Do adoptive parents get paid? This seems like a fair question. Families take children in need into their homes, and it’s such a wonderful thing to do. But kids are expensive. It makes sense that the government should pay adoptive families to help offset the cost of these children, right?

Wrong. The idea that adoptive parents do (or should be) paid is the furthest thing from the truth. Adopting a child domestically is not ‘rescuing’ a child. It is fulfilling a dream of parenthood. In fact, there are many more families hoping to adopt than children placed for adoption in the United States. It’s been said there’s a ratio of 33 waiting families to every 1 placed child.

Because of this, and because of the legal work involved in adopting the child, it actually costs up to $40,000 to adopt a child domestically. It is a long, hard process. You need to pass a home study and background check, spread the word that you are hoping to adopt in hopes of finding a match, and ensure that everything is legal. Each of these steps costs money and lots of it.

The reason that there is a misconception that you can get paid for adopting a child is that the government pays a small stipend to families who foster children. Foster children are wards of the state, and therefore, they are the state’s financial responsibility. When you adopt a child, they are yours as if they were born to you, and so they are your financial responsibility.

Paying a stipend to foster parents is a great idea when the money is used correctly. However, it isn’t always, and this is a big problem. The money is NOT a paycheck for caring for these children; it is intended to help feed and clothe the kids. Fostering children in order to receive the stipend for your own financial gain is unethical and incredibly wrong.

Adopting is not an act of charity. Adoptees are not unwanted children. They are placed by birth mothers who love them and want to give them a better life than they could provide. Adoptees (and foster children) are human beings who are a part of a familynot a child that the government pays to babysit. You are not doing anyone a favor by adopting, and if you look at it that way, you are not ready to adopt. Adopting is simply a way of becoming a parent.

Adopting is a beautiful way to create a family, and sometimes it costs quite a bit. But it’s all worth it in the end when you become a parent to a child that you love.

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.