Before we applied at our agency, we did extensive research on international adoption from Africa and the different countries within Africa that allowed it. We did heavy research for several months and connected with many families who had been through the process.
It is so important to know what is involved in adopting internationally. Things are not as black and white or as cut and dry as it would seem. There is a real issue of child trafficking that prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) must, must, must be aware of and educated on.
What is child trafficking? Even I wasn't clear on what this term meant until we started investigating international adoptions. Child trafficking in adoption is the recruitment of a child for the purpose of adoption. A family can be persuaded to pay someone to give their child or children up to be adopted out, or they don't fully understand what adoption is and people take advantage of that. They are somehow bribed or persuaded to relinquish their child or children through money or other promises.
In essence, it's a form of kidnapping. As a prospective adoptive parent, you want to educate yourself thoroughly on signs of child trafficking and what red flags to look for. I'll write more about that in another post.
So, when you search out an agency, you want to be certain they have a good track record of doing legal adoptions. You also want to make certain they have solid experience in the country they are working in. Lack of experience can lead to problems or serious delays.
The agency's role is to assist families with adoption. They help you through the process, educating you, guiding you through paperwork, and answering any questions you may have. They also work with the non-government organization (NGO) in the country you're adopting from, exchanging information and making the legal process happen.
When we narrowed our findings down to two agencies, God spoke clearly to me on which one we should go with. We were confident and at complete peace with our choice. We had connected with a wonderful woman there who was the Ghana program coordinator. She is knowledgeable in adopting from Ghana because she and her husband adopted 2 children from Ghana and she had been working with adoptive families for several years.
Things were going very well for several months. We paid our fees. We completed our home study. We were put on the waiting list for a referral. The wait was at least one year just to get a referral. Then another year before they would come home. This is not unusual.
Unfortunately, things started going south with our agency and their ethics were brought into question. I was baffled. This was supposed to be one of the best agencies out there. They had a long track record of being honest and ethical. But, they had some staff changes over the summer we signed on and things seemed to be going downhill.
We then get an email from the Ghana coordinator stating she is resigning. This concerned us a great deal because she was someone we had grown to trust and believed full well that God had put her in our path for such a time as this. And with the agencies ethics already in question, who could we trust?
The next thing we know, we get an email stating the instability of the Ghana program and the agency's need to shut it down, encouraging us instead to choose one of their other programs (or countries) they worked in. This simply was not an option for us. We knew beyond doubt God called us to Ghana.
The next day we receive another email stating that everyone misread the previous email and that the Ghana program wasn't closing, but it was definitely going through some transitions. At this point we were already discussing plans to pull out and adopt independently. The details of the situation began to show themselves and it became very clear that in order for us to pursue an ethical adoption with people we could trust, we had to leave our agency.
So, in September, we pulled out from working with our agency to complete our adoption semi-independently. We aren't at all alone because that trusted Ghana coordinator? Yea, she works with some pretty amazing people on the Ghana side and they all agreed to help some families complete their adoptions. Us included.
Changing things up in this way moved us from being number 24 on the waiting list with our agency to being number 4 on a new list of families who were compelled to leave that same agency.
Over the weeks some more issues unfolded with that agency and God just confirmed over and over that we did the right thing by leaving.
I admit, this did make my husband and I raise questions about why God lead us to this agency in the first place. But the answer became more and more clear. He wanted to connect us with the Ghana coordinator there and the people she is working with on the Ghana side. They are very ethical and work to help the children--where international adoption is the very last resort once all other options have been exhausted.
They have an excellent track record and are known and highly respected in Ghana. We have no doubts God has us exactly where He wants us.
Choosing an agency absolutely requires extensive research and lots of prayer. I'll share in the future what exactly you're researching and what kinds of questions to ask a potential agency before signing on with them.
Not all agencies are bad. But it does require quite a weeding out to find those few gems.