7. Check with the foreign country's US consulate. They may be aware of any problems with the professionals you are considering.
8. Check with the US
consulate in the foreign country. The INS officer there is the one
responsible for issuing orphan visas and should be very attuned as to
what adoption agencies, facilitators and attorneys have a history of
9. Consider hiring or consulting an experienced and
reputable adoption attorney in your area to protect your emotional and
financial interests. While some may view this as an unnecessary
budget-breaking additional expense, spending a few thousand dollars
here can sometimes save you from losing tens of thousands of dollars to
adoption fraud or scams. The promise of a desperately desired child or
the bond to a photograph or video of one can often blind you to any red
flags that crop up. A less costly measure of protection is to have any
contracts reviewed by a contract attorney before signing. Remember, any
contract can be amended or negotiated to better protect and serve your
interests. As time has passed since I first assembled this checklist, this step has proven to be or increasing importance. Remember, aAll contracts are negotiable. DO NOT SIGN ANY CONTRACT THAT INCLUDES A GAG CLAUSE THAT LIMITS YOUR RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH.
10. Use the BCIS and State Dept. websites to be up
on all the rules, regulations and situations in whatever country you
are considering. If anyone you are working with is not on the same page
as the authorities, consider it a red enough flag to make everyone stop
and get on the same page. In programs where you are allowed to visit
the referred child prior to finalizing the adoption, take all possible
measures to insure that the adoption will, in fact, be finalized, prior
to visiting. This means that you should be sure the child meets the BCIS
definition of an orphan and that other country-specific criteria, such
as DNA matching in Guatemala, have been met.
11. Be cautious if you are offered a referral before you have a completed and approved homestudy.
Be wary if you are asked to sign a blank Power of Attorney. The Power
of Attorney should only be one page, if not, you should sign both pages
so alterations and substitutions can be avoided.
13a. If the
agency networks with another party (agency, facilitator or attorney)
for the program you select, make sure that is disclosed to you, along
with the identity of the other party, before you pay any non-refundable
fees, in case this other party is one with whom you prefer not to work.
You might want to apply this checklist to this other party as well. Ask
the agency if all their employees, consultants and parties they may
network with here and agents in a foreign country have undergone
criminal background checks. This is where you should ask your agency
about how they review and select their foreign sources along with how
long a relationship they have had with their foreign sources. There may
not be a good substitute for a hands-on, agency program that includes
frequent visits by the agency program directors to the foreign
countries in which they have programs, to monitor their foreign agents
and sources in person.
13b. With implementation of the Hague Treaty around the corner in the US
and elsewhere, or already a reality elsewhere, ask about compliance and
changes in programs and procedures that the agency anticipates. This
could give you an idea if the agency has considered the future and its
long term viability. Additionally, with shut downs and moratoriums
happening with little or no notice, be very clear with the agency on
alternatives and refund policies should this occur.
If the agency is essentially a one-man operation, you should also be
clear on what plans are in place should the primary contact have a
personal, family or medical situation arise where he or she can no
longer perform his or her functions. Find out what contingency plans
exist and who will take over should this occur. There have been cases
where a one-man agency or its programs deteriorate rapidly because such
events occurred and there was no back-up plan in place.
Ask to see a copy of the agency's audited financial statement. This is
so you can see if the agency is in good financial standings and is
financially stable. You don't want an agency that goes out of business
while you are in the middle of an adoption with them.
Try to work with people who are paid fees for services rather than on a
contingency basis. Adoption workers paid on contingency have the income
incentive for volume and quick adoption completions, similar to a
commission for completed, delivered deals. Service may suffer under
this kind of plan.
15. Try to get an itemized breakdown of
where the foreign fees go and try to confirm that in the foreign
country. What you are trying to learn is if the agency is marking-up
and keeping the difference between actual foreign fees and what they
charge you, or enagaging in unethical practices, without disclosing
this to you. Another consideration here is that you want to know where
every penny of your adoption money goes so that you can be assured that
things like corruption, baby-buying and profiteering were not part of
your adoption process. This is what is mean when your hear terminology
that references a "transparent" process.
In cases and countries where the biological mother is identified, ask
the agency what kind of counseling and support their program offers to
biological mothers. The answer may help reveal the agency's commitment
to fair and ethical practices. Additionally, the level of service
provided a biological mother, along with the level of service provided
a child in an orphanage or foster care, should be a reflection of the
level of service provided an adoptive family.
17. The greatest
number of complaints against adoption agencies concern the placement of
children with undisclosed special medical and psychological issues.
Placing a child with these kinds of issues in a family that is
unequipped emotionally, physically and financially to handle them,
along with being uneducated and untrained about these issues, will
often tear apart the family and further damage the child. Agencies that
intentionally place children in situations like this should be held
criminally liable. They can do no greater disservice to their clients
and the orphans. I urge every prospective adoptive family to seek out
only those agencies that have programs to educate you about potential
issues unique to internationally adopted children and who make every
possible effort to obtain as much background information on their
referrals as possible. Prospective adoptive families should ask for
copies of all available medical reports prior to accepting a referral.
Both originals and translations should be provided so that the
prospective adoptive family can verify the accuracy of the translation,
as this has been shown to be a problem with medical report translations
in some countries. If your requests for such information are denied
without due cause, spread the word and take your business elsewhere. If
things don't look and feel right, get independent second and third
opinions. If you are still uncomfortable with the information you
receive, either ask for more or decline the referral. Failed and
disrupted adoptions are a growing problem that we can strive to
Take care and enjoy your ride on the adoption roller coaster.