Adoption Costs! Where Do I Begin?
If you have been considering adoption and doing your research, one thing that might seem overwhelming is the cost to adopt. If you have joined support groups or talked with other families who have adopted, you have probably heard that adoption fees can range greatly based on what type of agency or adoption you decide upon. Domestic adoption, which is done within the United States averages $40,000, while international adoption falls into the same average range and includes more travel time and costs for families. Adoption through the state or foster to adopt programs are often no cost to adoptive families, as states can reimburse any fees incurred. While domestic adoption is typically the adoption of infants, international adoption, by the time the child enters the U.S., may involve a child aged 12 months to adolescence. When adopting through the state or the foster care system, a child can be any age below 18 and may include a sibling group as well.
It is important to research types of adoptions that fit your family, as opposed to selecting a route to adoption based on the cost involved. While it is understandable to be concerned with the financial side of adoption, finding the situation that fits your family dynamics deems one of the most important steps in going forward with an adoption. In saying that, if your family is concerned about the cost of adoption, there are some things you may not be familiar with to help offset the costs of expanding your family.
The Varying Costs of Adoption
You may have decided that private domestic adoption is right for you. As you are researching agencies, make sure you ask as many questions as possible about where your money is going. In some states, you may be working with an adoption attorney, but your specific state requires an adoption agency to be involved. You may be passing on expenses (which we will discuss later in the article) to the expectant mother through an agency and therefore will have expenses through different entities. In other situations, you may find a birth mother through social media sites or matching entities, and you will need to make sure that you are doing everything ethically and legally in the state you live in. This is where the importance lies in doing the research on your state as well as the state the baby will be born in.
You may talk with one agency that has a larger upfront cost and others who require various payments at each step. Often agencies with higher fees have a no-risk policy, which means that if an adoption placement falls through, with an expectant mother who decides to parent, you may transfer the fees to another situation. Some agencies will have you pay the expectant and birth parent expenses through the agency with the knowledge that those expenses will not be reimbursed if the placement does not take place in the end. These agencies often have lower overall fees compared to other private agencies, but the risk of losing money might be greater. Again, you need to consider your finances and decide what your family is prepared for before selecting an agency.
Why Is Adoption Through Agencies So Expensive?
In doing your adoption research, you have most likely discovered that the adoption cost scale varies even within your own state. As previously shared, some agencies have higher fixed rate fees, which means that regardless of the expenses your expectant mother has, you will pay the same fees as each family working with the agency. Most agencies that have these fees also have adoption disruption insurance that covers your fees spent if your situation does not result in the adoption of a child. The unused money goes back into an account for your next adoption through this agency. When working with an agency, some of the fees you are paying will cover the following:
Home study Fees
In order to get your family approved for adoption, a home study is necessary. This process will include a background check for all family members. These all come with a price. Post-placement fees should also be kept in mind since their princes may range depending on the state.
Birth Parent Expenses
These may include living, food, hygiene, travel, and medical expenses not covered by insurance or state Medicaid plans. there will also be costs incurred to order medical records or legal documents for your case.
Newborn expenses must be paid in the hospital and following placement. These may include pediatrician visits in the hospital as well as the request for a birth certificate from the state.
Legal expenses are required for the termination of parental rights. There will also be fees for finalization, the court, and the attorney.
Media fees are often forgotten but they are necessary when creating an adoptive family profile. The fees may include creating an online or hard copy profile or posting your family to a website or social media site for birth mothers to view.
These include staff salaries, office space and supplies, postage fees, and mileage reimbursement for the staff. There may be some expenses that apply to your case and others that do not. In doing your research and asking questions of each agency, you can ask if there are any refunds that you may receive if some of these expenses do not apply to your specific adoption case. As stated, with fixed-fee adoption agencies, you will typically not receive refunds as each adoptive family pays the same fee, regardless of expenses.
Questions to Ask an Adoption Agency
If you choose to select an agency that does not have fixed fees, you may want to create a list of questions regarding a breakdown of finances and times at which you will make payments at each step of the adoption process. For example, some agencies have a set agency fee that covers overhead costs of salaries and administrative fees which you pay upfront. You may then pay a separate fee if you need a home study and do not currently have one. You may also pay post-placement visit fees following the placement of a child at a later date.
If the agency you are working with does what is called pass-through expenses for the expectant mother, you will most likely pay a monthly fee to the agency based on the expenses budgeted for your expectant mother. Following this payment, expenses should go directly to the expectant mother for groceries, clothing, or hygiene items. They may also go to the landlord or utility companies, and payment for any medical bills accrued that month. In most states, women who do not have private insurance may receive Medicaid during the time of their pregnancy. This means that most pregnancy-related medical expenses will be covered by the state. If your expectant mother is on private insurance, the agency may have you pay copays and deductibles related to the delivery of the baby, whereas if your expectant mother is on Medicaid, you may only incur costs for the child following delivery after placement occurs.
In asking questions of an agency, one important thing to discuss involves medical expenses. You may pay a fee for medical expenses from a fixed-fee agency and because your expectant mother has her expenses covered by the state, you will end up paying fees that apply to families who have a birth mother who is not covered by the state or has higher medical insurance fees. You may also encounter a case with an expectant mother who needs a place to live and has more needs related to her personal care, while your case might involve a woman who does not request or desire to have financial assistance from an agency. Questions to ask of an agency regarding expenses involve what specifically goes to your expectant mother and how those funds are used. If an agency is not open to questions from an adoptive family about where their money is going, this should be a red flag for those who choose to work with that particular adoption professional. In saying this, if an agency is vague in their answers and they do not sit well with you, this may not be the agency you want to take on your adoption journey.
How Do We Come Up With the Finances to Fund Our Adoption?
There are many avenues to fund your adoption, some of which you may be familiar with and others that are new to you. The most important financial thing to do once you have decided to go forward with adoption is to look at your budget and see where you can cut costs. This might mean going out less or skipping those take-out meals and coffees more often, but as we all know, every penny saved can help build up your account.
In terms of researching the type of adoption and agency you work with, deciding how to fund your adoption must fit well with your situation. Many families find that fundraising for their adoption first can help them decide what to do about any remaining balance they might have. If you look online, you can find fundraising ideas that have worked for other families and adjust those to your situation. Some examples of adoption fundraising include:
This includes sending letters or emails to friends and family letting them know about your adoption plans and asking for help with adoption expenses. Don’t expect too much, but this could certainly help get you started.
The Puzzle Fundraiser
Families have found this beneficial in offsetting some adoption fees. First, you select a puzzle or have one made, and friends and family purchase pieces of the puzzle until it is complete. For example, you may have a 200-piece puzzle and individuals can contribute $20 per piece. Once the puzzle is completed, you will have $4,000 to contribute to your adoption funds. Do not forget to write the names of those who contributed to your puzzle on the back of the puzzle pieces and send a picture of the puzzle to friends and family once it is complete.
The T-shirt Fundraiser
One fun idea includes creating a t-shirt or sweatshirt that friends and family can purchase to show that they are supporting your adoption process. The shirt might have a fun saying, a bible verse, or artwork that reminds people of you as they wear it around town. You can find a local store to donate shirts or get shirts made online and sell them to those who want to support you throughout your adoption process.
Garage Sales or Craft Sales
Everyone you know has things lying around their house that they don’t need anymore. Reach out to friends and family as well as friends of friends and volunteer to help clear out their closets. People can donate their items to your garage sale and each item sold will go directly to your adoption fees. Friends and family will love donating, especially when they don’t have to spend a weekend doing the sale themselves. If you have crafty friends who like to make holiday or special items, reach out to see if they can donate a portion of their sales to your adoption fees. You can advertise their goodies on your social media to help boost their sales too.
Asking For Help
You may think to yourself that you are not a person who likes to ask other people for money or assistance. As I often share with adoptive families I work with, friends and family may not know the right way to support you emotionally during your adoption journey and are looking for ways to help. Most people in your life see contributing to your adoption financially as a way to show their support in helping you grow your family.
Upon doing further research, you may find that there are adoption grants that you qualify for. Adoption grants have certain qualifications, rules, and deadlines that must be met in order to be considered. You will not receive every grant you apply for, so submitting an application for as many as you are qualified for may take time but can be very rewarding. Again, remember, every dollar helps and grants do not have to be paid back. Your family may choose to take out a loan to pay for larger adoption expenses. These may range from home equity, healthcare, or credit card loans. As always, remember that the longer you take to pay the loans back, the more fees you incur. Oftentimes, companies have adoption reimbursement assistance that you may not know exists, so start with talking to your employer about any type of program they have.
Do Not Let the Expenses Scare You Away!
As I have shared, adoption expenses may seem to overwhelm you when you think about them. Reach out for help, do your research and find what fits your family. You will find that by asking others who have adopted, you may learn ways to finance your adoption that you had not thought of. Support in adoption remains important to any single parent, couple, or adoptive family, and finding support and hearing stories from others who have walked your road financially will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine!
Marcy Pederson is a mom of three who lives in Texas and has been married for 24 years to her husband who was blessed by adoption. She has worked in adoption on and off for over 20 years and also has a degree in Special Education. Her passions are autism awareness and adoption and her faith and family are priorities in her life. She enjoys doing domestic and international home studies for adoptive families and working with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. She is an avid reader and enjoys spending as much time as possible with her family traveling to new places. Marcy can be contacted at @little_flower_adoptions through their Instagram page.