I have been fairly private about the adoption agencies we have used, mostly because each person has a different experience and my praise might not mean our agency is the right one for your family.
With our first adoption, we were rather naive. We figured, if an agency has "Christian" in its name, it must be good, right? (Turns out they were VERY expensive in comparison to other agencies. Granted, the fees were higher because they employed more people and did a lot of advertising, but later, I learned how unimportant and unnecessary that really is). I also didn't get a call back from one agency, which I found out later, would have cost less money. After waiting for about six months with our first agency, I started researching secondary agencies. I researched many agencies in our state, but I came up with nothing. I also looked into waiting with attorneys, but again, I wasn't all that impressed. So I started researching agencies in neighboring states.
Eventually, I found THE one for us. We liked them because one, they were a small agency that had reasonable fees. They seemed to be ethical and Christian (Christian doesn't always equal ethical, sadly!).
The second agency (not our home-state agency) was the one that placed us with Miss E.
With our second adoption: We chose a home agency (a non-Christian agency) that had very reasonable fees, an excellent social worker (who knows her stuff!), and could provide us with a well-detailed homestudy. We then, without hesitation, joined our secondary agency (out of state). As you recall, this adoption journey went very quick!
You might be thinking, How the heck do I choose an agency?
I think, especially if you're adopting for the first time, that the best way to get started is to first get educated on adoption. You can't possibly know what questions to ask if you don't understand what you are asking about. Read, read, read. Talk to adoptive families. You can check out this guide as a starting point. (Just remember, most adoptive families who get a placement RAVE about their agency, but you should suspect they are raving because they got a baby, not because the agency was extraordinary).
Then, generate a list of questions to ask agencies as you call them. Remember that adoption isn't all about us as the adoptive parents. You want to find out how they treat expectant moms and birth parents. Do they provide support after the placement for you, as the adoptive couple, and to the birth parents?
Sit down with your spouse and discuss the pros and cons of each agency. Obviously, cost is a major factor for some couples. Other important questions we asked included: Do you allow us to work with more than one agency? What types of "networking" do you encourage (which told us how ethical the agency is)?
A red flag for us was unavailable social workers. If it takes forever to get a response (like the agency we called that never called us back!) Adoptive families should know that social workers are often overworked and underpaid. They are BUSY. But, they should respond in a reasonable time frame based on the question or concern they are presented with. Remember that when it's your turn to be placed with a baby, you want that SW's full attention. You don't want him/her answering less-important questions. So, I think it's important to ask your SW, what is the best way for me to reach you and at what point do you wish for me to contact you a second time (and how?) if I don't hear back in a few days?
Also, read the agencies literature (online, brochures, etc.). If they are always pumping up adoptive parents but constantly tell birth mothers/expectant mothers how adoption is SO much smarter/better than parenting, think again. A woman in a crisis pregnancy isn't going to be a bad mother by default.
Ultimately, you are paying big bucks for a service and a process. You will have your agency in your life for a significant period of time, if not forever should you continue to work with them in order to communicate with your child's biological family members. So be demanding, diligent, and most of all, prayerful in your decision. It's a BIG deal.
So, it's with all this that I tell you, with our second adoption, our primary agency was Lutheran Child and Family Services. Our secondary agency for our first and second adoptions, which placed us with Miss E and Baby E, is The Light House in Kansas City, MO. AND, I'm pleased to share with you that LH is having a community baby shower. I LOVE that LH helps support moms who choose to parent their babies. :)
Note: I have not been paid in any way to tell you about these agencies. I'm also not recommending that any reader use these agencies. Remember----each situation is very different.
Good luck choosing an agency!