Ethics in Adoption FAQ
1. Would WACAP ever conceal a child’s medical, emotional or developmental conditions from an adoptive parent?
Never. Parents always receive all the information WACAP has about a child.
WACAP publicly distributes descriptions of waiting children through our website and various publications, including our Waiting Child Photo Album. These descriptions are brief, for two reasons: (a) to protect sensitive information about the child; and (b) to list a lot of children in limited space. But if you ask about a waiting child, WACAP will privately send you all the information we have, including all known individual needs.
2. Are children adoptable through WACAP legally eligible for adoption and not stolen, sold or improperly relinquished?
Ethical adoptions are at the heart of WACAP’s work. We do everything humanly possible to ensure that our adoptions are legal and the children are legally free for adoption according to the requirements of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. We cooperate fully with foreign governments, and work strenuously to obtain all licenses, certificates, approvals and accreditations required to operate in the countries and states from which we place children for adoption. WACAP never works with unlicensed "adoption facilitators" or "independent adoption agents"; instead, we work directly with government officials and licensed professionals and charities. As adoption pioneers in China, Russia and Romania, WACAP worked to help governments develop ethical and safe adoption procedures before we began placing children for adoption. In our 40 years of experience and more than 10,000 adoptions, not one adoption has been found later to be illegal.
"I actually heard about WACAP while at the park with my 2 1/2-year-old. I met a lady there who had recently adopted through WACAP, and she was very happy with her experience." - Angela
3. What’s the difference between an adoption facilitator and an adoption agency?
A facilitator is not licensed or authorized by the U.S. or foreign government, which means there are no legal standards they must meet and no oversight of their activities. If there are problems, there’s no licensing authority to complain to. Facilitators work on a per-case basis and receive a commission per child. Hence they have an incentive to place as many children as possible. This creates a conflict of interest between protecting the rights of children and birth parents on one hand and maximizing profits on the other.
A reputable adoption agency, by contrast, is fully authorized and accountable for its actions:
- Reputable agencies are licensed and accredited, both in the United States and in the countries placing children for adoption.
- Reputable agencies abide by ethical standards. They take no shortcuts, pay no bribes, work directly with the responsible authorities and document every step of the adoption process.
- Reputable agencies serve children first and parents second.
- Reputable agencies pay their domestic and foreign staff a fixed salary, no matter how many children they place. They provide support to institutions and agencies in the child's birth country to serve children who cannot be adopted.
- Reputable agencies work before, during and after the adoption to evaluate the parents' readiness to adopt, help family members adjust to each other, and track the child's progress after the adoption.
- Reputable agencies provide training and education to prepare families for the challenges of adoption.
4. What precautions does WACAP take to ensure children’s safety after they are adopted?
WACAP thoroughly screens families who apply to adopt a child. Prior to adoption, families must submit to a detailed homestudy and a criminal background check. After the adoption, we require a series of postplacement reports and visits to confirm the well-being of children and families.
5. What safeguards protect parents’ financial investment in a potential adoption?
WACAP fees are not specific to a given child. If you decide not to accept a child whose information is presented to you, you will be asked to consider another child. You will have to wait until another child is identified, but you don’t have to go back to the start of your entire waiting period.
6. Is there any possibility that an agency could make mistakes that would nullify an adoption?
Yes! This is why an adopting family should choose an experienced agency. It’s like any other professional field where know-how matters. The more experience an adoption agency has, the more it can provide expert services to its clients, good work and consistently high ethics and practices to government officials, and mutually trusting relationships to associate agencies here and abroad.
7. Does WACAP bribe foreign officials? Does WACAP use bribes to accomplish its work?
WACAP firmly believes that our work in international adoption can and should be accomplished without bribing foreign officials. WACAP doesn't pay bribes or ask adoptive families to pay them. Our fees include donations to orphanages, but these funds are used to support children, not to line anyone’s pockets.
8. Does WACAP use photos of waiting children on the web? What are the rules?
WACAP strictly follows all the laws of the states or foreign countries we work with during an adoption. With international adoptions, each country has rules governing how and whether waiting children can be shown on the internet, and WACAP strictly adheres to them. WACAP’s secure website does not use children’s real names and indicates only the continent where the child lives.
9. How important is it for an agency to be licensed or accredited?
Being licensed and/or accredited reflects the agency’s long-term commitment to finding adoptive families for children. When an organization seeks licensing, it must prove to the licensing body that it has standards of operation in place. Becoming licensed or accredited also opens up the agency’s business records to scrutiny, which prevents problems due to negligence or purposeful wrongdoing.
Sometimes a country’s licensing or accreditation requirements will change, and adoptions from that country will be temporarily "placed on hold" or "slowed down" while we work to comply with the new requirements. WACAP does not take shortcuts around these compliance issues.
10. How important is the length of time an agency has been handling adoptions or the number of adoptions they’ve handled?
Adoption is a complex process involving a myriad of arrangements and relationships. In international adoptions, the need to translate between two languages makes it even more complex. The longer an adoption agency has been in business and the more adoptions it has handled, the more you can rely on its staff for their knowledge and experience as well as their established professional relationships with authorized domestic agencies and foreign governments.
11. How important is it to work with a nonprofit agency?
There are numerous reasons to work with a nonprofit agency for your adoption:
- Nonprofit agencies have passed a government evaluation certifying that their purpose is charitable. Since they serve the common good, they are exempt from federal taxes.
- Nonprofit agencies are governed by a board of directors, so there are a number of people at the top working to ensure that the agency behaves appropriately.
- People make charitable contributions of funds and services to nonprofit agencies. Some of the work of the nonprofit may be partially underwritten by charitable donations, so the services you receive as an adoptive parent may cost you less.
- Some countries abroad with children who need homes may work only with nonprofit adoption agencies, so if you want to adopt from those countries, you must choose a nonprofit agency.
- WACAP is accredited by the nonprofit Council on Accreditation (COA), a national organization that evaluates nonprofits and gives its "seal of approval" to agencies that engage in COA-defined "best practices."
- A for-profit agency exists to make money for its owners. The decisions and practices of any such agency are guided, at least in part, by the bottom line. In contrast, a nonprofit agency such as WACAP is driven by its vision and mission of doing what is right for children, without any profit motive.
12. What safeguards prevent parents’ names from being shared with a birth family? With mailing lists?
U.S. state laws require confidentiality and prohibit agencies from exchanging contact information between adoptive families and birth parents. Only two circumstances allow birth parents and adoptive families to have contact: (a) domestic "open adoptions," where both parties agree beforehand to share contact information; and (b) after an adopted child reaches adulthood, he/she may petition a court to seek out the birth parents.
WACAP’s records, as well as our database of family information, are private and secure. We never sell mailing lists to third parties. Occasionally we have accepted requests from researchers or respected publishers to send items that will benefit adoptive families on our list—but in those cases we make the mailing arrangements ourselves, so that families’ names are never out of our control.
13. What are the red flags a parent should pay attention to?
The relationship between adoptive parents and their agency should be based on trust, so concealing information—on either side—is always a red flag. Parents should receive information up front about the adoption process and costs, and should receive a child’s information before the adoption takes place. WACAP never offers a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy about a family’s or child’s history. Other red flags include the following:
- rushing the family, e.g., saying that a certain adoption opportunity will not be available unless the family acts now, or especially, pays now;
- requiring the whole fee up front, or threatening to stop the process without this fee;
- not revealing how children come into orphanage care and become eligible for adoption;
- being unable or unwilling to put families in touch with one another for information and support.
14. How can I check out an agency?
- Contact the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., online or by phone at 202-647-4000. Ask if they have any concerns about the international agency you are considering.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of the foreign country you are considering. Ask about specific agencies working in adoption and child welfare in that country.
- Contact the authority responsible for licensing adoption agencies in your home state. Ask about an agency’s status and whether there are unresolved questions or complaints about an agency.
- Ask the agency to put you in touch with parents who have recently adopted children through its program.
- Prospective families are also encouraged to visit adoption advocacy sites, such as RainbowKids or the Dave Thomas Foundation, for information on reputable agencies.