July 4th weekend, I received a call about a baby born in Utah. The conversation went something like this:
Adoption Person: Hi Robyn, this is Jane from That Place. I was wondering if your adoption budget had changed at all.
Me: Not really.
AP: Well, we have an African American baby girl born in Utah. The adoptive family backed out, and the birthmother wants a family who has an African American child.
Me: And what’s the cost?
Me: No. We don’t have that.
I checked my email later. I had been working, so I hadn’t seen my personal email. The message from “Jane” included:
The fee is $28,900 for everything but the finalization and her hospital delivery cost.
Utah agencies usually fly moms to Utah to deliver. Their medical costs are not covered by insurance, so the adoptive parents have to pick them up. I had assumed that the $28,900 included the hospital costs, but they didn’t. A delivery costs anywhere from $3,000 – $10,000. Finalization costs are usually around $1,000. And “everything” doesn’t include travel. Under Utah law, you have to go back to Utah to finalize. This was July 4th weekend, so we were looking at probably $2000 for the first trip, and then several hundred for the finalization trip. So this situation that supposedly cost $28,900 could actually cost more like $40,000.
Our adoption budget is our second biggest obstacle. Our goal is to stay as close to $20,000 as possible. Any more than that, and we’re going into more debt. We’ve seen situations for AA baby girls that are in the low $30Ks up to the low $40Ks. Very few situations cost less than $25K these days.
What is that money for? Most places don’t really tell you. One service we’ve signed up for breaks down the fees. I’m going to use those categories here.
- Attorney fees for adoptive parents
- Attorney fees for birth parents
- Birth parent expenses
- Court filing fees
- Postage, copies, and office costs
- Referral service fee
- Agency fee
Usually, “agency fee” is the one with five digits. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an agency break down its fee. The most reasonable costs are usually the attorney fees. Most attorneys charge their regular hourly rate, but cap the fee at a certain point.
All of these costs are on top of the home study cost, the cost to sign up with the referral services, the cost of items associated with the home study (CPR class, fingerprinting, etc.), and copying costs for our adoption profile. Our $20,000 adoption will likely cost $30,000.
Agencies and adoption professionals love to tell you that there’s a refundable adoption tax credit of about $13,000. However, I think they use that tax credit to justify increasing their fees. Furthermore, the IRS is auditing almost everyone who claimed that credit this year. Most people still haven’t gotten their refunds.
Some people will say, “Adopt from foster care – it’s free!” Foster/adopt and adoption are very, very different. I have so many thoughts on that topic… my one post about it is really a series in the making. Suffice it to say, that a family shouldn’t adopt from foster care simply because of the price tag, or lack thereof.
Some people will say, “If you can’t afford to adopt, then you can’t afford a child.” Does that mean if you don’t have $400,000 then you can’t afford a house? As far as I can remember, I didn’t have to write any checks for $20,000 for anything Jack-related. Over the course of the year, we spend about $10,000 on child care, but if I had to write that check all at once? Yikes!
Adoption grants and loans do exist, but they’re iffy. For the grants, the family must often be practicing Christians. You also have to prove that you can’t adopt at all without the grant. We can, but we don’t have the money that situations usually cost. On paper, it looks like we make a great deal of money. Thirty percent of our income goes to taxes, and another 30% of Max’s income goes to the mortgage.
I have no problem with people being paid for the work that they do. I do have a problem with bleeding adoptive parents dry, which most of these fees seem designed to do.