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Saturday, November 18, 2006
How to select an agency
With all of my research tools in hand I began the hunt for an agency. I read agency site after agency site after agency site. I sent email requests for further information from those that I thought would work for us. I scoured internet message boards for those that had impeccable reputations. I sent inquiries to some of the bigger agencies. I received packet in the mail. Some were very simple. A few bits of information about the agency, a sample fee schedule. One agency even sent us this very professional packet with a DVD in it and everything. Slowly but surely we began to rule them out.

In the backs of our minds was this thing called accreditation. Sounded fancy and important. Little did we know how much of an impact this little word would make on our lives.

Fancy packet agency was Christian, but were not accredited.
Big Agency #1 had the highest fees out there.
Big agency #2 required families to fly to Pittsburgh to be interviewed before they would be accepted.
Big Agency #3 had a large application fee before ever being accepted.
Big Agency #4 never really told us what their fees were.
Local Agency #1 didn't do homestudies for our area
Local Agency #2 had a bad rep on the boards
We attended an info seminar for Local Agency #3. The lady who ran the seminar was new to the agency and didn't know anything about international adoption let alone Russia. She kept trying to push US foster care adoption. We walked out thinking we knew more about Russian adoption than the agency lady.

Then there was small agency #1. They were mentioned over and over on various message boards. There was never a negative remark about them. I used the contact form at Adopting from Russia and inquired about this agency. I got a nice reply from a few happy clients. The sung the praises of this agency. So I sent an inquiry to the agency. I asked for an info packet. The email I received back stated that they didn't send out info packets, but here were the answers to some of our questions. The contact invited us to join their weekly chat to talk with other families in the process. We made a date for that Thursday to see what this chat was all about. We still have a regular date every Thursday night a 6:00pm.

We were impressed with this agency. Their fees were reasonable, the director was nice through email, they were accredited, they only worked in Russia, they had an impeccable reputation, and what's more... they worked in Khabarovsk.

Any one who has read our story from the beginning knows that we have friends in Khabarovsk. CS's mom (and I) did some work with an organization called "To Russia with Love." They worked to send medical supplies to Khabarovsk post soviet. They did a type of exchange program with Doctors, business women and children's choir. Representatives from Khabarovsk came here for conferences to learn about the US style of business, practicing medicine and sharing culture. It is a part of my life I will never forget. Through that CS's mom hosted a doctor, a music director and became friends with the Russian woman who ran this organization. So to hear that we could be possibly be adopting our child from Khabarovsk was simply amazing to us.

CS and I scheduled a conference call with the agency director. She has a very thick Russian accent and for someone who is hard of hearing (me) she was difficult to understand. However, we got the gist that Russian adoption was not easy. She made that point very clear. Despite this we jumped in. We asked that she send us the formal application and once that was approved we signed the contract.

The agency we selected: Alaska International Adoptions. To this day we stand by our decision. We would not trust the process to anyone else. They are amazing!

What criteria did we use to select our agency?
  • Accreditation. This agency is directly accredited with the Russian government. No umbrellas
  • Upfront on costs. Olga outlined the fees and said they will not change once we signed our contract. They never did despite the fact that we had to make 3 trips.
  • Reasonable costs. Russian adoption is expensive. Very Very Very expensive. Our final adoption cost was close to $42K +. But remember we traveled to Russia 3 times. The 3rd trip tacked on close to $10K (with airfare, visas, hotel, food, and additional paperwork) The agency fees themselves were reasonable or on par with many of the other agencies
  • No huge upfront costs. We didn't pay any big money until we were back from trip 1.
  • Spotless reputation. AIA was the only agency out there we could find that didn't have a single negative comment.
  • Honesty. From day 1 Olga was honest with us. She told us it would be hard. She didn't lie. We trusted her with the life of our child. We have her to thank for the life of our child.

Up next: Live and Learn... the hunt for a social worker.
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Established March 19, 2006