January 25, 2012
Referral time is one of the most exciting times during an adoption and it is also one of the most unpredictable aspects of any adoption. Have you noticed there are families who seem to wait years for a referral while others seemingly find their child overnight? The difference is;
• Desired Child Profile; the range of age, gender and special needs the family is comfortable with, and
• The number of families with similar Child Profiles represented by a given agency
• (And to a lesser degree) The agency’s access to available children and willingness to work hard on behalf of its client
It is important to understand that an agency’s function is NOT to guarantee you a referral, (much less a referral in a particular time period): they facilitate a process with no promise of a result.
In China’s special needs program the referrals are handled though a number of programs and “lists”. As you learned over on China Adopt Online, kids are designated as Special Needs and Special Focus.
In order to adopt from the Special Needs program a family must be already have an LID (log in date) issued by China’s central adoption authority. (In some cases agencies have been known to allow an LID child to be matched with a family that is close to LID, this however is an exception to the general rule.)
Children in the Special Focus program can be matched prior to obtaining their LID. In this case families must prepare and submit a dossier within 6 months of the match.
Regardless of program (SN or SF) children may be listed on what is called The Shared List or an agency’s designated Individual List. The Shared List can be accessed by most agencies while as the name implies the Individual List provides agency (for a period of time) the exclusive right/responsibility to place a given child.
There are more details but that’s the general idea. Now how does that relate to agency selection?
At any given time there are approximately 1,500 kids WAITING for families on China’s Shared list but the sad reality is many of these kids have needs beyond what most potential adoptive parents are comfortable with. If for example you are hoping to adopt an infant girl with a “minor correctable” special need there will be many other families wanting to do the same and depending on your agency your wait for referral could range from one month to more than two years.
More than any other aspect of the process, agency selection is critical to the Referral Phase.
If you are looking to minimize your wait time you need to find an agency that fits the following criteria;
1. Agencies must have access to the Shared List (most do but there are a couple that only work from Designated Agency Lists.) Access to the Shared List PLUS a large Individual List program is ideal. Do they work with specific orphanages where they get to meet children and be the exclusive placing agent? Thats good too!
2. Do they have an operational process that has case workers working through the night when the lists are released? Ask about “list night”. Ask them to describe how they go about matching kids and families? Is it first come first serve, is there a selection committee?
3. Low number of Waiting Families OPEN TO THE SAME CHILD PROFILE YOU ARE. The idea here is to reduce” internal competition”. Think about it, if your case worker has 10 families wanting to adopt children fitting the same profile you will behind those 10 in addition to competing with all of the other families with other agencies wanting to be matched with the same children.
*** I have to advocate here... the vast majority of the 1,500 kids to hit the Shared List each month do NOT fit the “as young as possible girl with minor correctable need” mold. Boys languish on these list, kids that are close to ageing out are here, kids that are over age three are ignored and kids with more serious needs are left behind.
I will share that I was matched with 30 days with The Ladybug. Why so fast? Well yes she was a girl and her special need of cleft lip/palate fit the minor correctable category BUT she was 3 years old. My case worker (with a large agency that has placed more Special Focus kids than any other agency) told me we were only one of two families open to children over age 3. We both got referrals that night
Here are a few key questions I would ask?
1. How many waiting families do you currently have?
2. How many want to adopt children fitting the same profile as us?
3. Over the past 12 months how many children fitting our desired profile have you matched? How long did each of these families wait for a referral, (not an average-they lie)? Can I talk to these families?
There are other ways to match with a child and one way that has recently caught fire in the world of China adoption is to find children through advocacy sites. Just as you have seen me advocate for several children here on Five of My Own (which BTW is how I found baby Butterfly) there are many more advocates working hard to find families for waiting children.
In general these are the kids not matched right off. They are the boys and older kids and kids with more significant needs and occasionally they are simply kids lost in the shuffle or left behind because there simply aren’t enough families wanting to adopt.
In many cases today families are identifying a child first and then finding an agency to help them facilitate the adoption.
A couple of things to keep in mind if you want to go this route;
1. Most agencies will require you to complete a preliminary application of some sort before they will allow you to view a file. This is reasonable and meant to protect the children; HOWEVER, you should not have to pay a fee to do this.
2. Just because an agency advocates for a child does not mean you have to use then to facilitate the adoption. A child on the Shared List can be placed by any SN agency with access to the list.
Here are some Waiting Child advocacy sites you may want visit if you are wanting to find a child to adopt;
Advocate for Waiting Children Yahoo Group
China Adopt Talk Advocacy Board
Sharing Life and Love
Loving the Fatherless
Until They All Come Home
Red Thread Kids
Also most agencies maintain a listing of waiting children and may provide you access to those lists upon request (pending some vetting process).