A Fun Lesson About Choosing Your Adoption Agency Wisely

Many of you heard we had a not-so-fun meeting with our adoption agency last week. I waited to write about it until the emotions had cooled off and I could approach the whole thing from a somewhat grownup perspective. 

It lasted two hours.  The meeting objective was for the hubs and I to sit there while the agency director and adoption coordinator told us every reason they couldn’t stand working with us. The agency is very loosy-goosy and not worried about customer service.  They admittedly focus their energy and attentions exclusively on the birth parents, and any communication, or request for communication, from the adoptive parents is perceived by the agency as taking away time from the birth parents. The hubs and I, for our part, feel that since we and other adoptive parents are the ones funding their company, that we are entitled to a reasonable amount of communication, which we aren’t receiving. 

Another reason I held off writing this post is I didn’t want it to be all about demonizing the adoption agency. The truth is, the owner isn’t a horrible person. She’s just not a business-minded person, and she runs the agency like a family, if the family values are that it’s okay to be flaky sometimes and everyone should just chill out, man. She’s the type of person who gets her feelings hurt extremely easily, and holds on to it for all it is worth. We learned at the meeting that a couple emails I wrote back in January and February “hurt her feelings.”  (Not because I said anything mean, but because she thinks we don’t trust them. Spoiler alert: We don’t.) Not to be super calloused here, but the adoption agency owner’s feelings are not high at the top of my priority list. Of course I’m not trying to upset people, but I would say that was going to be unavoidable in this case. She’s what I call a “peach person.” We all know them–the person you have to speak ever so carefully around, even more so regarding sarcasm, for fear they will become easily bruised and offended.  It’s exhausting to be in the company of peach people, and it is just my luck I chose an agency owned by one.

The adoption coordinator. Another delicate flower with thin skin. We learned after signing on (paying lots of money) with this agency that our coordinator, the only domestic coordinator, was in her mid-20s. This is her first job out of college. She also placed her baby for adoption about two years ago. I will begin by saying, this is not a job for someone with little work/life experience. It requires someone that understands and respects the complex and emotionally draining road that infertile couples have traveled just to reach the adoption office, to say nothing of the trials after getting there. I think that’s well out of the reach of most 24 year olds. It certainly would have been for me at that age. The fact she herself is a birthmother only serves to drive home the point: that is the group she can relate to. It’s who she wants to talk to. It’s who she wants to help. And heaven knows birth mothers need a kind, compassionate resource they can rely on during an adoption. I suspect she does an excellent job of that. Unfortunately for the hubs and I, she’s an abysmal resource for adoptive parents and she doesn’t hide her resentment very well.  And, she’s it!  There is NO ONE ELSE. What do you do when there is no one to advocate for you?

You advocate for yourself. And this is something both the hubs and I do well. In order to do this, our adoption agency needs to communicate with us. It was our reasonable requests for that communication that got us called up to the world’s most inconvenient meeting to be scolded like small children for two hours, for the heinous crime of being proactive. 

Their goal: to continue to work with us if we would stop bothering them. Trust them to do their job. Stop contacting them. The trouble is, we don’t trust them to do their job. I, Nancy Drew, was the one who discovered the first adoption match was a fraud. ME. By doing a five second Google search. During the meeting, we learned that they consider Googling an expectant mother’s name an invasion of privacy and they don’t do it. I asked them if they regretted having that particular policy in place after spending untold amounts of money on the adoption fraud couple. The adoption coordinator looked thoughtful. The agency owner looked proud. “No, I don’t,” she said. “I won’t ask our birth mothers to sign a release for the Google. It just scares people away if they think you don’t trust them. We still work with couples we suspect of fraud, anyway. In fact, we are still working with the couple you found out about. Because you never know, they may change their mind after all and place after the baby is born. And our focus is on that baby, all the way through the birth.”  I think this was supposed to sound altruistic, but the truth is there is no shortage of agencies that would gladly find a placement for an infant, and collect the hefty finder’s fee in the process. Might I add, if someone admits to scamming you, good business sense would dictate you run far, and you run fast. Or, if you’re this agency, keep working with the couple that admitted they want all their expenses paid, please and thank you, even though they never had any intention of considering adoption

As you might expect, it was not reassuring to hear that our agency is still working with the couple that have actually admitted to the fraudulent behavior. The hubs and I were badly betrayed by the couple, but the agency is still working with them?  Is it okay that we find that a bit strange? We also learned that adoption fraud is quite common in our agency due to the adamant refusal of “the Google” and that it is something to be expected during an adoption journey with the Adoption Agency. 

Did I mention I almost vaulted out of my seat when she mentioned “the Google?”  A business owner, in the year 2015, believes she needs a signed consent form to Google a person’s name. I don’t even know where to begin describing how disturbed I am that this is someone’s reality, and now I’m an unwilling part of it. 

Near the end of the meeting, when it became clear that the hubs and I did not find our communication requests unreasonable, and when they could hide their utter disdain for us no longer, we reached an impasse. The owner badly wanted us to quit. She wanted it bad. She kept leading us to it and then trailing off…it reminded me of two high school kids trying to break up, but the instigator won’t pull the trigger. It was strange, and fit right nicely in with the overall theme of the meeting. 

According to their contract, they can fire us as clients at their leisure.  She didn’t do that, either. I suspect it’s because that would look pretty bad for the agency. After all, who wants to sign on with an agency that has a reputation for firing their clients after they have paid a good chunk of money up front? Probably no one. And that’s when I realized they are basically stuck with us, regardless of their desire to fire us. 

As of this moment, I assume we are still represented by this agency. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary since our meeting that accomplished nothing. 

My hope is that other people may learn from this and have a better adoption experience than we have had. The process is hard enough by itself, and deeply emotional under the best of circumstances. Hire an agency that has a support person for the expectant mother, but also has a separate support system for the adoptive parents. You want your agency to work for you, not actively against you. Not all agencies are created equal, so make sure to do your research with a list of what is important to you within reach. Consider this a cautionary tale.