What to Look for in International Adoption Agencies

A domestic adoption is a challenge, and an international adoption adds yet another layer to the process because a foreign government is involved. As you compare international adoption agencies, the first quality you should seek is experience.

Before you contact an international adoption agency, do as much research as possible in regards to the adoption rules and standards of the country that you have in mind. This will help you judge the knowledge and competence of the agency personnel whom you contact for interviews.

Comparing Agencies
Don't pay any upfront fee except for a registration fee, and find an adoption attorney to review all contracts. Make sure you meet all requirements before moving forward. You don't want to pay for various steps in the process, only to be informed near the end that you do not qualify to adopt.

Just because an international adoption agency advertises itself as non-profit or tax-exempt, don't assume that this is the case. You should be able to gain access to the agency's IRS Form 990 if it truly is not-for-profit. Also be skeptical of an agency's claim of religious affiliation.

Keep in mind that some international adoption agencies may accept all applicants, but they also may have certain strengths. For example, an international adoption agency may have a strong program in Southeast Asia, but could be weak in Eastern Europe.

Searching for Agencies
You can conduct research online, but you should never take one person's criticism of a particular agency at face value. If you see multiple complaints, that could be a warning sign, although a single disgruntled individual still can make it appear that there are multiple dissatisfied users.

A cornerstone for online research is the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory. This database is funded and overseen by the US Department of Health and Human Services. International adoption agencies are listed by state; if you can't find the one on your list, they're probably not licensed. The directory will show you the name of a licensing specialist who can inform you of complaints. You also can identify support groups that will provide independent reviews for the agency in question.

Expect Reasonable Delays
When dealing with foreign nations, your representative may run into some understandable snags. Many international adoptions involve children who live in orphanages, so you may encounter all sorts of red tape.

At the same time, be careful if your agency representative warns you that their own overseas facilitator is "not reliable." The agency is responsible for finding somebody who is reliable. If there are snags, they should come from elsewhere, not from the agency's own representative. This same person should be available when you travel overseas to pick up your adopted child.

Signs of a Good Agency
Does the agency that you are considering have a requirement that you undergo educational training to become an adoptive parent? A serious, reputable agency will have training requirements. The same goes for post-placement support.

The international adoption agency you choose is supposed to serve not only your interests, but the interests of the birth parents as well. Ask about the types of support that are provided for the birth parents.

You should fully understand that an international adoption will cost more than a domestic one, even if your agency charges reasonable fees. The normal price range is $15,000 to $30,000. Added costs for international adoptions may include visas and document translation. An orphanage may require a donation.

If your household's modified adjusted gross income is $210,820 or less, you should qualify for a federal income tax adoption credit for up to $11,390. Beware of agencies that may attempt to jack up your rates because they are aware of your tax credit.

An international adoption agency may make a pitch that, because of efforts to combat poverty, you will receive a fee waiver because you rescued a child from hardship through adoption. Be especially careful before you sign this type of document. You may later be told that you didn't qualify and that you now are in line to make payments.

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