Adoption Agency Selection Checklist by Bill Betzen


It was March of 1996 that the first draft of this checklist was placed online. It has been used by thousands since then and, with the feedback received since 1996, it has been shortened and simplified. There are now 5 questions most easily answered by using the yellow pages, or other agency advertisements such as web pages, and then 11 questions that will probably require a phone call to the agency. There is no difference if you are placing a child you are expecting or if you are wanting to adopt a child into your family. Either way you must select the agency very carefully for the sake of your child.

You must also be concerned as to how the adopting parents of your child, or the birthmother of your child, will be treated by the agency you select. It is a VERY important decision.

As you are calling agencies and asking questions about the issues from this checklist, it is very possible that the staff will recognize that you are using this checklist. Do not let that distract you from the critical issues addressed in the checklist. Just acknowledge that you are using the “ checklist” and that you want to go over the issues one by one. The issues are infinitely more important than the source of the checklist you are using. The way agency staff treat you, and your concerns, will tell you as much about an agency as the written agency policies.

A PDF copy of the Adoption Agency Selection Checklist for printing can be found at It will print out to one page and have 4 columns to compare multiple agencies. You may then take notes on the printed copy as you study agency advertisements and call agencies.

Adoption Agency Selection Checklist

After studying the web pages to understand the issues involved, this form can be used to compare four agencies. The more “Yes” answers to the questions that follow the better an agency is. Few agencies will get “Yes” answers to all 16 questions, and some questions are more important. 1. Do the agency web site & advertisements make it clear that the agency only does fully open, fully identified adoptions?

2. Is this agency easy to drive to from your home?

3. Do you have a friend who knows or has used this agency and gives it a very high recommendation?

4. Are there other agencies in your local yellow pages who have much larger yellow page ads under the adoption heading?

5. Is the agency a church affiliated agency or is it over 30 years old?

Most of the above questions can be answered from agency web sites, yellow pages, and other advertisements without calling the agency. The questions below will probably require a call to the agency, but count it as extra good if positive answers can be found in agency advertisements. Count it as negative if there is any hesitation by agency staff on the phone in answering these questions.

6. Does the agency encourage maternity client parenting and offer free support and guidance in parenting?

7. Did agency staff accurately define open adoption as involving no secrets between birth and adopting families, and ongoing, direct, in person contact between them? 8. Did agency staff make it clear that they prefer to do fully open adoptions and rarely, if at all, will they serve an adopting family wanting less than a fully open adoption?

9. Does the agency strongly recommend, or even require, several counseling sessions by their staff before a maternity client starts considering the selection of a family for their child?

10. Does the agency always allow maternity clients selecting a family for their child to be able study every waiting family available through the agency for their child, and almost never limits maternity clients to selecting from a few waiting families chosen by agency staff?

11. Does the agency encourage matching between birth and adopting families who live close enough to each other for easy visits?

12. Does the agency have resumes by families adopting that are fully identified, with full names and addresses as well as local phone numbers on them, freely available for the selection process?

13. Does the agency provide a copy of their adopting parent fee agreement with clearly stated policies both about refunds and that donations cannot be accepted during the adoption process?

14. Does the original fee amount also cover all birthmother expenses anticipated with the agency paying any extra expenses?

15. Is agency a member of the Child Welfare League of America? 

16. Is the race of the child expected one of the last questions asked?

Total the Number of “Yes” answers and compair. 

About the Author
Email [email protected] with any questions or comments. – Bill Betzen LMSW(Emeritus), Child placement social worker for 28 years with ten years spent expanding infant adoption services through open adoption. Active in supporting adoptee rights legislation at both the national and state levels.

Have questions?
We'd love to hear from you!