Working with Adoption Agencies in Tennesse
How Do I Choose The Best Adoption Agency For Me?
After considering your options, you may decide that you want to adopt through a private adoption agency.
In that case, the private adoption agency may be your one stop shop for most, if not all, of your adoption services, from adoption preparation to finding an adoption opportunity through finalization. Or, you may plan to adopt privately or already have a child in your home who you want to adopt and you understand that you need an agency to conduct a home study. A home study is an assessment of the family regarding their appropriateness as adoptive parents. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is a state child welfare agency who provides agency services for those adopting children in their care.
If you are adopting a child in Tennessee, you will need to work with an agency, either for full services, including a home study and finding you an adoption opportunity, or just to conduct your home study. A judge may only waive the home study requirement if you are adopting a relative or step child. There is no home study required to adopt an adult.
Selecting a Full Service Adoption Agency
If you plan to hire a full service adoption agency to help you prepare to adopt, find you a child and manage your case, you are about to invest a great deal of time, money and hope. Due diligence is appropriate.
The adoption agency you work with must be a licensed adoption agency in the state where the agency is located. Tennessee has several fine adoption agencies and nearly no real duds. When you venture past the state line, it can be harder to tell if you are working with an ethical and financially stable, licenced agency. Sometimes an agency will go out of business or have their license revoked after families have made initial payments and the money is almost always lost.
Let’s begin with how you got the name of the agency you are sure will be great. Your friends from church or work got a child from them and it was, “fast and easy and she is so very cute.” Certainly, spend some time talking to your friend about the particulars of their experience. That is a start, but it is not due diligence. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.
Begin your due diligence by looking at the agency’s website, but more importantly, Google them and look back in the search 6 or 7 pages, go down rabbit holes and look at adoptive parent message boards. Some unethical agencies will hire internet scrub services to conceal negative information. Also Google their principals, directors and attorneys. Sadly, there are a few nefarious folks who get run out of business only to pop up across the street with a different agency name. You don’t want to be one of the last families who sent an agency $10,000 a week before they were shuttered, and 6 months after the internet rumors started to fly. If you were attracted to this agency due to a particular claim, fast results for example, try to confirm that. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Agencies are usually licensed by the state child welfare agency, the DCS equivalent in the other state. If your internet search looks good, then check with the agency licensing office in the state where the agency is located to confirm that they are licensed as an adoption agency, not to drive or to fix hair, which must be the licenses referred to on some websites that do not otherwise check out. Sometimes the list of agencies licensed by a state is available online. Ask if complaints are available for review in that state. If they are, of course, look. If all that checks out, then call anyone you know in the adoption field or in the geographic location of the agency headquarters to ask if they know of the agency.
If you are comfortable with the agency’s social work standard, ethics, prompt and clear communication, clear and fair billing practices, and you like the agency folks you have spoken with, your due diligence is done. Proceed.
Watch out for entities that look like agencies but aren’t.
The only entity a Tennessean can pay to help you match with a birth parent or child is a licensed child-placing agency. Be very careful to confirm that the entity you are hiring has an “adoption agency license” or a “child-placing license.” See Facilitators for more information on this important point.
Choosing an Agency Just for Your Home Study?
If all you need is a home study, the task is far easier. The cost of a home study is usually $1000-$1500, and the local agencies conducting home studies are all reasonably professional and ethical. So your due diligence burden is far less.
You need a licensed Tennessee adoption agency close to you or who has a contract worker in your area. You can pick any licensed child-placing agency authorized by the Department of Children’s Services to conduct home studies. Licensed clinical social workers working independently may conduct home studies as well, but they must go through the agency licensing process first.
Choosing the “right” agency to do your home study is a personal process. It is a great help if you feel comfortable with the person performing the home study. If you are seeking to adopt through more than one method, you might find that one agency will not accept another’s home study and you must have it redone. So changing or adding agencies can result in having more than one home study.
You can select or avoid an agency based on religious affiliation or lack thereof, price, friendliness, convenience to your home, expected turnaround time, referral from a friend, whatever. If you are a same sex family, a family without religious faith or of a faith other than Chiristian, you will want to avoid agencies that are not welcoming to you. It remains legal for private adoption agencies to have faith based tests for parent approvals, but there are Tennessee agencies who do not. Agency’s policies may be on their website and are often known in the adoption community. Dawn helps her clients find a good match upon request.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services normally only conducts home studies for families adopting children out of their care. But indigent, adoptive parents can ask a court to order DCS to conduct their homestudy for no change, because they can’t afford the fee of a private agency. Some private agencies will also offer a lower fee based upon family need, upon request.
East Tennessee Agencies Who Conduct Home Studies
This is a partial list.
Harmony Family Center
118 Mabry Hood Rd., Suite 400
Knoxville, TN 37922
Destiny Adoption & Consulting Services
13047 Kingston Pike
Farragut, TN 37934
Adoption Promises, Inc.
P.O. Box 654
Smyrna, TN 37167
Bethany Christian Services
318 Erin Drive, Suite 10
Knoxville, TN 37919
State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
Office of Child Welfare Licensing
UBS Tower, 7th Floor
315 Deaderick Street
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 532-5640
The state’s 2020 list of all Tennessee licensed child-placing agencies and their fee schedules: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/dcs/documents/licensing/TN_Adoption_Fee_Schedule.pdf
Dawn is Ready to Help with Your Unique Adoption Case
For over 30 years, Dawn has been an adoption and child-welfare advocate nationally and in Tennessee. She knows where the system is working and the places that it is not. She offers her frank assessment to policymakers (Public Outcry), and sometimes they listen. She has drafted and passed many child-welfare bills in the Tennessee Legislature, founded, encouraged and supported advocacy organizations, educated lawyers and judges on good practice, and pointed out places that we can do better for our children, openly and behind the scenes at every opportunity. To see what Dawn has been up to recently visit her Legislative Blog.
Dawn represents families in most types of adoption and termination of parental rights cases. She also frequently consults with foster parents. Her time is increasingly dominated by writing, training, consulting, and meditating, so she can’t take every case with merit. She continues to take almost all uncontested adoptions, like agency and DCS cases and relative adoptions with consent or where the other party is unlikely to contest. Even when she can’t take a case, a consultation permits Dawn to share her experience about whether it is the right time to file a case, and if so, exactly what and where to file, and to create a litigation plan. She even suggests possible lawyers to complete the case.
If a termination of parental rights case is already underway, Dawn can also consult with one party or mediate for all parties but of course, not both.
If you want to talk with Dawn about your case: please contact Angela Cameron, paralegal, for information on Dawn’s availability and to schedule an appointment.