1. Know where your money goes-all of it. Do you want to make sure you are not trafficking a child? Do you want to make sure you are not buying a child? Do you want to make sure you are not taking a child from a family that wants that child? One big way to help prevent these atrocities from happening is to follow your money. It is not enough that an agency tells that a big lump sum of money is "on-ground fees". You can and should know how all that money is being spent on the ground.
If they tell you that $3000 is used for an orphanage donation (originating/referring orphanage). Then ask them how they know that money is being used for the orphanage. Ask them to see the receipts from the orphanage. Ask them how regularly the visit the orphanage and verify the children are thriving and not being abused and that the said food/donations are being used as they said they were. Ask them how they know that the money is not given in exchange for the child (in other words, how do they know they are selling the child to the highest bidder). Ask them if the orphanage would allow the adoption without any money exchanging hands. Ask them if they have programs with the orphanage outside of adoption. Ask them about their transparency and accountability.
If they tell you that $800/month is used for foster care fees. Ask about that. Ask why you are paying so much when formula costs about $100/month. Ask how they prevent corruption in foster families if a family is being paid about 20x more than an average salary in their country?
If they tell you that DGM costs $1000. Ask why, when it should be no more than $200. Ask about lawyer fees. Ask about the birth certificate costs. Ask about the supplemental judgment costs. Ask about the adoption decree costs. Ask how much a certificate of non-appeal costs. Ask ask ask. You can get a receipt for anything in DRC. Ask where your money is going and ask why it is being used that way.
Money means power. If your agency will not delineate the on-ground fees, you should be extremely concerned.
2. Orphan investigations. NO ONE should trust the orphanage documentation alone. Nor should they trust the police report or social services reports alone either. The only way to verify that your child truly is an orphan that needs a home is to do independent investigations by third party investigators. Otherwise you could be taking a child away from a family that wants that child. These are done in other countries. They are an essential piece of your adoption. Go to your agency. Tell them you want this done. You want to be able to hire a third party to investigate the claims of orphan status. This includes--going to the site of abandonment and interviewing people, radio ads in the area of abandonment, video taping of surviving family member stories, interviewing of orphanage staff and social services, police, social workers that are familiar with the case. We are the consumers. We are the ones paying the agencies money. This is expected in other countries as a baseline requirement for an ethical adoption. Demand these be done. Verify your documentation and stories.
There are other very important pieces to ethical adoptions in DRC, please see side bar on right to read more. Also, please consider very cautiously before signing privacy/gag clauses from agencies. Who does that benefit if there are problems?