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An Interview with a Proffesional about Domestic and International Adoptions

This is an interview with Jean Stenzel, President/CEO of Forever Families, Inc., a licensed adoption agency, given by Patricia Bennett. Jean Stenzel is one of the co-founders of the agency located in Novi, Michigan.

She has been working in the social work field since 1989 after completing her Bachelor of Science degree from Lake Superior State University. Jean went on to earn her Masters in Social Work degree in 1996 from Wayne State University. Jean was the main facilitator in the adoption of my son in April of 2000. PB: Is it a lot more difficult to adopt an infant here in the United States than to adopt over seas? JEAN: It can actually be more expensive intead.

Down sides are: expense, there are children in some countries who can be adopted under a year, but not an infant; you have to travel there ? at least one parent ? there are some escort adoptions but not as many as before; social/health history can be very little or sketchy. Up sides are: if you worry about birth parent or future birth family contact; children are waiting for the chance to be in a family; you can choose your child; you don't have to wait to be selected; time ? this process can many times be shorter than waiting for an infant ? that depends on country you choose to adopt from. Another upside is that this pool of adoptive families doesn't fill up and close ? which can happen with domestic waiting family pools.

PB: What about the eligibility necessities between the two? JEAN: Eligibility requirements are very similar; biggest difference is that all your supporting documents must be apostiled, a dossier must be created with these documents and you must complete an immigration process. PB: What is the percentage of U.S.

vs. Overseas adoptions with your group? JEAN: they are almost equal, since we do not do international placements ourselves, we could gauge it by the number of completed home studies. Once we complete the home study the family would go to another licensed agency for placement.

PB: Can you discuss the main differences between Domestic and International adoptions in terms of the wait for placement and costs? JEAN: Waiting itself is probably the main difference between domestic and international adoptions because once your dossier is sent to the country of origin of the child the waiting time can be as little as 3 months to as much as 18 ? 24 months depending on the country. Certain countries such as China only allow a certain number of adoptions per year and the families tend to travel in groups, so it really would depend. Also, in some countries, the wait depends on how old the child is.

For older children, the wait isn't as long as it is for infants. PB: What are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing an agency? JEAN: Comfort, honesty, information they can provide you about their programs, no hidden costs or agendas, availability to families once they become clients. Denise and I believe that choosing an adoption agency is like interviewing a new employee, you want to meet with several to see who is out there and find the fit that's best for your family. As I always tell people, I know we are great and will do a good job, but sometimes we are not the right fit for a family and that is a decision that only they can make by interviewing other agencies.

Also, there are red flags that you should watch out for when interviewing agencies: * Any agency that says they are the "biggest & best" * An agency who says the can guarantee you a time frame. * An agency that has a charge for all types of contact you have with them. * Hidden charges ? this is hard to tell but during an orientation you should be provided with a list of and an explanation of agency charges. * Escrow accounts for birth parents ? money they hold until they use it with no guarantee that they won't spend it or return it. * Pre-application fees ? then will have an additional application fees * How often and how much they charge for home studies, updates, etc. * Won't can't provide you with references * Don't finalize your home study until they can put you in their pool to meet their guaranteed placement time frame they promised you.

* Says they completed the most adoptions of all agencies ? you may want to ask them how many went past the consent hearings ? disruption percentage. PB: For people in the beginning stages of the adoption process, what else do they need to know? JEAN: Mainly go through orientations with agencies before you select one and treat this like a business decision first ? meaning use your head and then when you achieve placement use your heart. Get packets of information from agencies ? get as educated as you can about the process before you begin. Don't expect to have a placement within a certain time frame ? you may never achieve it. It is a process, it does take time and patience ? remember if you were able to give birth it would take at least nine months once you conceived and conception doesn't always take place the first time. Listen to the agency's ideas to keep busy and pay attention in orientation.

PB: Anything else you would like to add? JEAN: Beware of shark like agencies who will take your money first and then take more money later ? sharks only stay in business because of vulnerable, uninformed people who want to make a family so bad they will do anything to achieve it. Parents who come into adoption for infertility issues are a very vulnerable group who can be easily manipulated and taken advantage of if they are not careful. This is why I cannot impress enough on potential adoptive couples to treat this like a business transaction ? you would not blindly follow someone who was building your house or selling you a car ? yes children are humans and they do need families to call their own, but not every one out here who are placing children are not good people and are in it just for the money ? that's the reality of it. There are many many good adoptions agencies who put forth good practice, but check us out, all licensed agencies are on the State of Michigan website under licensed child placing agencies; double check on the references provided; Learn all you can about the adoption process. The adoption process can be a long one, patience is important, trust is important and it is with a good adoption agency that it will ultimately be a good process with a miraculous outcome. PB: Thanks for your time and great informtion! JEAN: You're welcome.

P Bennett has a site that's full of information and resources on this subject. You can see Forever Families on the net at

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