When it comes to choosing an adoption agency, does size matter?

We chose this particular blog title intentionally, of course. Because Abrazo is big on humor, and having been founded in a state made famous for a movie starring Dolly Parton and the late Burt Reynolds, we often refer to Abrazo as the “best ‘lil adoption agency in Texas.”

If you’re unaware of what musical was about, then you can learn the true story about Texas’ famed Chicken Ranch here. (Helpful hint: it ain’t about poultry.) Edna Milton Chadwell, the last proprietress in real life, had herself been a teenage mom forced into an unhappy marriage, instead of adoption, and she fell into her line of work when her baby died and her marriage failed. (Edna passed away just eight years ago today, when Abrazo was already the age of some of her “soiled doves,” as Chicken Ranch workers were once referred to.)

Here’s how Abrazo stacks up, size-wise: we are more of a boutique agency, rather than an adoption superstore. We do one thing, here– open adoption– because that’s what we specialize in, and that’s what we do best, as a result. We have a small staff who take a genuine and lasting interest in each child adopted here. We’re not “in it” to turn a profit, since we’re truly a nonprofit agency, and we don’t have a million dollar endowment, like some of the big national agencies with which we compete.

So when we counsel prospective clients who wonder how size matters, we encourage them to also consider very carefully the amount of heart and soul an agency invests in its work and the people it serves, not just when fees are due, but for decades to follow.

How Does Size Matter in Adoption Agencies?

We couldn’t help but think of the question “Does size matter?” when we opened an email from an adoption marketing firm (yes, there really is such a thing) pitching their not-inexpensive services. Obviously, they do have their own bills to pay, yet they sound a very real alarm about what size (and budgetary advantages) mean in adoption nowadays:

Now, in 2020, a handful of the largest agencies have a national digital marketing footprint. Their efforts in embracing digital have been disruptive, to say the least. With borderless marketing campaigns and monthly budgets over $20k, they’ve all but silenced many adoption organizations. (Source: Greg Phelps, CAIRS)

This is what makes the ongoing support of Abrazo’s clients so very crucial. Abrazo cannot possibly afford a monthly Google Ad buy of $20k or more, of course. We rely heavily on referrals and contributions from our clients and alumni, and on our faithful followers, whose online support has helped make ours the largest social media footprint in South Texas.

Budgetary constraints are a very real issue for adoption agencies of any size, especially in a culture in which infant placements are increasingly becoming a rarity. Larger adoption agencies have much bigger marketing budgets, true. Yet this does not guarantee better services, nor improved adoption outcomes, sadly.

Every adoption program, whatever its size, is only as good as the people it serves and the people that serve them. Get to know the people, and you’ll know whether the size of the program will truly fit your need(s), or not.

How to Choose the Right Adoption Agency Size For You

For placing parents, choosing an adoption agency that is smaller and closer to where they live offers greater advantages, provided the agency staff is caring, the adoptions are open and there is an adequate selection of diverse adopting parents. Birthparents are all too often forgotten by bigger adoption agencies after placement. Choosing an adoption agency small enough that you know every staff member and every staff member knows every client is a huge advantage for the average parent who is placing.

Adopting parents are more inclined to select bigger, national adoption agencies, thinking the agency size will surely avail them of more placement options, but often the inverse is true. Thousands of adoptive families who’d paid exorbitant fees to Independent Adoption Center found this out the hard way, when that national agency went out of business without advance notice in 2017. Reportedly, IAC went bankrupt due to bankruptcy. Smaller agencies tend to offer greater accountability, along with lower fees.

Always start by checking out the agency-licensing record for any adoption resource you are considering, and if it’s not a licensed adoption agency, don’t use it. Licensing records are made public for good reason, and it’s worth your time and effort to investigate these thoroughly. This is where you can look up records for any licensed adoption agency in Texas, including ours: txchildcaresearch.org. (P.S. You’re welcome!)

How to Measure What Matters Most

There’s one iconic song Dolly Parton recorded which always comes to mind when we remember the movie referred to above. The chorus is a lullaby that could be sung by any birthparent or adoptive parent to any adoptee, and it goes like this:

“I hope life will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all that you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy and I wish you happiness
But above all this I wish you love
I love you, I will always, always love you…”

Truly, adoption is built of love. So the one area in which size does matter is when it comes to everyone’s love for the adoptee, and everyone’s commitment to each adoptee’s rights. Because in the end: it is the adoptee to whom everyone is ultimately accountable. (Remember this, then, when exploring which adoption resource is truly trustworthy?)

Because if you’re asking “does size matter?” when considering adoption, it’s the breadth of any adoptee’s understanding of the choices made for him/her that ends up being the most important measure of all.

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