When Agencies Close
Everyone in the adoption community is aware that over the past several years there have been fewer and fewer placements of infants in the United States.† There are many reasons attributed to this.† One is the availability of abortion on demand at any stage of the pregnancy. Another is the general society acceptance of single parenting, which was not the case decades ago.† That said, adoption agencies, especially big ones with large overhead, are increasingly unable to sustain themselves and they are closing their doors.† One by one, we have seen many multi-state agencies shut down over the past five years.
The most disturbing aspect of these closures is that many donít give any warning, but simply post it on their website, send letters through bankruptcy attorneys, or just disappear.
A very large agency based in Concord, California, with offices in Sacramento and Los Angeles and satellite offices in many other states has closed their doors with no warning to adoptive families.
A press release issued by the agency was posted on their website:
This agency is reputed to have had 500+ families waiting.† There is no way to know the exact number, but at one point, there were 400 listed on their website, which is now unavailable.† Those families have no way of contacting each other to share information, other than social media.† They are all over the nation.† One family in Indiana was profiled on their local news.
The reporter indicated that $11,000 was invested by the adoptive family.† That isnít surprising, as agencies must typically take advertising fees up front, in order to advertise for and locate expectant parents considering adoption for their child.† But once closed, adoptive families have no access to that advertising or any contacts that come from it, so they are back to square one in their search.
On the heels of IAC announcing their sudden closure, Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption announced they were winding down their services, intending to close in a gentler manner by June.
They have been in service nearly 40 years. Again, finances was cited as the reason.
Another large agency closed in 2015 in Utah when the owner was cited and the agency lost its license.
† While it appears that this particular agency had ethics issues to begin with, finances seemed to be at the root of what was going on.† A shortage of birth mothers and adoptable babies is impacting agencies (and thus, adoptive parents) around the country.
What responsibilities do agencies have to their clients and birth mothers, past and present?† This article† has some good points.
Licensed agencies are required to keep records that should be administrated by someone after they close their doors.† This is a gray area and is different in each state.† It would be beneficial for the Federal Government to develop some guidelines that would pertain to all agencies across the board and across the nation, so that records are not lost and there isnít an everyone-for-himself situation when an agency closes.
How can you protect yourself?†
Missouri agencies are required to have a reciprocal agreement with another agency to take over files in case of closure in order to receive their license. Ask your agency what their plans are if they close.† Large agencies arenít always the best option.† They have huge overhead and large staffs to provide for and this can make them top heavy in the event that they go through slow times, especially when the slow times stretch out over years.
You may ask for a copy of your own file, which you should be able to retain for your records, after the adoption has been completed.† If you are involved in a closed or semi-closed adoption, however, this may not give you all of the information you need to move forward after an agency has closed. Agencies are required to maintain the confidentiality of their clients, so portions of your birth family's information or situation can be redacted, and vice versa if you are a birth parent requesting your file.
Be more open to direct contact with birth mothers and fathers.† This is really whatís best for everyone and will prevent you losing contact.† Those people who chose to have contact only through an agency may lose contact once an agency closes if there are no safeguards in place.† You canít assume that you will have access to your information, so be pro-active on your own behalf.† If you donít know your birth mother and she doesnít know you, there is no way to re-connect. This applies to those who are currently matched but not placed. What if your agency closes in the middle of your match? If your agency was your only source of contact between you and your expectant parents, you may lose that match if your expectant mom can't reach you directly.
It may be beneficial to contact your state licensing board, as well as the one in the state of your agency (if different) to find out what safeguards they have in place in the event of an agency closure if you are not aware of those laws.
No amount of due diligence can foresee everything, especially in times such as these, where the adoption landscape is changing drastically.†† In the meantime, you can do your best to protect yourself and your resources by asking questions in advance and being your own advocate when you are choosing an agency and making your adoption plan.† Donít be discouraged Ė be empowered.