Definition - While some national adoption agencies have local offices, local adoption agencies are typically smaller adoption agencies who serve a specific geographic location, such as a particular county, state or region.
Advantages of Local Adoption Agencies:
- Clients are able to meet face-to-face, which helps build trust and understanding.
- Local adoption agencies also locate birth mothers face-to-face and do not rely on other professionals to evaluate their client in a direct setting.
- Their staff and client list is small, which allows for easier communication.
- Adoption fees can be less due to lower overhead (see advertising below).
- Families do not have to travel outside of their geographic area.
- A local adoption agency is a licensed and state-monitored organization and has greater accountability than law firms, law centers or facilitators.
Disadvantages of Local Adoption Agencies:
- Because local organizations are limited geographically, their wait times are inconsistent.
- Advertising costs are often separate from agency fees. Clients may even have to place ads on their own. Mediums available to individual clients are less effective than those available to national adoption agencies, and families may spend thousands more in ads. (Keep in mind: the largest national agencies buy advertisements at a discount, carefully track marketing success and have major networking contacts, but still spend an average of $8,000 to $10,000 in advertising for each successful adoption. You should expect to pay more in advertising through a local agency, especially if the ad is placed on your own.)
- Small organizations that do advertise often do not spend as much for advertising per family as a national agency can, and the waiting times for their clients become longer.
- Usually local adoption agency staff is comprised of one or two staff members, which leaves clients painfully susceptible to staff turnover.
- Local adoption agencies process a small number of adoptions, which does not give staff the same expertise as a larger organization in evaluating, educating and guiding clients through the adoption process. This makes for an inconsistent experience.
- Some local adoption agencies require their clients to handle initial calls from birth parents, which can be a strain on a family’s time.
- Many local adoption agencies bill clients for the costs of evaluating all potential birth parents. Only a small percentage of women who inquire about adoption actually choose to pursue an adoption plan, so this can mean high additional fees for families.
- Local adoption agencies are susceptible to changes in state laws. Florida, for example, changed their laws in 2001, and adoptions plummeted 50 percent the following year and caused many local agencies and adoption law firms to go out of business. National organizations simply focused their services in the other 49 states.
- Smaller agencies are also susceptible to negative statewide adoption stories like 2007’s foster home abuse in Missouri. The negative newspaper articles made many pregnant women in Missouri choose to parent, which hurt local Missouri agencies.
- Smaller agencies are also less financially stable and secure, and this makes some clients nervous.
- Small agencies are overworked, burned out and under staffed and are often unable to meet client needs in a timely fashion.
- After-hours and weekend availability is scarce, thus leading to less contact with potential birth parents and fewer adoptions.
- Phones are often left to answering machines, leaving clients frustrated with staff accessibility. Imagine you are a scared, pregnant woman and are calling for the first time to talk about adoption, and you reach an answering machine. Would you call back?
- Typically living, medical and legal expenses are not estimated in average total cost for adoptions, making a small agency’s adoptions appear lower cost than other professionals available.
Types of clients who adopt through local adoption agencies:
- Families who are not willing to travel to another state to adopt a baby.
- Families who are not as focused on wait time.
- Families who have a tight overall budget, though they should be careful to evaluate the way fees and costs are assessed and paid.
- Families who value face-to-face contact from a point person who they work with.
- Families who are more risk-tolerant financially.
- Families who are prepared for higher disruptions than national agencies.
- Families that want to visit the agency weekly.
- Families that have friends that run the smaller agency.
How do you find a good local adoption agency?
A local adoption agency’s marketing information, case files, personnel files and financials are typically reviewed by the state in which the agency is licensed, which helps many families find peace of mind about an agency. But when choosing a local adoption agency, adoptive families should still ask probing questions and may wish to see agency policies in writing.
Read Questions to Ask an Adoption Professional to learn what to ask a local adoption agency or other adoption professional.