Today we’re back with our I’m Ready To Adopt series with the fourth in a mini-series by Kelly – who blogs at Mine In China – on How To Choose An Agency. You can read the first three posts here, here and here.
LID File Agency Questions and Transferring Files Between Agencies
While we will be discussing many different factors to consider when choosing an agency, what is most important to everyone when starting out is getting a match! If you are wanting a young child (usually a girl) with minor needs then you will need to decide on an agency, complete your homestudy and send your dossier to China to wait for a match.
This post will discuss issues you should consider about the matching part of the process if you have decided that the LID only route is best for your family.
Your agency will find a match for you based on the date your dossier was submitted, so basically your “place in line”. You might think that you’d get matched faster with a big agency because they have access to more files, or faster with a small agency because they have fewer families waiting in line. While either of these can be true, there is really no way to know what the shortest wait is without asking some questions.
You don’t want to wait until you’ve already handed over a couple thousand dollars to your agency to realize that you’re looking at a 2 year wait for a referral while if you’d chosen a different agency you’d have been matched in under 6 months. Most agencies have more young boys with minor needs than they can place so this is less of an issue for those who are open to a boy.
The most important question to ask any potential agency is this:
Q: How long is your average wait for a match for a child that matches our profile?
A: Most agencies will tell you the wait from DTC, or the date your dossier is logged into China’s system. One major agency will give you the wait based on when you submitted your medical needs checklist (MCC) to them. For most first time adopters, this will be when they send in their agency application, so about six months prior to being DTC. That means that if that particular agency tells you that you should expect to wait 18 months from MCC to be matched, and another agency is telling you that you would wait about 12 months from DTC to be matched, then they would have a similar timeline.
Many agencies will be vague and say, “We are able to match most of our couples within a few months of DTC.” Despite this answer, it may be wise to ask these specific questions:
- How many families do you currently have waiting to be matched?
- How many families do you usually match per month?
- What is the current wait time for a child with the profile that we are looking for?
- Will we be updated on changes in wait times, or told how many couples are ahead of us in the process?
- Do you have any partnerships? If so, how many?
- Do you also match from the shared list?
No agency will be able to guarantee you a set amount of time until you are matched. It varies by how many families are with the agency at the time, how many files they receive, and what special needs you are open to. However, by asking these questions you should be able to get a general idea of the wait times between the agencies that you are considering. While there are some agencies who successfully match using only the shared list, LID files are increasingly being matched through partnerships. Choosing an agency which matches parents using both the shared list and partnerships will usually decrease your wait time for a match with a LID only child.
Many parents who have signed on with an agency and are faced with a long wait to be matched begin searching photolistings and advocacy sites to try and find potential children. When they find children they are interested in who are designated to an agency rather than on the shared list, they often become frustrated that an agency won’t release the file to the agency they are working with.
Other questions prospective parents might have:
Q: I’ve seen a file or two on agency lists that I’m interested in but why won’t any agencies transfer them? It seems like it’s all about the money!
A: The potential parent has already made a financial commitment to their agency and it is understandable that they would not want to lose money by switching agencies. At the same time, adoptive parents need to realize that agencies do need to make enough money to stay in business. International adoption numbers have plummeted the past decade and there is now a lot of competition for the few families who are adopting. Agencies especially rely on the files of young girls to make enough money to stay in the black. Several smaller agencies have closed within the past two years, so this is reality for the agencies.
Q: When will agencies transfer files?
A: It depends on the agency and for some the answer is never. Other agencies will transfer if they have no families who have shown interest in the file. It is most likely that an agency will transfer a file if it is not a young girl, or if it is almost to the end of the time that the file is designed to them. Typically agencies have LID only files for 3 weeks and special focus files for three months. Agencies are least likely to transfer a partnership file because when they enter into the partnership agreement they commit to placing 80% of the files that they receive from the partner orphanage. China will end a partnership if the agency does not live up to this part of the bargain.
One last thing to keep in mind is that while you might feel very sure this child is the child for you, agencies have experienced times when file transfers have not worked out. A common scenario: a couple has assured an agency that they are committed to this child, the agency transfers the file, and a week or two later the child shows up on the other agency’s waiting child photolisting because the couple changed their mind. After agencies experience this a few times, they become less likely to transfer because they know that they will lose the chance to find the child a family if the couple they transfer the child for changed their mind.
So while you may be frustrated, there is more involved than the agency not caring if the child gets a family. Some agencies are better about transferring files than others, and it would be wonderful if all agencies would transfer the files of aging out children and those who have serious medical conditions. If you find an agency that won’t transfer the file you are interested in, ask when their designation for the file will end and if they will contact you or your agency if they still haven’t placed the child by the end of that time period.
It is possible to transfer agencies in order to adopt a specific file, although it will require financial sacrifice on the part of the adoptive parents. For information on changing agencies during the adoption process, join this Facebook group.
Next Kelly discusses the pros and cons of different size and style agencies.
— photos by Stefanie