or parents will be located in closer proximity, which is helpful in an open adoption. Visits are easier to plan and can help save money in travel expenses rather than if the birth family lives further away when the adoption takes place.

In deciding on the best adoption agency near you for a private domestic placement, you will want to think about other factors unique to domestic adoptions. You may have narrowed down your search to the agencies you feel are best suited to your needs. However, it is also important to view the agency through the lens of a birth mother. Does the prospective agency speak of birth mothers and birth families with great respect? Do they care about the birth mother or birth parents as much as they do prospective adoptive parents? Does your prospective adoption agency present birth mothers with information on forming an adoption plan as well as a parenting plan should they decide not to place their child for adoption? These questions will help formulate whether the agency values birth parents as much as you and your family do. 

What are the best adoption agencies near me based on reviews?

Once you have narrowed down the list based on cost, values, location, etc., it is also important to check out reviews of an agency online. Asking the agency for a list of adoptive parents who completed an adoption similar to the one you wish to complete in terms of country, domestic open adoptions, etc. is helpful to understand how the agency interacts with families. Likely an agency is going to give you families who had a stellar experience. It may be most helpful to look online for reviews as well. Searching social media on Adoption.com forums, the agency’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook platforms for both positive and negative feedback can be helpful, but it should not be the basis for your decision. Many times people feel anonymous online and share information that is not helpful or even true. Take social media reviews with a grain of salt.  

Where do I even find a list of adoption agencies? 

Adoption.com has wonderful articles on each state and the adoption process within each state. A recent article on “Adoption in Virginia” is an example of the information you can find on their site regarding each state’s process and agency. Adoption.com also offers a state directory of agencies by state. This can be very helpful in simply narrowing down your search before diving into the research on each.  

What are the best home study agencies near me?

After deciding on the adoption agency from which you plan to complete your adoption, you will need to start the process you just completed over again in finding a home study service provider or home study adoption agency. Home study agencies must have a licensed social worker or other licensed adoption service provider per state regulations within your state. This person comes to your home to interview you and your spouse, if you are married, and potentially your children and any other adults living in your home. The home study agency may have to do multiple visits dependent upon your respective state or agency’s requirements. It is helpful when you begin your research to see how long it will take to complete the paperwork necessary to start the home study. The home study is usually the first thing to complete before any other steps in the process.

You can begin to research home study agencies near you by asking your adoption agency for recommendations. You can follow many of the same steps in finding your home study agency as your adoption agency. It is helpful to see what they require and what their cost is for completing the home study. These costs can be subjective and vary greatly. If it is important to you or your family to have the professional walk you through the entire process of document collection, it may cost more. Many home study agencies will give the option of letting you complete most of the process of document collecting on your own to save money. The cost is then them compiling your documentation and checking for anything missing or inaccuracies before doing the home visit and interviews. They will then draft up their findings and send their recommendation to your agency for approval. They may have to come back a few times if there are items you need to complete within the home so check your state requirements for safety prior to the home visit. The home study agency’s responsibility is to ensure the child is being placed with a safe, loving, and forever family and that the home is safe for a child to grow and thrive. Many times, the home study agency is also the adoption agency, but this is not always the case.

What are the best adoption agencies near me for adopting from foster care?

The home study agency is the only agency needed if you are interested in completing an adoption from your state’s foster care system. The cost of the home study can also be done by an adoption service provider who works for the state in which you would like to adopt from foster care. The home study can be done at a much lower cost this way. In general, adoption from foster care is much less expensive than building your family through intercountry or domestic private infant adoption. Within your state, you would need to contact the social services of your specific county. Adoption.com also offers a photolisting page for waiting children within your state. 

However you plan to complete your adoption, it is important to ensure that you work with an ethical agency who meets not only the standards imposed by the regulators of your state or internationally, but also your standards. Trust your instincts. Trust the recommendations of your colleagues, friends, or family who have gone through this process and completed an adoption by an adoption agency near you. Do your research, know which questions to ask, and understand that agencies can provide as much information as possible, but circumstances in any adoption can change. Equip yourself with the right information, the most up-to-date adoption notices on the country from which you are adopting, or have your state help you navigate the process. Just remember why you are embarking on this journey: to build your family through adoption!

 

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.