Who Should Steer the Boat?

Jennifer Rose Asher
4 min readJan 5, 2022

I would cross every t and dot every i. I was going to have a baby, and no detail would be overlooked. I may not have complete control over my body, but paperwork was something I could manage. I had timelines, spreadsheets, lists and printouts. I could do this, and there would be no stopping me. -“Journey to My Daughter”, Chapter 8

In my last article, “The Road Less Travelled”, I discussed making the decision to adopt, and further, making the decision as a family (whatever your family looks like) about what your own priorities are. I would now like to focus a bit on what to do next, outside your family, to proceed in the process of adoption.

One of the most important decisions you will make in this journey is choosing the right professional to assist and guide you on your path to finding your child. While I will be giving you a list of questions to ask potential agencies or other professionals, the bottom line comes down to really two factors.

First, simply go with your gut. I know this is not sophisticated advice, but you really need to weigh strongly the person that you feel the most comfortable talking to. This person is going to be the one you need to turn to when something goes wrong. It will be an emotional time and you want someone you trust who will be your partner, not someone you dread calling.

Second, how available are they and willing to spend time talking to you? I had approximately 865 questions every day during my adoption journey. I worked with lots of different agencies, and I can tell you that my mood and mental health was very different when I talked to someone who patiently sat on the phone with me and gave me the time to vent and ask whatever I wanted vs. the person who I had to call three times before getting her on the phone and then she hurried me off after just a question or two. This will vary greatly between professionals (and honestly, can be different on different days as well).

I worked with people who were always available and even gave me a way to contact them after hours if necessary. Even though there were days when they were busy and unavailable, they would be sure to get back to me quickly when they were able to. On the contrary, I also worked with people who I often couldn’t reach for several days at a time. When I got them on the phone after leaving multiple messages, they acted annoyed to be talking to me and would only answer quick, direct and relatively urgent questions. Even if you are not a chatter like I am, this is very frustrating when you are encountering roadblocks on the route to parenthood.

So, let’s just say you’ve identified what factors are most important to your family. You used those answers to choose the type of adoption you feel is most appropriate for you. You have called and talked generally with several professionals who manage the type of adoption you are interested in. Amongst the phone calls you made, there were four different women who you talked to that seemed very nice, you enjoyed speaking with them, and they made plenty of time to answer all of your questions and tell you about their services. How do you choose the right agency or person?

These were the questions that I asked. They were for a private, domestic adoption (I used these when looking for an agency for my second adoption, I had gotten a bit more savvy by then), but they can be easily adjusted for other types of adoptions:

  1. What is the average time between a family signing your contract and taking placement of a child?
  2. How many families do you have in your program waiting now?
  3. How many children did you place last year?
  4. What was the average total cost for your families last year including everything?
  5. Is there a fee to join your program or are no fees due until I’m matched with a situation? What exactly is the timing of when fees will be collected?
  6. At what point in pregnancy do you match birthmoms with adoptive families?
  7. What is the level of contact expected and allowed between families and birthparents both before and after placement?
  8. How much education/assistance/supervision do you provide regarding communication between birth families and adoptive families?
  9. Given the situation of my family (age, budget, number of existing children, race and gender preferences, etc.) what percentage of situations that you get in would be appropriate for us and are our expectations (again, race and gender preferences, level of openness required, budget,…)? Do you feel our situation and preferences realistic to be successful in your program within our timeframe?
  10. Are there any unusual laws or requirements in the state where you are located that we should know about upfront (every state has their own adoption laws)?

Of course, you may have other questions as well and feel free to add anything you are concerned about. This is your family we are talking about and you should ask everything ahead of time and not be surprised later! When I was agency “shopping” I took notes during each call and then filled out a spreadsheet with all of the answers. I used this to choose the agency(ies) that I thought would work best for us.

Read more about my journey and all it entailed including how we chose the agencies we did in my memoir, “Journey to My Daughter”, available now on Amazon.

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Jennifer Rose Asher

Jennifer lives in Texas with her husband and 3 children, (2 joined her family through adoption.) Her memoir, Journey to My Daughter will publish in 12/2021.