Part Two: Picking an Agency for the Home Study (or Why We Reluctantly Decided Against International Adoption)

21 Nov

Photo courtesy of
‘Strange street sign’
courtesy of ‘quinn.anya’

Don and I started preparing for our adoption well over a year ago, in July of 2010. When we started to investigate what we had to do to get started, we quickly discovered that the home study was our first big hurdle and that picking the agency to conduct the home study was very important.

The agency that does your home study will be very involved in the early stages of your adoption, and will probably conduct your post-placement visits as well. Therefore it’s really important that you feel comfortable with your choice.

I’ve previously mention that we wanted to be able to pick the agency based on facts and figures – we both like to research and gather information. However, since this process is as much about personalities as anything else, you really do have to base some of the decision on a gut reaction.

Luckily, we had some friends who adopted recently and they gave us lots of great advice (in this post our friend is offering advice to someone else who is adopting and it showcases why we found their advice so valuable).  

We started by investigating the agencies in our area that conduct adoption home studies. We picked three we wanted to visit at the advice of our friends.

At first we didn’t know what kind of adoption we wanted to pursue – domestic or international – so we picked two agencies that specialize in both types, and one that only works internationally (with a stronghold in Russia).

First up was the agency that specializes in international adoptions. They have programs in several countries, but it was their strength in Russia that appealed to me.

A word about my interest in Russia. It was completely arbitrary. I had long heard stories about the conditions for Russian children waiting for adoption and I felt drawn to the country. My mother visited before the collapse of the Soviet Union and I knew she would enjoy going back with us for the visits before and during the adoption. Since she was then approaching retirement (and is now retired!), I thought she might like to take on the role of the Cultural Attaché for our family – seeking out ways we could include our child’s biological background into our decidedly non-Russian traditions.

The agency’s website listed the days and times it would hold open houses or informational meetings. We selected a day and signed up online. As it turned out, we were the only folks who attended that night so we got lots of attention (and subs and cookies from Subway). The administrator carefully went through their programs with us and walked us through the home study materials. She also showed us a video made by one of the families that chronicled their journey to adopt in Russia – including both trips to the country, the interpreter’s role, meeting the local doctor, etc. I have to admit that I cried a little bit when the mom got to hold her little boy for the first time  – he was about 14 months old.

She also went through average wait times for international adoption and I was astounded. I had it in my head that international adoption was easier in a lot of ways. I assumed there might be more up front paper work. But once you got through that, wouldn’t the wait time be less? These babies were living in orphanages for goodness sake. They should try to place them as quickly as possible. Sadly, that is not the case. International adoption is very rewarding, but it can be very difficult.

Even before that meeting, Don had expressed his interest in adopting a child as young as possible so that we could bond and be responsible for his or her earliest influences. We learned at that first informational meeting that if we decided to pursue an international adoption, there was virtually no chance to get a child under 12 months. There are lots of complicated reasons for this, but basically no one wants to exile their own citizens so it’s important to make sure no one in the country wants to adopt the child first. It might sound simple, but honestly it had never occurred to me before.

So even though we initially were skeptical that attending these open houses would give us a feeling about the agency that was right for us, we did get a feeling after that first visit. And our feelings told us that we probably didn’t want to pursue international adoption.

If I am honest, I still think about those kids in Russia and other Eastern European orphanages a lot. Don and I are only planning to have one child, but if something ever changes, I would maybe re-consider an international adoption. It’s true that there are lots of kids right here in America who need to be adopted into loving families, but there also are plenty of families waiting to welcome them. For me, it was a very tough choice.

The next agency we visited was the one we ultimately decided to work with for our home study. Such a good choice for us.

How did you decide between domestic and international adoption?  

We’re going to name the agency that conducted our home study when we get to that section, but keep the names of other agencies off the blog since our experience at one was so negative and we don’t think that it’s indicative of services they normally provide. However, if you would like to know more, please send us an e-mail.

6 Responses to “Part Two: Picking an Agency for the Home Study (or Why We Reluctantly Decided Against International Adoption)”

  1. Jenn November 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    So excited for you! A friend of ours did an international adoption and got their daughter when she was 20 months old. They had a great 5-6 years with her, until she started acting out badly and had a lot of anger. After therapy and testing, they determined that she has a stress disorder (can’t think of the name, but common with adoptions) due to her being in an orphanage for so long. She did not receive the love and attentiveness she needed as an infant and developed a fight or flee response to stress situations.

    Sad story as they did a very loving and honarable thing and have a teenager now that is out of control to the point they are having to find another home for her. heartbreaking.

    If you can try to go with your goals of getting an infant as young as possible. You will be great!

    • susan November 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

      What a terrible and sad situation. Thankfully that is not common in international adoptions. We know so many wonderful and successful international placement stories. Thanks for your kind words and support.

  2. harvey lasky November 22, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    as you know we went for 3 international adoptions. the domestic system made it too difficult to accomplish and most of the children were older and thus real projects. considering my age we did not want to wait a long time. russia scared us because we knew people who had adopted from there and the children had a lot of issues, alcohol fetal syndrome or severe mistreatment. again, considering my age we needed an easier route. we settled on china because most of the children were pretty well cared for and in china what you were told about costs was accurate to the penny. we used three different agencies. the first we chose and had no complaints,the second came with an agency and since she was an emergency we went with it. when it came time for our third neither of the first two would deal with us because of my age and we chose another agency that said that they would work with us and they came through. we found that adopting a child in the first year of life gave us the needed opportunity to bond. our second was 14 and still we have bonded pretty well. our third was 18 months and abandoned at 6 months and has some emotional issues to this day. she is now 5, but when awake is very close to us. her issues manifest themselves at night in the form of night terrors. i agree that the social worker doing the home study is crucial and we used the same one for all three adoptions. they must be prepared to file all reports on time, including the post adoption reports. we even hired someone to help with our dossier and used her all three times. that team made our emergency adoption possible.

    • susan November 22, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      Harvey – Your children are so lucky to have you as a dad. I’m so sad to hear your youngest still has night terrors. It must be so hard for her – and for you. Poor little thing.

      Do you know the wait for China is now 3 – 5 years according to two agencies we met with? Even though we’re a little younger than you, we didn’t think we could work with that length of time.

      • harvey lasky November 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

        Actually closer to 6 years for a healthy child. But if you can handle a child with special needs, and you can decide what needs you can handle, it does not take long at all. Jia, our third, was a special needs child, heart problem, and it only took 6 mos. Dottie gave them a list of needs that we could deal with considering we had two other children by then. When we got her medical report from the agency we took it to our pediatrician and went over it with him and decided to go forward. She had surgery when she was 2 and is doing fine. She doesn’t remember it, but knows that it happened because she has a scar on her chest from where they opened her up. There are so many ways to go and, like you, I am a big advocate for adoption. Everyone wins. Wish we could have had you meet our girls this summer, but maybe next time.

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