There is a question that hovers at the front of many people’s minds when they consider the possibility of adoption: “Do you have to be rich to adopt?” It is a simple question to answer when taken at face value. No. You absolutely do not have to be rich to adopt. If you consider adoption through foster care, it can be very inexpensive, and in some cases, free. If you adopt through an agency, you can apply for grants, loans you can receive, and church support you can garner. So no, to be eligible to adopt, you need to prove you can provide for a child, but you by no means need to be rich. If that was the case, then many children would be without a home. This is not to say that if you are at the lower end of the monetary spectrum, you might not feel out of your depths attending an adoption information meeting. My husband and I left our first class and walked past seven beautiful new—or at least newer than ours—vehicles and questioned if we were not doing a kid a disservice by offering them our home. You do need money to provide for all the things a kid needs, but you don’t have to be rich if you are wise with your money.
However, there are ways you have to be rich to be a good adoptive family.
You Need to Be Rich in Patience.
First, be patient with the timing of your adoption. It takes what seems like an interminable amount of time to be matched or to receive a foster placement. Days and months of waiting can feel like years of agony. This is not hyperbole. I can look back at Facebook posts during our waiting time, and one would think we were waiting for decades when, in reality, it was a few months from the time we finished paperwork and classes until the time the kids were in our home. However, waiting can be hard when you want something badly, so you will need to have a wealth of patience.
You will need to be rich in patience with the caseworkers, birth parents, in-laws, and strangers when they ask invasive questions, and you feel like it isn’t their business (for some of them it is, in fact, their business). You will need patience when your precious 2-year-old manages to destroy something that has been in your family for generations with a mischievous grin and a tug on the shelf you thought they couldn’t reach.
You will need to be rich in patience to fill out every piece of paperwork you were sure you already filled out twice over again when it gets misplaced. To sign your name 10,000 times on the adoption paperwork, to explain to the nurse 500 times that he’s adopted and that’s why he is in the system with a different last name, and no, you didn’t abduct him.
You will need an abundant wealth of ability to deal with other people’s opinions on adoption. They will all know best and will probably have a cousin whose second wife’s third aunt twice removed was maybe murdered by an adopted child. Just nod along. Explaining that your infant probably isn’t a sociopath won’t calm these people down, and honestly, you get to live with baby snuggles, and they get to live with judgment and anxiety, so who is the real winner here? You. You, my friend. You will be rich in baby smiles, chortles, and coos. Rich in precious late-night feeding times when it is just you and your wished for, dreamed for, dearly loved baby staring into one another’s eyes. Those moments when you are so exhausted, you can barely move, but your heart is the fullest it has ever been? Those make you the wealthiest person in the world.
You Will Need to Be Rich in Imagination.
That imagination will help you figure out what to do while waiting with your impatient preschooler to finally have the adoption finalized in court and the lawyer is running late. You will need to be rich in smiles for the 1,000 pictures your family will (rightfully) want to take when it’s all done.
You will need to be Scrooge McDuck, swimming in a pool of it, wealthy in baby wipes, diapers, burp rags, onesies, blankies, and apologies for not being able to attend because the baby has sniffles. You will find yourself thankful for at least one of these things, if not all of them, at some point.
You Will Need to Be Rich in Friendships.
Rich with people who understand the world of adoption, who absolutely have your back when you are overwhelmed and crying in your closet. You will need at least one of these people, and they will make you feel like you are the wealthiest person alive. It may not be the person you hoped for or expected, but I hope you find them.
You Should Be Rich in Laughter.
Laughter at yourself. Laughter at your spouse. Laughter at the small tyrant that has taken over your life with their giggles, burps, feedings, and middle-of-the-night demands. Laughter at the days to come because you know you are living your best life loving on this little person and making sacrifices so they can have a better tomorrow. Laughter at the world that struggles to understand what makes you tick. The joke is on them since you have no idea either. You just know that this life is good.
No, dear one. You do not need to be rich to adopt. As with most things, certainly, money could make things seem easier. You might wish you were wealthy when you look at car seats, bassinets, baby clothes, Power Wheels, strollers, diapers, and all the accessories that seem urgent and necessary but mostly just clutter your house then get donated. You’ll wish you could pay a nanny to wake up at two in the morning to change a diaper or tend your teething, angry toddler who can’t be comforted for anything right now. You don’t need to be rich to adopt.
But You Need to Be Rich in Wisdom.
Wisdom to know if adopting is the right choice for your family. Wisdom to know if you should add more children to your family. Wisdom to take a deep breath and count to 100 before you say something you can’t take back to a child struggling with the things life has thrown at them. If you find yourself with an abundance of wisdom, could you pass some to me? I find mine to be lacking an appalling amount of time.
You Need to Be Rich in Peace.
Peace that you are making the right choices for your child. Peace that you may be the second-best choice, but you are the choice that is being made for your child. Peace that relationships with the birth family may not turn out the way you imagined. That your child may experience pain which you can’t fix. You’ll need peace to breathe through the difficult days and not take it personally that your 4-year-old has destroyed their bedroom for the 100th time in two days. Peace that giving your child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is still better than them being hungry, and you’ll try to make healthier choices tomorrow. Peace that eventually it will all be worth it, even if it feels a little bit like death right now.
And, Eventually, Rich in Joy.
You don’t need to be rich in joy yet. Not at the beginning. Joy helps when you’re waiting. But even if you are coming out of a season of sorrow—infant loss, pregnancy loss, infertility—know that if you process your grief well before you begin to try to adopt, you will find joy in the outcome. Babies and children are not medicinal. They don’t cause joy. But if you have the right perspective going into the situation, if you’ve dealt with all of your hard mental health stuff at the forefront, if you’ve prepared yourself, your family, your friend circle for what is coming? You will find so much joy in the child that will be yours.
I am not rich in the way the world encourages us to strive for. I will probably never drive a brand new sports car. My clothes are often bought from a thrift store, or if not, I will wear them until they turn to rags. My shoes are more often than not found at yard sales or on Marketplace for a good price. My house is in constant need of repair. Our vehicles are old. Our furniture is second-hand. The newest things we own are appliances that, though not strictly necessary, make my life much much easier. For instance, we have a new washing machine after years of fixing second-hand ones. Seven people at home and four dogs generate a lot of laundry. It was a good purchase.
Anyway, I digress. I am not likely to ever be considered rich by the world’s standards. I am better off than some, worse off than some, and just the same as many others. However, there are days when I feel like I am the wealthiest woman alive. My little girls will stop mid-bike ride because they saw a flower that is my favorite color and just had to go and get it for me. My son will draw pictures just for me. He will happily tell anyone who listens that he got his artistic ability from his mom and points to me. He makes jokes about how he’s just like his mom, and he means me, not his biological mom. It makes my heart do a little flip-flop that I can’t quite explain. My other son will sometimes, just under his breath, mutter, “love you too, mom,” as he rushes to shut the door at the school drop-off line. I would think I was hearing things, imagining things, but it has happened more than once. For a 14-year-old boy, that feels like a big deal.
I am greeted with choruses of “I love you, Mommy! Good morning, Mommy!” and “Mama!” when I go in to wake up my girls for school. I go to bed every night, having received countless little girl kisses and hugs and requests for stories and songs, and just one more hug at tuck in.
Some days my life feels like something out of a dream. Sometimes it also feels like something out of a nightmare. I can sincerely say, having had the possibility of it all being taken from me through circumstances I couldn’t control, I will take every tantrum, screaming fit, unfortunate behavior, bad choice, and messy mistake if it means I get to be the mama that tucks these kids in at night. I wish for their sakes that life had gone a different way for them. That their biological parents had made safer choices. That they could have been born into happy, stable, mentally healthy homes with no addictions or cycles of abuse to overcome. I wish for their sakes that they were never in a place where they felt unwanted or unloved. However, since this is the hand they were dealt, I am so thankful that they get to be mine. I am so indescribably lucky to be their mom. I hope as they grow, they understand that is how I feel.
So no. Absolutely, you do not need to be rich to adopt. Do not let something like the perception of wealth deter you from making a life-altering choice for a child who needs you. Believe me, if you feel a pull towards adoption, some, myself included, might even call it a calling towards adoption; you should absolutely pursue it. You don’t have to be rich to adopt, but you will be incredibly rich if you do.Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.