While researching adoption, I have read blog after blog, website after website, comparing people's experiences with different agencies (note the "I" - DH has not participated in this much, but that is slowly changing). I think I have it narrowed down to about four. As it happens to be, none of them are even in our local area, which hopefully will not be a big deal. One of the agencies that I'm seriously considering, CAWLI, is at least on the Eastern seaboard.
I still wanted to physically attend an agency's orientation session, so DH and I attended Gladney's information session in Manhattan. One of the reasons I chose Gladney was because the session was free. Listen, when I have to DRIVE to Manhattan, and shell out at least $25 for parking, and basically listen to what amounts to a SALES PITCH by the agency (and then, naturally, I want to eat out in the city), why should I pay them for the privilege? If I choose them, they'll be making money off of me eventually. Are there so many potential adoptive parents attending sessions that the agencies have to charge to weed out the uncommitted ones by charging $25 per person?
I don't think that last part is true, as there were only about 10 couples and one single woman at Gladney's International Adoption session, held at the in Manhattan. They presented information about several countries. I think they were China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Columbia and possibly one other country. My DH and I had to be one of the youngest couples there (we're both in our early 30s), except for one Chinese couple who looked to be quite young (but I'm assuming they were at least 30, China's age requirement, unless they make an exception for adoptive parents with Chinese ancestry).
By far, the Chinese presentation was the most popular, followed by Guatemala.
What makes Gladney different?
1. Their adoption training sessions are done one-on-one with the adoptive parent/couple. You don't have to wait for enough couples who are proceeding with adoption to get together for training sessions, and you don't have to sit thru ENDLESS STUPID QUESTIONS. People were literally asking questions like "So why does China have so many baby girls for adoption?". HELLO! I knew the answer waaaayyyy before I even contemplated adoption. Do these people live under a ROCK? I was sitting there trying not to roll my eyes too much, worried that it might not make a good impression on the presenters ;).
2. They travel with small groups (at least to China - my impression of other countries is that couples travel by themselves). If you've ever been on some part of tour group (or say, a school trip), trying to get a large group together at the same time can take way too much time. Especially waiting for all the women to get out of the bathroom ;). Imagine travelling to China with 20+ other couples, plus some translators and agency representatives, and THEN add in 20 babies. To me, that is just MAYHEM. They typically go to China with about 9 couples probably at least once a month.
3. Gladney has employees in each country where they have adoption programs, so that there is always someone there checking things out, working with orphanages and governmnent agencies. Nice plus. I have no idea if any other agencies do this. Apparently this is most important in Guatemala, Columbia and Russia.
4. If, for some reason, the adoption program in the country you are applying to falls apart (i.e. Gladney's recent pullout from the Ukraine program), they will immediately transfer you over to another international adoption program of your choice, trying to expedite it. The same applies to failed domestic adoptions - they'll switch you over to an international program if you are interested.
5. They seem to be pretty affordable. Approximate adoption costs from China are $15, 315, which supposedly includes everything. But not travel expenses.
6. Their homestudys are mercifully brief. We're talking one session only, of about 4 hours (I only have to scour the house once! Yay!).
The bad part? They don't travel with a physician. Yes, you can find excellent medical care in China. But go thru something like Karen and Scott are (Journey To Gwen), and you will be very, very happy to have some sort of doctor in your group. I'm not sure how many agencies *do* have a physician travelling with the group, but I know that some do.
Next we have to talk to CAWLI and possibly one more agency. We'll see.