One of the most common questions I'm asked about adoption is why it's so expensive. When my recent post on who is called to adoption was picked up by LifeSite News, the comments section was full of people saying that they would adopt if it wasn't so expensive. Although missing the point of my blog (because even if you can't adopt you are called to be a vital part of the caring for the orphan by doing something), it's still a valid point.
|Photo by We Are the Parsons|
The truth is, adoption is expensive. The average domestic infant adoption in the United States is somewhere between $25,000-45,000. International adoption costs even more, often due to the added travel expenses. Understandably, this is a staggering amount to most families.
So why is it so expensive to adopt? There are many legitimate costs to adoption to ensure that the adoptive family, birth family, and the child are getting quality care throughout the process. Here's a break down of where the money goes:
Agency FeesThis includes administration fees, reports that are required (home studies and post placement visits) and marketing and networking costs.Birthparent CareThis is comprised of vital counseling for the birth parents (both before and after birth), possible living expenses, transportation, maternity clothing, utilities, etc. A good agency will always access community services that are available before asking the adoptive parents to assist with these fees.Medical ExpensesIf a birth mother is not fully covered by insurance for prenatal care and labor and delivery, these fees are a part of the adoption process to ensure both the birth mother and baby have proper healthcare.Legal FeesLegal expenses include hiring an attorney for the adoptive parents and often the birth parents to ensure the adoption is handled legally and ethically for all parties involved. It also accounts for court filing costs and representation.
*These fees are associated with domestic infant adoption. Although private adoptions bypass some agency fees, reports are still necessary as well as proper birth parent care, legal fees, and possible medical expenses. It's important to note that there are little to no fees when adopting through the foster care system and states offer a subsidy and medical insurance until the child is eighteen.
One alarming and disturbing aspect of adoption are the differences in fees associated with a baby's race. The average cost of adopting a Caucasian child in the US is $30-45K where the average cost of adopting an African American child is $24-30K. In my experience, this is due to two reasons. First, the harsh reality is that there is more demand for Caucasian babies in the US. Sadly, there are many more families willing to adopt if the baby "fits their family portrait" than to take on the task of having a multiracial family. The second reason is that many states require agencies to have lower fees for minorities in hopes of encouraging minority adoption. The goal is for adoptive agencies to recruit "potential adoptive homes that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in the state for whom adoptive homes are needed." (Missouri Revised Statutes 453.005) In hopes to recruit more minority adoptive parents, the adoption costs are subsidized. In many minority cultures adoption does happen, just more often in a non-traditional sense. If an African American or Hispanic mother is not in a season to parent, instead of making a legal adoption plan she'll often get assistance from her mother or auntie or another family member or friend to help her raise the baby.
Sadly, in the US, special needs is (unofficially) considered African American male. For no other reason than race, these sweet babies are some of the hardest to place. The issues of trans-racial adoption are complex and outside the scope of this discussion. Every life is equally precious but we function in a broken world with broken systems and this is one of the results. We need more families who have a willingness to adopt; no matter the skin tone.
Although one reality is that adoption is expensive, another reality is that some costs can be avoided all together. There are pitfalls in bad agencies, unethical attorneys, risky situations, and unnecessary bills due to ignorance. Families who walk into adoption "blind" with no one to help them through the process often end up losing thousands of dollars this way. You can see that it's critical to find agencies and attorneys that provide ethical and excellent services to both the birth family and the adoptive family. To know that your adoption finances are well stewarded is of the utmost importance.
Raising this kind of money is not impossible. It's rare that families start the process with tens of thousands in the bank. There are grants, low or no-interest loans, tax credits, employer benefits, and creative fundraising that make adoption possible for families. I've never had a family be matched with a situation and not have the money available. But that's not to say they didn't do the hard work of saving, fundraising, and financing for their adoption. And when you get down to it, is there any better investment you can make financially than investing in the eternal destiny of your child?
This is why I love what I do. As an adoption consultant, I help people through the complex task of finding quality agencies, ethical attorneys, and situations that are a good fit for their family. I also connect people to helpful grants and coach them on financing and fundraising. In the end all of this hard work ends in the creation of a family.
I don't want to imply that the path of adoption is an easy one. That there won't be significant and very real costs both financially and emotionally. But ask any adoptive family if it was worth it for their son or daughter. I'll bet they'll tell you they would have paid ten times more if they had to now that they're on the other side and see the infinite value of their child.
Adoption is worth the cost.
For more on the adoption process and consulting, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.