Today we pick back up with our I’m Ready To Adopt series with a mini-series by Kelly, who blogs at Mine In China, on How To Choose An Agency. Because this very complex subject deserves a mini-series of it’s own. Kelly has published a series of posts on her own blog and has graciously reformatted them into 10 jam-packed blog posts to share here on No Hands But Ours.
Isn’t it rough that the most important decision you will make in the entire adoption process happens right up front when you don’t really even know how the adoption process works or what questions you should be asking? Should you start by choosing a waiting child or by choosing an agency? If you start by choosing an agency, how can you find the one which will be the best fit for your family?
This series is intended to help you become familiar with the different factors to consider when making these choices. It includes the wisdom of many experienced adoptive parents and will give you the tools you need to make your decision with confidence
If you ask any sort of “How do I start off?” question in a China adoption group, there will be many responses like this: “We found our child first and just used the agency he/she was listed with. I’d rather choose a child than choose an agency!” To understand how this is an option you need to first have an understanding of the different designations of files in China for special needs adoption. Our series is going to start here because with this method you would not be focused on match wait times, travel accommodations, or cost sheets. You find a child that you want to adopt and use the agency who has their file.
Special Focus files are files which are open to a wider pool of adoptive families because they are files which will typically be a little more difficult for an agency to place. China has some pretty strict criteria for adoptive parents including marriage/divorce, BMI, health, and financial guidelines. You can request a waiver if you don’t meet some of the criteria, and sometimes with a waiver comes the requirement that you adopt from the pool of special focus files. Because these kids need a little more help finding a family, China will allow single moms, those with a history of depression, or other special circumstances to adopt them. Special focus files may be matched to a family who has not yet completed a dossier. So when people say that they find their child first, they are referring to special focus children.
Q: What is the profile of a special focus child?
A: At any given time the largest amount of files in China are special focus rather than LID only files (we’ll get to those later) because the majority of LID only files are matched right away. Special focus files encompass a large variety of ages and needs. Young boys with minor needs are often designated special focus simply because fewer people want to adopt boys. I have seen boys as young as 6 months with minor needs designated special focus. Usually the young girls will have more complex medical needs. Needs such as blindness, Down syndrome, or children who need wheelchairs are almost always special focus regardless of age or gender. Older children are more likely to have minor or repaired needs and are special focus because of their age.
Q: So if I find a special focus child I’d like to adopt then I can be matched with this child before I ever start the process? Is there a downside that I’m missing here?
A: Many people prefer to adopt from China by finding their child first, but there are a few downsides. The first is that you do not get to choose the agency. Maybe your child is with a great agency, but maybe the child is with the most expensive agency or perhaps you start reading online and hear only negative comments about this agency. Good or bad, you are stuck with the agency who has the file that you want. You might want to consider reading through the rest of the blog posts in this series to narrow down your agencies choices and then look at their waiting child lists to find your child. At the very least, I would figure out which agencies to avoid. Reading through this series will help you to know which questions to ask.
The other downside is that the process will seem longer for you this way. Usually you would at least be through the homestudy process before you are matched and often your dossier would already be in China. We were matched very early in the process and were absolutely in love with our son. Then our social worker took six weeks after the last homestudy visit to write the homestudy. She took a 2 week vacation! Then we hit an immigration snag when our immigration officer said our file was on her desk and that we would be approved by the end of the week. Instead, she went on vacation too! It was so difficult to have seen our son’s face and know that he was just sitting in the orphanage getting older as one thing after another happened to delay our process. Now in the end, our process was one of the fastest with him coming home in under a year, but everyone will hit snags. Before you start viewing all the photolistings be sure to consider how you will feel about this aspect of being matched early. However, this is a personality issue and really, the process is going to seem long no matter which way you go about it.
Q: I like the idea of finding a child first and I think we are pretty open as far as gender, age, and special need are concerned. Where can I find waiting children to see if we can find our child?
• You can check different agencies’ waiting child pages
• If you are on Facebook you can join Find My China Child where you post what sort of child you are looking for and people post waiting children who meet that profile
• There is China Waiting Child Advocacy which is a Facebook group where advocates post children who have not yet been matched
• The Advocate for WC yahoo group actually has files which include snapshots of the shared list and folders which are arranged by need (so, for example, you could see all of the children waiting who have albinism)
• Rainbow Kids also lets you search by special need.
There are also many different advocacy blogs:
And last but not least, you can keep your eye on the advocacy posts right here on the No Hands But Ours blog.
Q: I’ve been looking at special focus children I’m really overwhelmed by the needs that I’m seeing. We have to adopt a special focus child because of and I’m afraid we won’t be able to find a child that fits our family.
A: Keep in mind that the children who you see on photolistings and through advocacy avenues are the children who are more difficult to place. Agencies have access to a larger pool of children, and they will place those with minor or moderate needs first with people who are already clients of their agency. If you sign with any agency then they will be looking for a child that meets the profile you submitted when you completed the medical needs form, and as a waiting client you will be considered when they receive new partnership files or they will be on the lookout for new additions to the shared list. So if you are having trouble finding a child through photolistings and advocacy routes alone then you should consider signing with an agency and having them match you.
In part two of Choosing An Agency, Kelly will share some important things to consider if you find your child before you’ve chosen an agency.
– photos by Stefanie