Once you have narrowed down the countries in which you would like to adopt, you can contact agencies working in the particular country. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of working with a large, national agency (which may have larger numbers of children to place and longer waiting lists of applicants) versus working with a smaller, local agency (which may have fewer children to place but shorter waiting lists). Evaluate the agency's accessibility and past working relationships with applicants. Once you have a list of agencies, call them to ask about their services. Some agencies have contracts or contacts with foreign adoption programs, institutions, and/or lawyers, while others can only do a home study and process the paperwork in the United States. Look carefully at the agency's relationship with its foreign contact and evaluate the foreign contact's proven track record.
While most private agencies are reputable, some are not, and it is vitally important to select an experienced, licensed one. First, call the state licensing specialist to verify that the agency is licensed and find out if complaints have been filed against the agency. In some states, you can arrange to review complaint files. Then, check with the state's Office of the Attorney General, again to see if there are complaints on file. If you can, talk to members of adoptive parent support groups local to the agency to check their reputation. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau local to the agency (check www.bbb.org to get a contact phone number) to see if complaints have been lodged against an agency.
Most agencies have some minimum requirements for prospective parents (often related to marital status, age, income, and perhaps infertility). In some cases, agency restrictions reflect the laws of the child's country of origin or requirements of the agency in that country. Inquire about applicant restrictions to ensure that you are eligible to adopt with the agency's programs. Determine whether the agency conducts its own home studies, which countries it works with, how many children it places, its requirements and fees, and what types of postplacement services it provides. Request written materials and references from past clients. Ask agencies to provide itemized lists of expenses and fees, keeping in mind that some costs, such as travel costs, cannot be predicted in detail. If possible, attend orientation meetings at all agencies that interest you, while continuing to ask other adoptive parents about their experiences. Consider not only the range of services the agencies offer, but also their client satisfaction and your level of confidence and comfort with their staff. Then choose the agency that best meets your needs. Most agencies do not allow applicants to work with more than one agency at a time.