It is very important that you get to know your agency or practitioner before committing to the adoption process. This means not being afraid to call several different agencies and ask questions before making a decision. This article provides examples of the types of questions you may want to ask an agency and the types of responses you should look out for.
Please note that if you are pursuing a public adoption, you must do so through your local Children’s Aid Society (CAS). The CAS will network with other Societies and private agencies throughout Ontario, obviating the need for you to select an agency yourself.
“Do you offer an information package, and informational seminar or a free consultation?”
This should be one of the first questions you ask. You want to know as much as you can about the agency you are going to work with.
“Are you licensed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS)?”
Any answer to this question other than an unequivocal “yes” is unacceptable. All adoptions in Ontario are overseen by the MCYS and any agency who is not appropriately licensed will be unable to see you through to the end of the adoption process.
“Are there any restrictions on who can adopt through the agency?”
Some agencies specialize in certain kinds of adoption and may restrict the children or potential adoptive families they work with. For example, some agencies only handle international adoptions, or may specialize in placing ethnically Jewish children in Jewish homes, or may opt not to place children with same sex couples. Some agencies are only willing to work on closed adoptions, others only on open adoptions. In the case of international adoptions there may be additional limitations on who can adopt enforced by the adoptee’s country.
”Is there a waiting list to register with the agency and how long is it?”
We love to say that adoption is a lifelong journey. There are two aspects to that idea. The first and most important is that adoption changes us forever; it is not an event which passes, rather it becomes an integral and ongoing part of everyone involved. The other side of the “lifelong journey,” however, is an acknowledgment that adoption requires patience at every step along the way. It is important not to rush into something so life-changing but, at the same time, people do get rightfully frustrated with how slowly things can move at times. All the same, there is no need to wait longer than necessary and, all other things being equal, it may make sense to go with an agency that can begin serving you immediately.
”How will I be kept informed while waiting for a child proposal?”
Waiting for a match after registering with an agency is one of the unavoidable delays in the adoption journey. Many potential adoptive parents can find it very reassuring to get regular updates during this period so as to have the sense that, even if no match has been found, work is being done towards finding the right child to place with the family.
”During what hours of the day will the practitioner see clients?”
This will, of course, be more or less important to you depending on your own schedule. Some agencies and practitioners keep regular business hours, while others keep broader, narrower, or more flexible hours. If you generally work during business hours, you will want to ensure that your agency or practitioner will be able to work within your schedule.
”What is the fee for a homestudy?”
All adoption professionals are authorized to conduct the homestudies that form one of the two pillars of mandatory AdoptReady certification. A homestudy performed by any CAS, agency or practitioner will remain valid for any future adoption, even if the adoption is completed through another practitioner. There is no fee for a homestudy completed through your local CAS, but they will only generally provide homestudy services for families looking to adopt a Crown Ward currently in their care. Most private agencies and practitioners will charge a fee to complete a homestudy. Each adoption professional is free to set their own fee, so it is advisable to talk to get more than one estimate.
”What is the average time frame for completing a homestudy from first session to completing the written report?”
Generally, a homestudy will take place over the course of about six to eight months, though the actual length can vary from professional to professional and particularly from family to family. If the agency’s average homestudy takes substantially more or less time, it may be wise to ask why.
”Can former clients be contacted to provide references?”
This is very important. Though all practitioners and agencies must be licensed by the MCYS, the quality and particulars of service can vary greatly from practitioner to practitioner. The best way to get an idea of what working with a specific agency or practitioner will be like is to speak with someone who has worked with them before.
Once you have had a child successfully placed with your family, it is considerate to offer to provide references for your practitioner in order to help future families make the most informed possible decision.
“How long has your agency facilitated adoptions? How many adoptions have been finalized through your agency?”
Allowing for the fact that a new agency is not necessarily a bad agency, a record of successful placements is, with prior client references, the second major indicator of an agency or practitioner’s reputation and ability to match you with the right child.
”What is the general range of costs for adopting through each of the agency’s programs?”
The total monetary cost of adopting a child can vary greatly and depends on many factors. There are no fees for public adoptions through a Children’s Aid Society but the private agencies and practitioners that handle private and international adoptions are free to set their rates as they see fit. The Government of Ontario lists the total cost of a private adoption as being between $10,000 and $20,000. For international adoptions, they quote a range from $20,000 to $30,000. In practice, even these broad statements fail to adequately describe the range of costs. International adoptions in particular can easily cost quite a bit more depending on the country. It is important to have a candid idea of what the total cost is likely to be at the beginning of the process.
“What do the fees cover? What, if any, additional costs are likely to be incurred? How does the agency handle unexpected costs?”
It is not always the case that the base cost the agency quotes you will reflect the true cost of adoption. These questions can help you drill down and see if there going to be any additional or hidden costs, especially if the quoted rate seems unusually low. In international adoptions particularly fee structures can be very complex. Be sure to ask if an itemized list of costs can be provided at each stage of the adoption.
What is the expected payment schedule?
Given the large sums of money involved, many agencies are willing to arrange a payment plan. Discussing this up front can help greatly in financial planning (a skill which will become more important than ever once you are a parent). In addition, some banks and financial institutions have financing plans available for adoptive parents. One such plan is the National Bank of Canada’s International Adoption Financial Package.
“How does your agency work with birth parents before and after adoption?”
Particularly if you are considering the idea of an open adoption, it is important to know that the agency will be willing to work with the birth parents to develop an openness agreement everyone is comfortable with and to provide ongoing support as needed.
”How does your agency facilitate matches between birth parents and potential adoptive parents?”
Some agencies work with a number of programs and within the adoption community and are better able to maintain formal lists of adoption families. It is important to note that matching is never done on a ‘first come, first served’ basis as there are many factors to consider in making an adoption plan and choosing the right match of family for a child.
Other agencies will only offer families an opportunity for families to register with the agency and be contacted if a potential match is identified.
“How does the agency receive medical information on the children?”
When an adoptive family is considering a potential placement, they will be given all medical and social information that is available about the child and birth family. This information is generally given in a meeting with the family and their adoption practitioner so there is opportunity to fully discuss the decision.