Once you’ve decided to grow your family through domestic infant adoption, one of the first — and most important — decisions you’ll make is choosing a professional to help you through the process.

Most prospective adoptive parents know that they want the support of an agency through the adoption process. But they may find themselves debating between a local professional and a national agency like American Adoptions.

There are a lot of factors that could influence your decision. Below, we’ve outlined three of the big ones you should consider as you make your choice.

1. Costs

Naturally, the costs of adoption is one of the factors many prospective adoptive parents take into account when choosing an adoption professional. While adoption can be expensive regardless of the professional you choose, different agencies have different fees — largely because they offer different levels and qualities of services.

National Agencies:

National agencies tend to have higher agency fees. This is because they tend to have higher overhead costs — they typically employ larger staffs, provide more adoption services and do more extensive advertising to reach prospective birth parents across the country. However, they may also be more likely to offer financial protection in the case of an adoption disruption.

Local Agencies:

Because local or regional agencies typically have small staffs and work in a more limited geographical area, they tend to have slightly lower overhead costs. In some cases, this means they may charge less for their adoption services.

The Takeaway:

When examining agency fees, it’s important to carefully compare not only the costs of each organization but also the services they offer in exchange for those costs. Remember that every expense in the adoption process has a purpose; an agency that doesn’t charge as much for advertising, for example, may reach fewer prospective birth mothers, leading to a longer adoption wait times. Similarly, an agency that spends more on birth parent support services may be more responsive to an expectant mother’s needs, thereby decreasing the risks of an adoption disruption.

2. Services

If you are looking for a professional to guide you through the adoption process from start to finish, an agency — whether local or national — is typically the best choice. But while most agencies generally can complete the entire adoption process, some do provide more expansive services than others.

National Agencies:

While local and national agencies often offer many of the same adoption services, national agencies have several advantages when it comes to the quality of those services, including:

  • More established advertising networks and marketing capabilities, which means greater outreach to prospective birth mothers and national exposure for waiting adoptive families
  • Large, qualified social services departments, which means better screening and support for prospective birth mothers and adoptive families
  • More precise matching services that connect prospective birth mothers and waiting families based on common adoption goals and preferences
  • 24/7 counselor availability for prospective birth parents, which leads to lower disruption rates and more successful adoption placements

In addition to the other services necessary for a successful adoption — adoption planning, coordination of legal services and contact mediation — larger national agencies may offer additional services that smaller local agencies cannot, including financial protection, profile design, post-adoption services and more.

Local Agencies:

Local agencies offer many of the same services as larger, national ones, but often on a smaller (and less effective) scale. For example:

  • Advertising reach may be limited to prospective birth mothers in a particular state or region, leading to a smaller pool of potential adoption opportunities and potentially longer adoption wait times
  • Local agencies usually do not have the established networking platforms, marketing teams or advertising budgets used by national agencies, which means their advertising efforts may be less effective
  • Because they tend to work with fewer prospective birth mothers, adoptive families may need to be more flexible and willing to accept an adoption opportunity that doesn’t perfectly match their preferences

Like national agencies, most local agencies can also provide the adoption planning and case management services necessary for a smooth adoption process. However, some services — like creating an adoption profile — may need to be completed independently or outsourced to another professional.

The Takeaway:

Local and national agencies can both provide the necessary services to complete an adoption, though some may be more “full-service” than others. Ultimately, it is up to each adoptive family to decide which services are most important to them and to choose an adoption professional who can meet those needs.

3. Process

Whether you work with a national adoption agency or a local one, the process to adopt a baby will largely be the same. However, there are a few ways in which the process may differ depending on the professional you choose to work with.

National Agencies:

With a national agency, your adoption process will likely involve:

  • Working with one professional. Nearly all services will be completed in-house or coordinated by your adoption specialist.
  • A shorter wait time. Because they work with a larger pool of prospective birth mothers, your adoption process may be completed more quickly.
  • Because your baby could be born in any state, you will likely have to travel outside of your state and stay there for a few weeks to satisfy the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).
  • More requirements. You may need to meet additional requirements to ensure you’re approved to adopt anywhere in the U.S.
  • More responsiveness. With a larger staff, most agencies are able to respond to adoptive families’ questions and concerns in a quick, effective manner.

Local Agencies:

Depending on the local agency you choose, your adoption process might involve:

  • Coordinating some services on your own. Your adoption agency can likely provide most of the services you need, but you may need to complete some steps of the process on your own or with another professional.
  • In-person meetings. Because of your physical proximity, you may be able to meet with your adoption professional in person.
  • A longer wait time. Because they work with a smaller pool of prospective birth mothers, it may take longer for you to be chosen and to complete the adoption process.
  • Adopting close to home. Because your baby will be born in your state or region, you will likely not have to travel out of your geographic area or meet ICPC requirements.
  • Increased risk. Because many local agencies cannot match the quality of counseling and support offered by national agencies, you may be more likely to experience a disruption.

The Takeaway:

While the overall adoption process will be similar whether you work with a local or national agency, your choice of professional can make a significant difference in your overall adoption experience. It’s important to do careful research and compare the adoption process, costs and services of each professional you are considering before moving forward.

If you would like to learn more about working with a national agency like American Adoptions, request free information online or contact an adoption specialist now at 1-800-ADOPTION.