What No One Ever Told Me About Special Needs Adoption
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The internet is often the first step for those exploring adding to their family through intercountry adoption. Full of blogs, personal experiences, forums, and websites offering a plethora of information, the web can also be so overwhelming as to delay some families seeking direction and guidance along this rocky road.
Once a family decides to adopt internationally, the next step is to choose a country for which they qualify (based on age, marital status, and family size). Many times couples or singles know of local families who have adopted internationally from a particular country, and simply follow the "road most traveled" by adopting a child from the same country. Choosing an agency, however, can be a much more arduous decision.
Slow down . That's the best advice available at this step. It's time to do your research. Use Google, read blogs, join an e-mail list. Learn everything possible about the adoption process from the country in which you are interested. It's easy to type a quick message on an email group looking for agency recommendations, "Hey! Anyone know of a good agency working in China?" will get plenty of eye-rolls and love/hate responses from listmates who have heard that question about 200 times in the last month. And it also won't garnish you an unbiased look at agencies and their various programs.
When choosing an adoption agency working in China, the first step is to know exactly which adoption agencies have programs, and what those programs can specifically offer your family.
RainbowKids.com is in the process of developing Adoption Agency Comparison Charts for all countries with child-placement programs. As an extension of our Country Programs Area , these charts list every agency working in China, their Hague Status, and the specific programs being offered to families (basic, shared list, dedicated list). Families may easily compare agencies and programs in one online area.
The new Agency Comparison Charts define each program in China , and inform families of the options being offered by each agency. By clicking on one of the heading-links, which offer detailed information on each program, visitors may become more knowledgeable of their opportunities within the process.
For example, all agencies licensed to place children from China are part of the Basic (healthy infant) program. Some agencies focus on this program and are a good match for families who, after exploring their hearts, feel that a healthy child will be the best match for their family. For some, this focus remains the same throughout the process of adoption. For others, the idea of adopting a child with special needs grows with the knowledge of children who are waiting, and often these families find themselves switching to one of the waiting child programs (shared or dedicated lists). And of course, there are families who enter the process specifically seeking to adopt a child who is older, or may be challenged with a specific need. For these families, focusing on agencies with access to the CCAA Shared List, or on agencies with Dedicated Child Lists (children may only be placed by that agency) is now much easier, using the Agency Comparison Chart .
By now you should understand the basic process of adopting a child from China, and may have even joined an email list or two. You've studied the Comparison Chart, and understand the difference in programs by clicking on the heading links for Shared List and Dedicated List. You are ready to start narrowing down your agency choices.
As brutal as this may sound to pre-adoptive parents (usually referred to as PAPs), I'm going to lay out something that really should be one of the first things considered when choosing an agency. Ask yourself the following question:
"Am I high-maintenance or low-maintenance?"
This is not a passive-or-aggressive-person question. The services and touch/feely level of an agency needs to match the client. For some people, adopting a child is a very straight-forward, just-the-facts, sign-the-papers-and-wait kind of process. Their requirement for contact with their placing-agency may be monthly or even less!
Other PAPs require an almost-daily "check-in" and very personal relationship during the process. Agencies have personalities, just like people. As in any relationship, personality compatibility must be assessed very quickly. I recommend visiting the websites of any agency you may be interested in working with. The agency website will tell half the story:
Finding the right fit begins with an honest evaluation of your needs during the process, and matching those needs to specific agencies.
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