Local or regional adoption agencies offer many of the same services as national adoption agencies, but they are typically smaller and usually offer adoption services only to adoptive families and pregnant mothers in a specific state or region. These agencies are often involved throughout the adoption process and provide a variety of services, including:
- screening and matching services
- counseling and support
- coordination of legal services with an adoption attorney
- adoption plan development
- post-placement correspondence
- and more
If you have already identified a birth mother independently and have begun the adoption process on your own, this is known as an identified adoption. You may still work with an adoption agency for services like screening, support, correspondence after the adoption and more.
Why work with a local or regional adoption agency?
There are several reasons to consider working with a local or regional agency throughout the adoption process, as well as some disadvantages to take into account. Here are some of the top pros and cons to consider before choosing to work with a local or regional adoption agency:
- Adoption agencies are licensed and reviewed annually by their state government. This ensures that the agency complies with the state’s adoption laws. Because local and regional agencies have experience completing adoptions in your state or region, they are often experts on applicable adoption laws.
- You are able to meet your adoption professional in person. Because of their close proximity, your local agency may be able to offer face-to-face meetings throughout the adoption process. In addition, this close proximity can allow you to meet personally with birth mothers, rather than by phone or through an outsourced social worker, and can help cut back on travel required by national adoption agencies that match you with birth mothers from other states.
- Regional agencies are involved in the adoption process from your first phone call up until finalization of the adoption. Adoption agencies are able to provide a variety of services to adoptive families through every step of the process, whereas an adoption attorney or adoption facilitator may not be able to provide some services, such as counseling and support or post-placement correspondence.
- Your wait time will be less predictable. Average wait times can vary dramatically based on the agency’s location. In addition, local and regional agencies may have a smaller budget to advertise for pregnant mothers than a national adoption agency, which can also impact families’ wait times. The number of expectant mothers the agency is working with will also likely be more limited than it is for national agencies, potentially making it more difficult to find a perfect match for your adoption plan.
- These agencies have smaller staffs and fewer resources than national adoption agencies and may be more susceptible to changes in state adoption laws. Because local adoption agencies do business in a limited geographical region, they must be able to quickly adapt to changing state laws or risk going out of business. These agencies also have fewer resources and smaller staffs, meaning they may not be able to provide as many services or offer after-hour and weekend support to adoptive families.
- Adoption fees may be less expensive due to lower overhead, but additional fees can make the overall adoption cost higher. For example, advertising costs are often separate from local and regional agencies’ fees, and because small organizations often do not spend the same amount for advertising as national agencies do, this advertising tends to be less effective and negatively impacts families’ wait times. Many local agencies also bill clients for work evaluating all birth parents, often resulting in much higher fees than are initially represented when some prospective birth parents decide not to choose adoption. Other expenses not estimated in the average total adoption costs commonly include living, medical and legal expenses, which can dramatically increase the cost of an adoption.
Who adopts through local and regional agencies?
Adoptive families each have their own reasons for deciding to work with their chosen adoption professional. Clients who choose to work with local or regional adoption agencies:
- are unwilling or unable to travel to another state to adopt a baby
- are not as focused on waiting time
- have a tight overall budget, although they should be careful to evaluate the way in which the fees and costs are paid because clients can quickly burn through their savings
- value face-to-face contact from the same person they work with
- are more financially risk tolerant
- are prepared for higher disruption rates than national agencies
- want to visit the agency often and meet in person with their adoption representative
- want to adopt locally
Choosing a regional adoption agency
If you have decided that working with a local adoption agency is the best choice for your family, there are several questions you may want to ask the regional adoption agencies you are considering before making your final decision:
- What states are you licensed in?
- What are your average adoption wait times?
- On average, how much does an adoption cost with your agency?
- What factors could increase or decrease wait times and cost?
- Are there any hidden fees that are not included in the estimate of fees?
- How do you advertise for prospective birth mothers?
- What adoption services are performed by your agency, and which services are outsourced?
- How do you try to protect adoptive families from adoption disruptions?
- When will we have access to our adoption specialist?
- Are there any requirements an adoptive family must meet to join your agency?
- How many waiting adoptive families do you currently have?
- How many full-time staff members do you have?
Consider a local adoption agency if you want to adopt a child from a birth mother in your state or region. This could make an open adoption more convenient for both parties. However, keep in mind that local adoption agencies tend to have longer wait times than other adoption professionals because of their limited scope of advertising for pregnant mothers.
Links and Resources
Adoption by Gentle Care (Ohio)
Adoption Minnesota (Minnesota)
The Family Network (California)
Hope’s Promise (Colorado)
Family Connections Christian Adoptions (California)
Hillcrest Family Services (Iowa)
Journeys of the Heart (Oregon)
The Cradle (Illinois)