Guest post: Why people don’t share their negative experiences with adoption agencies

A friend of mine, Billy, posted this to the Adoption Agency Research group several weeks ago, and I’ve asked his permission to repost it here. It is often difficult for PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) to get accurate information when researching agencies. When Christian and I were researching agencies, I thought I had checked out ADOPPT well enough. I posted to several lists and asked people to share their experiences with me. I got mostly positive responses, one neutral, and hardly any negatives (and the only real negatives were “poor commuication” or vague stories that I thought ADOPPT did an adequate job of explaining). Billy did a great job here of outlining why more people don’t speak out when things go wrong:

When I started the adoption process almost 18 months ago, I did tons and tons of research before choosing my agency. I only received a couple of vague warnings about ADOPPT. I thought they were just a few isolated, tough to satisfy, customers and I chose to go with ADOPPT. For those of you who don’t know, I returned home in May without the two children I was there to adopt due to what I believed to be unethical (if not illegal) activity.

I wish that everyone could publicly speak openly and honestly about agency information and/or their experiences with an agency. Until that time comes, please understand that just because someone does not share the details of their experiences does not mean that their complaints should be discounted. That was my big mistake when I started researching VN adoptions. I thought that if people won’t tell me specifics, I can’t make a decision for myself on whether or not the problems were personal or indicative of systemic problems with the agency. I minimized other people’s problems and warnings because I wanted to believe the good things I was being told.

There could be a variety of reasons why people do not share the details or evidence to support their complaints. Below are the ones I could think of off the top of my head, but, there are probably many more.

1) Adoption can be an intensely personal experience and when things go wrong it can be extremely painful and heart-breaking. Some people may not want to constantly relive those experiences by responding every time someone asks for information about their agency. That may be why some people refer readers to prior posts [on adoption web groups].

2) Some agencies have “gag” clauses preventing clients from speaking negatively about their experiences with the agency. Violating the gag clause could be grounds for the agency to sue the client.

3) If a client using an agency with (or without) a gag clause has not yet completed the adoption or wishes to adopt again down the road, the stakes are that much higher as the agency may decide to not cooperate with the client. I know of one instance where an agency decided to not complete an adoption.

4) If things went wrong, the client and the agency may be involved in legal action (or resolved their problems via legal action), whether in court, arbitration, or mediation that may require confidentiality. Even if the action is not subject to confidentiality, the clients may not want to take speak out for fear it may jeopardize their legal position.

5) If legal action may be coming in the future, it may not be in someone’s best interests to disclose evidence that will be used as that could give the opposing party (the agency) an advantage when the case is tried.

6) Some agencies have sued former clients, and non-clients, claiming they have been defamed. The hassle of a potential lawsuit, even if you know you will win, is enough of a deterrent to some people speaking freely and openly with concrete facts and evidence.

7) Agencies have been known to retaliate against people for speaking out against them. They may spread lies about the person or make outrageous threats. ADOPPT defamed me on another list after I spoke out against them on that list. The defamation consisted of a false statement that I violated and continue to violate the laws of Vietnam.

Please take the time to learn the reasons why you may not find out the details of people’s negative experiences. Please understand that most of us with bad experiences are not trying to hide anything from those seeking information. We have been in your shoes and want to help you not make the same mistakes we may have made, but we are also in different places and need to take into account the possible repercussions if we disclose everything.

Please understand that some people on this board (and other boards) receive the intimate details of the problems, but only on the condition that they not disclose those details for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, those discussed above. In order for these people to retain their credibility and maintain their “sources” of information, they need to keep the information received confidential. The first time they disclose confidential information will be the last time they receive confidential information.

I understand the desire and drive to get the baby you want and get him or her RIGHT NOW! I suggest taking a deep breath, taking a step back, and trying to evaluate each agency as if you were considering them for a friend or close family member, not for yourself. As difficult as it may be, try to take the emotion out of an extremely emotional decision. Don’t ask “will they help me get the child I have always wanted?” Ask “is this the type of organization I would want my closest friend or relative entering into the most important business partnership of their lives with.”

Remember, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

I hope this has been helpful. I know it is extremely difficult, and at times emotionally draining, to choose an agency, but there are good ones out there. I wish you all the best of luck in finding a good agency to bring home your children.

Best wishes,


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