To be brutally honest, adoption costs too much money. W-A-Y too much money. Granted, it costs money to pay for agency fees, attorney fees, travel expenses, and (if you’re adopting internationally) all the required in-country fees…including bribe money in some countries. It is daunting. Daunting enough that many worthy families are priced right out of the market because they don’t have the resources. You don’t have to be monetarily rich to raise children…not even close…but looking at the amount of cash required to undertake a domestic or international adoption can (and does) derail adoption dreams for many families. And it shouldn’t.
When we originally began our adoption pursuit, we elected to pursue a domestic adoption. That is an adoption that is done within the United States, often on the local level, but also between states as well. The fees are not insignificant, and they cover agency expenses and birth parent expenses through the duration of the adoption. Many agencies have a sliding scale of fees based on family income, but it is never inexpensive, and it can get pretty astronomically expensive if you have a higher income. Some agencies have a maximum cap on the scale, and some don’t. Some agencies have set rates, and while you will know exactly what you are contracted to pay, that may not be your total out-of-pocket expenses. Even with set fees, it’s expensive. Too expensive.
Couple that with what you will lose (per contract with your agency) in the event your birth mom changes her mind, and it can be staggering. We had that happen, and our contract stipulated that we lost 50% of the initial chunk we paid (half total cost of a domestic adoption). Further, there was no refund option for the balance of the money, should we have chosen not to pursue it further. The balance was credited toward a new match, which essentially makes your decision for you.
By the way, we were very thankful that we had the contract we did, because it changed shortly after we signed, and the disruption fee went up to 75% of the initial chunk (or about 35% of the total cost)…and still no refund option That kind of cash is a lot for just about any family, but for a family who doesn’t have that kind of money in savings or other resources, it’s a deal breaker.
Sure, the federal government gives a one time tax credit for adoption, and it is substantial. But…it happens after the fact, so it’s a great tax incentive, but you have to complete the adoption before you can claim the tax credit, so it isn’t available to you when you could really use it.
There are so many families who go through domestic adoption more than once, and it boggles my mind that this is an option for them. The expense is not small at all. I am confounded at how normal, middle-class families are able to swing that. I’m in awe of it, actually, because adoption is such a rewarding experience, and it is deplorable that the expense of it can derail those plans for so many.
I wish I knew what to suggest to bring the cost down. I don’t, unless it is a complete overhaul (or eradication) of tax laws, so that our economy could run without government impediment. The cost of health care and insurance is sky high, which contributes significantly, and we are not moving in the right direction on those issues either. But I’ll save any more politicking for another post, and share the following:
- Foster to Adopt is a much more economical way to adopt children, because the children are wards of the state, and their expenses are covered with tax dollars. The only out of pocket expenses are agency fees and/or attorney fees.
- You have to know going in that getting a baby is unlikely, but there are so many older children and sibling groups that are desperate for homes. In our state, the price is the same for one kid or six kids.
- There is a high percentage of special needs kids in need of forever families. Many are babies or toddlers who have significant health issues. If you are equipped to care for special needs, or desire to parent special needs kids specifically, this is the way to go.
- If you are a member of a Native American tribe, and have any inclination at all to adopt, run (don’t walk) to the Foster to Adopt program. There are so many Native American kids who are languishing in foster care due to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires Native American kids to be adopted by families that have at least one Native American parent. The unintended consequence of that law is the lack of qualified families who meet this requirement, while there are many other families (ours included) who qualify in every other way, and would take these beautiful kids. But we can’t.
- Private adoptions through an adoption attorney (check here for a list of attorneys in your state who specialize in adoption) are typically less expensive. I didn’t learn this until after we had already contracted with our agency, otherwise we would likely have seriously considered this avenue. Interview the attorney and find out if s/he is a good fit, and what expenses to expect.
- There is a downside to using an attorney, and that is the (possible) lack of financial, psychological and emotional support (and counseling) for the birth parents. They will need support, and it is worth evaluating in your decision.
You might ask why we didn’t pursue the Foster to Adopt program. When we started again in our current state, we did intend to do exactly that. However, our agency sought us out and asked us if we were willing to join their domestic program, because they were in desperate need of adoptive families to match with the birth moms in the program. Throughout our hole journey, we have followed what we believed God was calling us to do, and we felt in this case that this was his way of steering us toward the right match. In my mind, there was no way we could have said no.
I’m still not convinced that we won’t end up considering one more addition to our family through adoption. My husband is not so sure that’s the right direction for our family, but I don’t know. God has a way of using time and circumstances to show us the way, and as we have through all of this, we are continuing to rely on his guidance.