Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Choosing an Agency, a guest post from Jenn Verme

 Hey guys! We're so excited to have Jenn from Pure and Lasting guest posting for us today.  Ethics in adoption is a hot topic right now, as it should be-these are lives we're dealing with and ethics should not be taken lightly.  If you've been hurt by an agency who was not ethically sound we want you to know we're sorry, we're sorry you were deceived.  We feel the need to shed light on these topics because they're important and ultimately could effect adoptions as a whole.  So sit back and get to know Jenn and her heart on the topic! She gives us some great things to look for when choosing your agency. 

Hello Give1Save1!! I am really excited to be guest posting today. My name is Jennifer and I blog over here at Pure & Lasting . My husband Chris and I have been married for 4 years. Very early in our marriage we made the decision to grow our family only through adoption. In May of 2012, we applied to adopt from Ethiopia. If you’ve been around the adoption world for a while you know that things in Ethiopia have changed significantly over the last couple of years. At the time of our application, the estimated wait for our request was 7-9 months. We waited 19 months after our paperwork was in Ethiopia to receive our referral. 
Just four months ago, we came home with our gorgeously sweet and spunky daughter, Maya. It was a long wait, but one I am so grateful for. We want adoptions in Ethiopia to be ethical and safe for children and their birth families. Our personal timeline doesn’t matter. What matters is the process being regulated, with integrity and with the outcome being focused on the children.
When we began our adoption process in 2010, there were many things I thought I knew about adoption. It has been nearly 3 years since we applied to adopt, in that time, my viewpoint of adoption has changed tremendously. I have talked to many adoptive parents, read countless blog posts, joined yahoo groups, visited Ethiopia and Rwanda and soaked in every piece of information that I could get my hands on. My eyes have been opened a bit wider. One thing I know for sure, adoption is complicated. It is brokenness, wealth, poverty, and passion with a huge helping of good intentions. All the while, the precious lives of children hang in the balance.
As adoptive parents, we don't know the ins and outs of all the systems, it is why we hire an adoption agency. An adoption agency is our lifeline. We place all of our trust in them, so choosing your agency is the most important decision that any adoptive parent will make. All agencies are not created equal. Choosing an agency is not simply choosing which rental car you want to drive to the desired destination. It is more like choosing a safari guide to show you the way through a dangerous jungle. Your agency is responsible for the way in which your child is found or relinquished. They choose to search (or not to search) for birth parents and extended family. They choose patience and truth or speed and mistakes. Choosing an agency is not a time for compromise or impatience.

Choosing your agency is vitally important to an ethical adoption process. As parents, we are the financially funding behind all adoption agencies. We must refuse to be a part of the problem by financially supporting agencies who do not go above and beyond for the safety of the children. No matter how tempting it may be, we must look at the big picture when you are waiting (and I know waiting!). Unethical dealings breed more and more danger to the children. Our priority must be ethics, not quick referrals. The US and Ethiopian government have been increasing the requirements, refining the process, closing down orphanages and entire regions of Ethiopia to adoption. Proving orphan status and processing cases with Ethiopian government and the US Embassy are difficult, as they should be. Don’t know where to start? Here are some questions to ask before choosing an agency.

1. Is the agency licensed in Ethiopia? If not, why not? Were they denied? There are checks and balances and being licensed is one of those. An agency that puts ethics first, will go through the effort of being licensed. For a list of agencies who are licensed in Ethiopia, scroll to the bottom of this page (note:This list isn't completely up to date. Research the agency to confirm that their registration is current.)
2. Does the non-licensed agency partner with an agency that is licensed? If so, research the parent/”umbrella” agency as well. The power lies on the adoption agency that has the license. But again, you would want to be working with an agency that IS licensed.
3. Too good to be true. There is a long wait time at 95% of the agencies and all of the sudden you find one ready to match you with a child today? Why is that? If something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Fast referrals means cutting corners on paperwork or referring children before they have done an investigation. This almost means that families will lose referrals and have an extended and stressful process after referral. Research, ask, evaluate and be willing to stop when red flags appear.
4. Is the agency willing to bend rules, give referrals that other agencies would not give, make exceptions? Although it may seem great that they will overlook an age requirement or refer two, young, unrelated infants, other agencies are not doing those things for good reason. Make sure that in your requests for special treatment the agency is still looking out for the best interest of the child(ren) first and foremost, respecting the birth family and following the guidelines of the sending country.
5. Does the agency give quick referrals? As in, the child has not been in the agency's custody long enough for them to have fully research the situation, the birth family and all domestic options for the child. Are they looking for babies for their waiting families or are they finding families for children who truly need them? It takes months to do a proper investigation of a child's situation, especially if that child was abandoned. The Ethiopian government requires that a child be a resident in an orphanage for three months before being available for adoption. If an agency is regularly giving quick referrals of young, “abandoned” infants, that is a red flag.
6. Are they HAGUE accredited? If not, is it because they were rejected? If so, what are the reasons they were rejected for accreditation?

Doing a proper investigation is a time-consuming process. Some children are relinquished, while others are abandoned. The agency has to research the situation. They need to know how this child came into the custody of an orphanage and if the person who brought the child there had the legal right to do that. This makes the wait to be matched with a child longer. But it is all necessary. We were happy to wait, knowing that everything possible has been done to protect each child and ensure an ethical adoption. One day, we will be looking onto Maya’s eyes and telling her the story of how she came to be in our family. We want to be able to do that with a clear conscience, knowing that we did everything to cherish her past and her future.


  1. I think another huge factor in choosing an agency, not regarding ethics, is to make sure the agency you are using does work in other countries. Then in the off chance the country you are waiting for closes you will not be out of the money you put in for your child.

  2. this is such a great article. thanks jen!

  3. Excellent post. Thank you, Jennifer. What a beautiful family!

    We are praying, with heavy hearts, for the families that are dealing with the recent closures.