Yesterday we were exchanging DMs with a hopeful parent on Instagram when she asked: What’s the difference between a self-matching website like ours and an adoption agency?
She’s working with an agency and was concerned that posting her profile on our site might create a conflict with her agency. She was likely also wondering why, if she was already working with an agency, she would need a self-matching service at all.
If you’re hoping to connect with an expectant mother (or parents) considering adoption through private domestic adoption, you might be asking yourself the same question. Before we compare the differences and the pros and cons of using an self-matching adoption service versus an agency, let’s go through what each one is and offers.
Adoption Agencies Provide A Variety of Services
Most hopeful parents are familiar with licensed adoption agencies and how they work. Agencies are essentially “one-stop” shops that offer services, guidance and support for every stage of your adoption journey—from the initial home study to the finalization of the placement.
Not all agencies are alike, of course. Some are national, others regional. While some will navigate you through the entire process, others offer more la carte-style services–a bit of this, a bit of that– based on your needs, budget and timeline.
For instance, they’ll do your home study but not your profile marketing. Or they’ll offer counseling but leave all of the legal stuff to your attorney.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Help You Connect With Expectant Parents
A self-matching service, on the other hand, typically only helps with you one part of your private domestic journey (or, as it’s often called, “open adoption” or “independent adoption.”). But for many hopeful parents, it’s the most challenging part: finding a match with an expectant mother.
Because until you find a match and the expectant parents complete all of their counselling, legal work and sign off on their parental rights, you’re not a parent. You’re a waiting parent. Or, as you may find yourself thinking about yourself some days, you’re just waiting.
Most waiting or hopeful parents turn to a self-matching adoption service because they want:
- to find a match cheaper
- to find a match faster
- more control over the matching process
All are possible. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Let’s go through the reasons one at a time.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Help You Find A Match Cheaper
Depending on whose figures you look at, adopting through a licensed adoption agency can cost about $40,000 and up. Most agencies do a great job. And given how complicated adopting a baby can be, it sure is nice to have someone else do all the tough stuff for you! But not everyone can afford those fees.
Self-matching adoption, whether it’s through word of mouth or a service like ours, can save you money–especially if you find a match quickly. But, given how unpredictable adoption can be, that’s a big “if”. We’ll get to that in a sec.
In regards to how much money you can save, that’s also anyone’s guess. It depends on the speed at which you make a connection, the situation itself, and how smoothly it all goes. Each situation is unique, with lots of moving parts, so it’s hard to make generalizations. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s try!
One thing you can say for sure about using a self-matching adoption website is that it will allow you to tap into a larger pool of expectant parents. While some smaller agencies only deal with expectant parents locally or regionally, an online self-matching service will give you a chance to get your profile in front of folks from all across the country. And that includes expectant parents and their friends and family.
If you are thinking of self-matching adoption, we’re not the only kid on the block. There are a host of other web services and each one has its own distinct features. One of the things that sets our site apart is that we’ve been around for 10 years. That may sound like a boast, but it’s actually a benefit, especially for search engines like Google.
Over the last decade, we’ve built up a blog archive of 500+ articles, many of which cater specifically to expectant parents looking at placing their baby for adoption. And, while we’re bragging, we might as well point out that we’ve also got a social media presence of 30,000+ followers scattered across four different networks.
Both have helped us get into Google’s good books, and in return Google has rewarded us with a higher ranking in its search results, especially for queries related to profiles, placements and other topics regarding expectant parents.
Newer self-matching sites can help you too but if they lack an established track record and don’t have Google’s seal of approval, which takes time to build, expectant parents will have a harder time finding them.
So that’s something you might want to consider when you’re looking at an agency and whether it has the kind of marketing heft you’re looking for or when you’re exploring other self-matching services and deciding which one is right for you.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Help You Find a Match Faster And Easier
Connecting with expectant parents with an adoption plan is part science, part luck. A good profile helps. But so does being in the right place at the right time. And the more outreach you do the better your chances are of finding a match.
Self-matching doesn’t replace the work of your agency. It builds on it. Most agencies would probably love you to do your own outreach. It takes some of the burden off them and reduces their marketing expenses.
The other big reason you may want to join a self-matching website even if you are working with an agency is that outreach may not be their strength. They may be good at other things, when when it comes to spreading the word about you online, they may not have the expertise, resources or budget to promote your profile properly.
An agency’s focus is on the agency, not on you. Nothing wrong there. They need to survive, just like the rest of us. You, on the other hand, if you’re hoping to adopt, your focus is totally on you and on your efforts to build your family. And you’ll always go that extra mile to succeed, which brings us to the next point.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Give You More Control
Self-matching shifts control of your adoption journey from an agency and hands to you and the expectant parents. You call the shots. As the hopeful parent, you’re responsible for coordinating everything: your home study, attorney, profile, marketing, as well as all of your and the expectant parents counseling and legal work — the whole kit and caboodle. (Do people still use that expression?!)
That’s great if you’re the type of person who likes to take on more responsibility and be in the driver’s seat. You have a say over everything you do and every stage of the process.
If you want to create your own social media accounts, produce a video, launch a Google ad campaign, sign up with an adoption consultant, or even use the expression “kit and caboodle” in your profile (if you want to stand apart, we highly recommend it!), you can. There’s nobody there to stop you. You are the master of your adoption universe.
Those are some of the good things about self-matching adoption. I guess you know what the next part is: the pitfalls and risks. There are a lot of pros to self-matching. But there are also a fair number of cons. To make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you, you need to weigh both sides.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Be More Costly
If you run into a problem (e.g. a scam) or a complication (a medical or legal issue with the expectant parents) self-matching could wind up being very, very expensive. More expensive than an agency adoption. At least with an agency, you’ll know that the expectant parents have been vetted and screened before being presented to you. for you,
Again, no guarantees they’ll go through with their plan. But it does inspire confidence and lets you know that you’re heading in the right direction.
With a self-matching site there is more potential for fraud. No matter what kind of safeguards a service has in place or how much they boast about “safe” and “ethical” matches, scammers can always find a way around them. That’s why they’re scammers!
At the end of the day, self-matching adoption websites are simply a platform, similar to an online bulletin board. They can bring people together but the rest is up to you. Once a match is made, it’s out of the self-matching service’s hands and up to the stakeholders—the adopting parents, the birthparents, and their adoption specialists–to ensure that the adoption proceeds safely and ethically.
Self-Matching Adoption Can Take More Time
Self-matching takes a lot of time, input, thought and emotional energy—more so than if you’re working with an agency. After all, you’re in charge of everything—the good parts and the bad ones. If you’re not up to creating a strong profile, don’t have a website, or aren’t good at spreading the word about your adopting plans regularly through a variety of outlets and then dealing with all of the responses that come out of it by yourself, self-matching may not be for you. Or you could be waiting a long time.
Our profile service can help you reduce some of the costs by creating and marketing your profile for you, but you still need to promote it yourself through your social media accounts, word of mouth, Google ads, etc. Plus, you’ll need a thick skin to deal with all of the queries that come your way, whether it’s a scammer with too much time on her hands or a 16-year-old boy from the other side of the world who’s looking to be adopted.
And don’t forget, just like in an agency, you’ll be going up against a lot of other wonderful hopeful couples, families and singles. That’s why it’s important to make sure your letter and photos stand out and show you in the best possible light.
Quick bonus tip: If you have the option to post 10, 20 or 30 photos on a self-matching website, take advantage of it and don’t post 3. Photos are usually the first thing expectant mothers look at. You never know what will grab their attention and create that instant connection. So don’t underestimate the power of photos.
Self-Matching Adoption Is Riskier
We touched on this point earlier, but we can’t emphasize it enough. Self-matching is only one part of the process. You still need to get your adoption finalized by going through all the counselling and legal work—not only for you, but also for the expectant parents.
Sometimes, in their zeal and vulnerability to adopt a baby, hopeful parents will rush through the process and forget that expectant parents are people too, with their own set of rights and responsibilities. And one of those rights include changing their mind and parenting. That can happen with an agency too, of course, but they have specialists who can help you process your loss and move on.
And we haven’t even gotten to the topic of adoption advertising and the legal restrictions around it in certain states, which is another issue you need to consider if you’re planning on going it alone.
If you find the self-matching process too overwhelming or your desire to have a baby is clouding your judgement, forcing you to make silly or costly mistakes, you might want to consider hiring an adoption consultant. They can guide you through the process step by step and explain all of the ins and outs.
Just keep in mind that while adoption consultants can walk you through all the steps and put you in touch with other specialists who can help you, unlike agencies they can’t carry out the adoption services themselves nor are they regulated.
Let’s leave it there for now. If you’re new to adoption or self-matching, there’s a lot to absorb. The aim of this piece isn’t to confuse you with all of the pros and cons or talk you out of self-matching but to make sure you go into it with open eyes and an open heart. Rest assured there are many ways to maximize your chances for success and avoid pitfalls.
Hundreds of hopeful parents do just that every year and go on to have successful adoptions. Just check your Instagram feed and you’ll see what we mean. But that’s another topic for another day.