The adoption agency you choose will play a huge role in determining your adoption experience and how it turns out.
As a hopeful adoptive family, there are several aspects of the adoption process that you cannot handle on your own. This is where the adoption agency comes in. They are highly trained professionals who understand the ins and outs of the process and can help reduce and straighten out complications along the way.
There are many adoption agencies in San Bernardino County, California, and each one would probably argue that they’re the best at what they do. However, not every agency out there is going to be right for your family and situation.
It’s important that you choose an agency that you can trust completely and rely on to look out for your best interests at all times. Before picking an adoption agency, you need to carefully research the available options and ask the right questions to gain vital insights into their procedures and policies.
We’ve put together an outline of vital questions that you should consider asking your shortlisted San Bernardino county adoption agencies so you can select the one that’s perfect for you and will work hard to make your dreams of growing your family a reality.
- What is your availability: Adoption is not a straightforward process. You need to know that the agency you’re working with is going to be there to assist you whenever you need it. You want an agency that isn’t juggling more than they can handle.
- What is your average wait time for adoptions: Be aware that agencies do NOT have control over how quickly an adoption occurs. That is entirely up to the County Adoptions Worker and the matching process.
Adoption agencies can only promise to work diligently in getting the family approved as a Resource Family and then respond to requests from the county regarding particular families in a timely manner.
Families are able to monitor public websites that have listings of children and then each family alerts their agency social worker that they found a child they are interested in. At that point, the agency worker submits the Home Study (RF Written Report) to the child’s adoptions worker, and hopefully, there is a match.
Keep in mind that family members can come forward and contest every single step of the process. So even when the county worker believes there is a good match, the process could be extended indefinitely, because the judges are not in a rush to terminate parental rights or to take children away from their relatives who would like to have them.
Agencies cannot promise to expedite or close adoptions earlier than others. That is misrepresentation. But they will say things like that on their website to entice prospective applicants, because prospective parents don’t know that in reality the agency does NOT control how fast an adoption happens. There have been cases in which the adoption closed in 3 months and in another case, it took 3 years.
- How much do your adoptions typically cost and what’s included in it: Several factors determine the cost of adoption, including the type of adoption and agency that you choose. Any adoption agency that knows what it’s doing should be able to offer an estimate of the expenses you can expect along the way.
Be aware that the costs are dependent on whether you are adopting through the foster care system. If it is, then it is essentially free of charge to the adoptive parents, except for expenses to get ready (e.g. LiveScan, preparing for home inspection, etc.). If the adoption is not from the foster care system, then each service has a cost. For example, a Home Study could have a fee of $3000.
- How do you handle complications or disruptions: Adoption is an art, not a science. Complications can arise that might delay the process or threaten the safety of your adoption. The agency you choose should be equipped to minimize such occurrences or completely prevent them so that your adoption is secure and in line with legal procedures.
- What kind of support do you provide: Agencies are required to provide the minimum 12 hours of pre-approval training mandated by law. However, to enhance your application for those reviewing your documentation during the matching process, it is strongly recommended that you accrue as many hours of training, beyond the minimum 12 hours.
You should find out what kind of pre-adoption education and training the agency provides for prospective adoptive families. A great agency must have a great support system in place to help families navigate the adoption process. Agencies are required to provide a minimum of six (6) months, post-adoption finalization support services.
When screening adoption agencies, you need to pay attention to how they answer your questions. A good adoption agency should be open and honest when communicating with you. Keep in mind that there is a need to have a lot of patience and flexibility during the adoptions process.
This is especially true for prospective applicants who are only interested in “straight adoptions”, that is, who only want children in their home who are already legally eligible for adoptions. However, be aware that the counties and courts will give priority to homes who have had the children as foster care for more than 6 months.
Unfortunately, agencies do not always know, in fact, it is usually not known at the time of placement, what the outcome will be because all children in foster care initiate with “concurrent planning”, meaning that the county workers are planning for either reunification or permanent placement (adoptions)..
Agencies should be able to give you clear, honest information like the one in this article, but convey this in a manner that displays a great deal of compassion and professionalism when dealing with you.
1. What is your availability?
The adoption journey can be quite a challenge for prospective parents. There’s no set time for when you could get a break in your case or when issues come up, which is why it’s important to have an adoption agency that’s available round the clock.
If an adoption agency is only available strictly during regular business hours, they’re more likely to not meet your needs as efficiently as you’d like. You might find yourself having to wait to hear back from them rather than being able to communicate with them when the need is most pressing. Find an agency that is committed to working with a sense of urgency and putting parents first to ensure Parent Delight.
Another thing you’ll want to find out is how many adoption cases they’re currently handling and what their staff strength is like. This should give you a good idea of how efficiently you can expect your case will be treated.
During your adoption process, there’ll be times when you won’t hear from anyone for weeks and other times when you’ll need to speak to someone right away.
By knowing how many staff members the agency has, you can figure out whether they have enough people to cover someone who may be absent when you need them the most.
If the agency only has a few employees, be sure to ask how they deal with work absences in case you need to contact a person who isn’t available.
2. What is your average wait time for adoptions?
The honest agency will inform you that the agency does not control how long it takes for a match to be made. That is the reality. There are so many factors involved, including the prospective parent’s own personal characteristics as reported in the Resource Family Written Report (Home Study).
Keep in mind that there is no “average” wait time because each case is unique. Your adoption process might take longer or less time than that. As you conduct your research, as you are now in reading this article, it is important for you to have clear and realistic expectations.
Some parents have reported frustration with the matching process, particularly knowing that their profile (Home Study) may be selected for the final panel review, only to not be accepted. In many cases, the county workers have to evaluate from several great candidates. Don’t take it personal if you are not selected.
It is a myth that the adoption process depends on whether there is a waiting list or not. Just like in foster care, 99% of eligible children are referred to all agencies at the same time. That means that agencies do not have preferential treatment and they are not assigned adoptions on a rotating basis.
Your chances of being matched, does not depend on the agency, instead, it is entirely dependent on the content of the Home Study, which is the first document that the adoption workers will review.
Similarly, it is also a myth that the number of previous adoptions predicts how many adoptions the agency will complete in the future. Again, this is because adoption cases or not assigned in rotation to agencies and generally, agencies have access to the same databases and the same referrals.
Although the number of adoptions previously completed is not a predictor of future success, do inquire about their experience with adoptions. For example, who will conduct the searches, is that the responsibility of the applicant or is there an agency worker assigned to do this.
3. How much do your adoptions typically cost and what’s included in it?
Knowing how much you’re able to spend on adoption is absolutely important before you embark on the journey.
Any reputable San Bernardino adoption agency will be glad to tell you about the price estimates for their services and adoption programs.
At the Knotts Family agency, we have a comprehensive breakdown of the typical costs associated with the various types of adoption that we offer. There are no hidden fees or sliding scales to worry about with us.
However, not all agencies are honest about pricing and adoption costs. Ask if the agency has a fixed cost or if their pricing is based on a best-case-scenario.
Make sure any agency representative you speak to explains the costs of adopting through each program to you in a way that you understand so that you can have a full picture going in.
Find out exactly what the fees cover—home study, post-placement visits, transportation, medical exams, and the likes.
Do they use a match fee or just a placement fee? If they use a match fee, does it rollover to another match or is it refundable?
Look for cost estimates that include all the necessary agency fees, medical expenses, legal fees, living expenses, advertising or matching fees, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Make sure you have a clear idea of how funds are going to be spent and the highest possible expenses you should anticipate for the entire adoption process so you can plan well.
If the agency is reluctant to open up about their adoption fee structure or you sense that they’re hiding something, that’s a glaring red flag. Complete transparency is the standard that every reputable San Bernardino county adoption agency aims for.
4. How do you handle complications or disruptions?
Sometimes, an adoption opportunity just doesn’t work out. This is a painful and undeniable reality or the adoption process that many hopeful adoptive parents have to put up with.
By working with the right agency you can prevent these disruptions from happening and ensure that you’re financially protected if they do end up occurring.
It’s important to know upfront what will happen to your investment in such a situation. Will you be able to get a full or partial refund on the money you’ve already paid or will that money be automatically rolled over into the next adoption opportunity?
Keep in mind that a roller over policy usually means your money will not be refunded and you’ll only have the opportunity of exploring another adoption opportunity with the agency.
Find out if there is a risk-sharing policy in place to cushion the effect of any potential financial loss in the event of a disruption.
5. What kind of support do you provide?
Pre- and post-adoption monitoring/counseling/education, support group networks or referrals, medical and logistical support, emotional reinforcement, and legal representation are just as important as physical support. You need an agency that can provide all or most of these.
How regularly will the agency communicate with you during the adoption process? Can you rely on their assistance to help you adjust to the challenges of being an adoptive family even after the adoption has been finalized?
Make sure your San Bernardino county adoption agency is committed to your welfare, that of your family and child, as well as other parties involved in the adoption.
The best agencies assign a particular adoption professional or specialist to each adoptive family and expectant parents to ensure that you’re not walking alone on your journey.
After doing your research and interviewing the shortlisted agencies, the next step is to choose an agency to help with your adoption in San Bernardino county.
Don’t be afraid to ask the necessary questions and obtain the information you need. It is vital to the integrity and success of your adoption that you pick an agency that meets the standards we’ve laid out and is equipped to serve you well.
Whenever you’re ready to begin or resume your adoption journey, our specialists are ever-happy to walk you through the application process and stay with you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to contact us.