I realize this post will not interest everyone and that's OK. If you start reading and feel it's not for you, feel free to skip right on past. However, I know when I was researching adoption agencies, I sought out these types of stories to help educate me on how to pick ours. I hope knowing how we came to America World will help someone else decide on the right agency for them.
When Steve realized that God had changed his heart regarding adoption, the first thing I started doing immediately was researching agencies and countries. And for those of you not familiar with such things, there are THOUSANDS of agencies. I did just a cursory glance at several whose names were familiar to me. Added to our list Holt International, Children's Hope International and Gladney.
Right away, I realized I would feel more comfortable with an agency who had a strong Christian background. Many agencies are Christian based. Some are more "out front" than others. We added All God's Children International and America World Adoption (at the recommendation of a college FB friend, thanks Jennifer!)
I would have loved to have an agency which was local, but there aren't that many to choose from in this area. There is one in Mt. Juliet called Small World Adoption and it went on our list of possibilities.
We also knew we wanted a fairly large agency. There's definitely something to be said about a small, homey agency, but we wanted one that had been in the business for a long time and had established procedures. Also, I had heard sometimes the larger agencies got referrals faster. Who knows if that's true, but I know it was in some instances and for some countries.
Then, we looked at each to determine if they worked in the countries we were most interested in. That was a short list already. China special needs was our first choice. Then Ethiopia. And finally we considered Rwanda.
And those of you that know me well, probably can guess what came next. THE SPREADSHEET! There was so much information out there for each of these agencies! I figured the best way to keep it all straight and be able to truly compare would be to put all the information in a spreadsheet. So much of the information could be found straight from the agencies' websites. To cut down on the information overload (which is truly an understatement), I didn't request information packets from all of our potential agencies. But once I got all the information down in one place, we quickly started shaking out the front runners.
One of the things that really impressed me were that all of these agency websites had a PLETHORA of information and didn't require me to call or request a packet for information like fees. In addition, I started thinking I favored the agencies who had social workers of their own. If they employ social workers, you don't have to find your own from somewhere else.
We finally narrowed it down to 3 agencies. I ordered info packets from each and started to really delve into not only their websites, but into other review websites. Let me just put a warning out there about adoption agency review websites...if you search hard enough, you will find good and bad reviews on just about every agency out there. Keep that in mind when doing research.
Each of these three agencies sent DVDs with their packets and man oh man. Those videos are super informative and sometimes hard to watch. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Once we had the agencies narrowed down to 3 and had their informational packets in front of us, we decided to make some calls. I reached out to all three.
I had to leave a message with two of the places and then with one, they suggested I send an email. Now, I'm usually all over the email thing. 97% of the time, I'd rather email than call, but we were so close to choosing an agency that I really wanted to talk to someone and I wasn't able to get that immediate gratification with any of them.
That same day, after 5pm, agency #1 called me back at home. I was ultra impressed. However, when I told them about Steve's diabetes, they strongly discouraged me NOT to apply to the China special needs program (which we had decided was our choice). I was devastated because I figured if that agency had a hard time placing diabetics with children in the China program, that it was a China issue and we'd never get placed. She was very insistent that we try and apply for the Ethiopia program. Obviously, that was our second choice anyway, but I couldn't keep myself from being disappointed.
Steve kept telling me not to worry until I heard from the other agencies and if it was meant to be, it would all work itself out. My friend Jamie had told me when you found your agency, you would KNOW. At this point, I was way far away from that.
The next day, I received an email back from the one agency I had to email. And they said they had absolutely NO problem with our situation. And that agency...was America World. When I got that news, I was so excited and finally KNEW we'd found our agency. As for agency #3, they did eventually call back, but it was too late because both Steve and I just knew we'd go with America World.
Here are a few things that I love about AWAA:
1. They employ their own social workers in the state of TN (and some other states).
2. Their scripture of choice was Jeremiah 29:11 which is special to both Steve and I and especially as it relates to this adoption.
3. They are in VA which is on Eastern Time, so they are ahead of us in time, not behind. I don't know why that's a big deal to me, but I like it.
4. Steve Curtis Chapman endorses them. And I love Steven Curtis Chapman. Hey, I didn't say all the reasons I love AWAA are GOOD reasons!
5. They are a well established agency and have brought many families together!
So, that's how we came to choose AWAA as our agency.