The 7 Best Adoption Agencies of 2020

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Social Service

"A longstanding, reputable, and transparent adoption and family services agency with multifaceted pre- and post-adoption support."

Best International: Holt International

"They have child sponsorships in 12 countries, including Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, and more."

Best Large Domestic: American Adoptions

"Lower wait times, more accurate estimates, 24/7 availability, and better social work support are just some of the benefits."

Best for Single Applicants: Alliance for Children

"Depending on the country you’re adopting from, the wait time can be anywhere between less than one year and up to five years."

Best for LGBTQ Families: Adoptions Together

"They have earned a reputation for building families who are part of the LGBTQ community (couples and single applicants)."

Best for Comprehensive Programs: Gladney Center for Adoption

"They require a fee of $55,000, payable in four installments, which covers everything during the adoption process."

Best for Special Needs: Spence-Chapin

"Many of the infants and children in this program have significant medical needs, including ones that require therapeutic or medical interventions."

Adopting a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but it can also be complicated, stressful, and overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to work with someone you trust. Choosing an adoption service, however, is no easy feat.

With countless agencies in the United States, narrowing your focus to ones you want to consider takes time. The good news is many of them have a proven track record of successful adoptions. They also have an abundance of resources and information on their websites that you can look through before making a decision.

When choosing an adoption agency, always go with one that's reputable and licensed. If you’re considering international adoption, make sure the agency is Hague-accredited. (The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry/international adoptions.)

Here we cover the ins and outs of the best adoption agencies, sharing the requirements to work with them, what they look for in a candidate, how much you can expect to spend, and how to know if an adoption agency is the right choice for you.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Social Service

Children's Home & LSS Adoption & Foster Care

Children's Home & LSS Adoption & Foster Care 

Dr. Judith Eckerle, a pediatrician and director of the Adoption Medicine Clinic at the University of Minnesota Medical School, says one of her top picks is the Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Services (CHLSS) for being "reputable and transparent." CHLSS is a standout adoption and family services agency with multifaceted pre and post-adoption support.

The domestic infant program at CHLSS serves people living in Minnesota, Maryland, and Virginia, while its foster care adoption program only serves individuals living in Minnesota. Its international programs are open to U.S. citizens living across the country and abroad.

CHLSS works with the countries of Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, India, China, and South Korea. If you do not live in one of the states served, the agency can still assist you with placement from one of its international agencies while you work with a group licensed in your state.

When completing an international adoption, it’s not uncommon to use two agencies. Although its domestic program is limited to a handful of states, its overall approach to the adoption process and support for families is outstanding, which is why CHLSS is the best overall adoption agency.

For domestic infant adoption, costs can range from around $15,000 to $22,000, depending on the services you need. International adoption costs can range from about $7,000 to $26,000, depending on the country program.

Best International: Holt International

Holt International

Holt International

As one of the pioneers in adoption, Holt International is another one of Eckerle's favorites. A nonprofit Christian organization, Holt offers both domestic and international adoptions, although it is more known for its international work.

The agency is Hague-approved and has child sponsorships in 12 countries: Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Mongolia, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Uganda. Holt also has multiple programs in place to support families abroad, with local services to assist with family preservation. Its website features a detailed parent eligibility page that lays out all the requirements for each country.

If you’re interested in adopting within the U.S., the domestic option has a unique foster-to-adopt program in the state of Oregon. If you live there, Holt will guide you through the home study and child-matching process for adoption from the foster care system. For families living in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, Holt offers direct infant domestic adoption services. Holt also works with families in other states by using a partner agency to provide your home study.

Costs for adoption range from around $17,000 to $37,000, depending on the country program.

Best Large Domestic: American Adoptions

American Adoptions

American Adoptions

American Adoptions is a fully licensed national agency that is present in every state but New York and New Jersey. Completing more than 300 domestic adoptions each year, American Adoptions has a proven track record for success.

While a national agency may feel too big for some families, there are benefits to going this route. Lower wait times, more accurate estimates, 24/7 availability, better social work support, and more stability are just some of the benefits of choosing a national agency like American Adoptions.

In fact, it’s the lower wait times that make American Adoptions so popular. They advertise a one- to 12-month wait for families from when they join the agency to when they hold their baby.

They also offer adoption disruption insurance, which refunds any lost fees directly back to you (i.e. if the matched birth mother decides to end her adoption plan with an adoptive family). In other words, they have the most secure refund policy.

Costs for adoption range from approximately $40,000 to $50,000.

Best for Single Applicants: Alliance for Children

Alliance for Children

The Alliance for Children

Alliance for Children, based in Massachusetts, provides home study and post-placement services to families living in the states they are licensed, which include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Texas.

However, they can provide birth parents and adoption placement services to clients in all 50 states. Their domestic program does not discriminate on the basis of age (you must be at least 21), race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. And, they work with both single and married applicants.

Alliance for Children also has Hague-accredited international programs in Vietnam, Colombia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Taiwan. Depending on the country you’re adopting from, the wait time can be anywhere between less than one year and up to five years, with Romania having the shortest wait time of three to six months.

Non-married women (of a certain age) are eligible to apply for adoption from Romania, Bulgaria, and Vietnam. Single applicants (no gender specified) can apply to the Colombia adoption program.

Alliance for Children's one downfall is the fees with domestic adoptions costing thousands more than other affordable agencies. To get an approximate cost for domestic and international adoption, contact the agency.

Best for LGBTQ Families: Adoptions Together

Adoptions Together

Adoptions Together

Nonprofit adoption agency Adoptions Together has earned a reputation for building families who are part of the LGBTQ community (couples and single applicants), as well as single-parent families (both men and women).

That said, they do require married couples to be married for one year or have been partnered and living together for two years. The minimum age to adopt is 25; if you are single and adopting an infant that is younger than six months of age, you must be 50 years old or younger, or as a couple, your combined age cannot exceed 100.

In addition to its platform of serving all families, Adoptions Together also offers a sliding scale for fees (in addition to the home study and training) that is based on your gross annual income. At this time, they are only able to work with families residing in the Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virginia region.

At Adoptions Together, costs are determined based on the aforementioned sliding scale and are based on your total gross income. In general, fees can range from about $16,000 to $33,000.

Best for Comprehensive Programs: Gladney Center for Adoption

Gladney Center for Adoption

Gladney Center for Adoption

The Gladney Center for Adoption is a comprehensive, domestic, international, and foster adoption agency with offices in several locations in Texas, as well as Florida, Oklahoma, and New York.

Gladney is a licensed home study provider to families living in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. However, they are able to work with families residing in all states. If you do not reside in one of their home study states, you will be referred to a licensed home study provider in your state of residence.

One important thing to consider with Gladney’s domestic program is their all-inclusive fee, which is different from other agencies. It requires a payment of $55,000, payable in four installments, which covers everything during the adoption process.

Gladney’s International adoption program is Hague-approved and works with China, Colombia, and Taiwan. Their third program, New Beginnings, connects families with children in the foster care system that are immediately available for adoption in the state of Texas.

Domestic adoptions are roughly $55,000, while international adoptions can range from about $27,000 to $32,000, depending on the country program.

Best for Special Needs: Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin is one of the top placement services offering a program for families wanting to adopt a child with special needs.

All of the infants and children that are part of this program are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, and many have significant medical needs, including ones that require therapeutic or medical interventions. In general, Spence-Chapin is looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special needs.

This program is open to families living in any state. That said, you do need a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in your home state. Additionally, they facilitate international adoptions for families across the country and have placement programs in South Africa, Colombia, and Bulgaria.

Spence-Chapin also provides international home study services for families adopting from other countries such as China, Taiwan, Haiti, South Korea, and Jamaica. However, their full-service domestic infant adoption program is limited to families in New York and New Jersey. Spence-Chapin also received the “All Children—All Families” Innovator in LGBTQ Inclusion seal of approval in 2019 for being committed to equality in adoption.

Domestic infant adoption fees are roughly $46,000, while you'll need to contact the agency for more information for international adoption costs. All professional fees are waived for special needs adoptions, but you'll need to speak with the agency about any additional expenses related to home study, travel, post-placement reports, and adoption finalization.

How We Chose the Best Adoption Agencies

With hundreds of adoption agencies around the country, narrowing them down was not an easy task. The agencies we selected came from expert recommendations such as CHLSS, online reviews, and parent testimonies. All of the domestic agencies we listed are reputable and licensed. Additionally, services like Holt International and Alliance for Children, which provide international adoptions, are all part of the Hague Convention.

Finally, we consulted the National Council For Adoption (NCFA). Adoption agencies that are part of the NCFA Member Agency are credible, reliable, and operate in an ethical, transparent manner. Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Services (CHLSS), Holt International, Alliance for Children, Gladney Center for Adoption, and Spence-Chapin are all members of the NCFA.

What Is an Adoption Agency?

An adoption agency is a for-profit or not-for-profit business that assists families with all things related to adoption. Some deal with only domestic adoptions, while others offer both domestic and international adoptions. A reputable, licensed adoption agency understands the adoption process and laws. Since you can complete all of the requirements such as a screening, paperwork, a home study, negotiating the terms of the adoption, and post-placement process, agencies can guide you from start to finish.

“An adoption agency is not only defined by the completion of a successful adoption but also timing, cost, pre-and post-adoption services offered, and your ability to connect personally with the agency and its staff in a way that helps you accomplish your goal of adopting but also meets your other needs and expectations along the way to becoming a parent and after you adopt a child,” says Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption.

How Do I Know If I Should Be Working With Adoption Agencies?

When it comes to adoption, you basically have two choices: Work with an adoption agency, or work with an adoption attorney to do an independent or private adoption. Going the independent route requires you to manage and complete all of the steps in the process, including hiring a state-licensed social worker to conduct a home study and an adoption attorney to facilitate the legal aspect of the process.

If you’re considering an international adoption from a country that is part of the Hague Convention, then you are required to work with an accredited adoption agency. With that in mind, if you’re more comfortable working with one entity (adoption agency) and prefer more guidance, then an adoption agency might be the best choice.

What Requirements Do I Need To Work With Adoption Agencies?

While the requirements in each agency and state vary, in general, for domestic and international adoptions, you must be 21 years or older. “Some requirements are determined by each state in which the family is adopting as part of every state’s adoption code,” says Johnson.

Additional qualifications or restrictions, he says, may be set by the agency, the birth families in domestic adoption, or the country of origin in international adoptions. For example, some agencies require you to be married for at least two years.

What Do Adoption Agencies Look for in Candidates?

“Adoption agencies are not looking for ‘perfect’ people, they are looking for normal people who desire to provide a loving, stable home for a child who is in need of a family,” says Johnson. They’re also looking for observable ways that a family can demonstrate they are a good fit for a particular child.

That said, some do have a Christian focus and strongly recommend that the adopting parents are Christians, while others have strict marriage and age requirements.

How Much Does It Cost to Work With Adoption Agencies?

In general, the cost of international adoptions depends on the country and the agency. For example, Holt International says the estimated total for an adoption from China will cost between roughly $33,000 and $40,000. This includes Holt fees (about $23,000 to $25,000), which make up the majority of the payment, third-party costs, and travel costs. For domestic adoptions, you can expect the fees to average $43,000, with American Adoptions ranging from $40,000 to $50,000.

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