The first big decision that we've had to make as prospective adoptive parents is which agency we're going to use. (Well, the real first big decision was actually to adopt, but I guess that goes without saying!) Before we started, I had no idea how many adoption agencies are out there. Let me tell you - there are a lot.
So where to begin? We were lucky, in that we found out about an annual adoption fair happening locally through Microsoft. It had some "Adoption 101" type sessions, and it had numerous representatives from all sorts of agencies that operate in Washington. So we thought, "great, let's go!" And next thing you know, there we were in November, with probably 20 different agencies staring us down as we walked into the conference room. It was more than a little intimidating for two first-time parents who still weren't quite sure what they were getting themselves into :)
As it turns out, we were able to narrow down our choices pretty quickly. As gay men, we decided that we wanted to do a domestic adoption; while international adoptions are probably possible, the legality of gay parents adopting from foreign countries introduces a whole host of problems that we'd rather avoid. So all those agencies that only do international adoptions: out. Additionally, we were able to nix any Christian agencies; many of them won't place with gay and lesbian parents, and even if they did it would likely still take longer for us to be picked by a birth family. Finally, we knew that we wanted an established agency that employed more than just a handful of people. After all that, we were left with two agencies: Amara Parenting and Open Adoption & Family Services.
After the fair, we did some more research on our own, but we kept coming back to these two agencies. We felt comfortable with both from what we knew of them, and either seemed like it could be a good fit for us. So all that remained was for us to call up the agencies and sign up for their individual informational sessions - finding out more would of course be essential in deciding which agency to use.
In retrospect, I think signing up for Amara's and Open Adoption's info sessions was really when everything started to feel real to me. Up until then, we had gone to a few meetings sponsored by the Microsoft adoption employee group, but we were mostly passive participants at best. Now, all of a sudden, we were taking concrete steps on our own to start moving forward. Even though signing up for the informational sessions was in no way a commitment, it still felt like a big first step.
Next up: our visit to Amara.
Picking Our Agency, Part 2: Amara Parenting
Picking Our Agency, Part 3: Open Adoption & Family Services
Picking Our Agency, Part 4: The Decision