Birthmother Expenses In Robyn’s Adoption Land

Alice opens a chest full of cakesIf I were Queen of the United States, instead of just Queen of Robyn’s Adoption Land, everyone would have free health care. The minimum wage would rise with inflation. Food servers would have to be paid minimum wage, and tips wouldn’t count towards that. Schools would be better funded than prisons. Women would have the right to choose what they do with their reproductive systems.

But I am not Queen of the United States, even in my imagination. In my imagination, I am just Queen of Robyn’s Adoption Land. So, we’re going to assume the status quo: Politicians paying lip service to family values, while the rich get richer and 15% of Americans live in poverty.

Due to this inequity, birthmother expenses are still sometimes necessary in Robyn’s Adoption Land. However, birthmother expenses are far more regulated here than they are in this virtually lawless hot mess of a country today.

Right off the bat, in Robyn’s Adoption Land, “birthmother expenses” are called “expectant mother expenses.” Let’s get the terminology right, OK? There’s no need for someone to feel entitled to someone else’s baby because money has changed hands.

What Is Allowed As “Expectant Mother Expenses”?

In my first post, I listed what is allowed as “birthmother expenses” in various states today. In Robyn’s Adoption Land, far less is allowed.

  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance. And there’s no flying expectant moms to different states so they’re not covered by that state’s Medicaid program. I believe this makes sense. Everyone wants the baby to be healthy, so they want to ensure access to health care. Medical expenses are clearly pregnancy-related.
  • Counseling. Counseling is required in Robyn’s Adoption Land, for prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents. I know that’s controversial, and I will explain it in another post.
  • Very limited living expenses, including rent, phone, food, and utilities. Living expenses may only be paid from the 6th month of pregnancy until 2 months after pregnancy. The “reasonable and customary” rule applies: What type of shelter is reasonable for this person/these people? How much does SNAP (aka “food stamps”) cover, and how much is needed at the end of the month?

Aside from counseling, these expenses are based on actual need. Just because these expenses can be paid doesn’t mean that they are paid in all circumstances.

There are also strict caps. Now, the caps will have to vary from state to state. Rent in Iowa is a lot cheaper than rent in California. Again, the reasonable and customary rule applies in setting the caps.

How Are Necessary Expectant Mother Expenses Determined? 

You may recall that most people work with agencies in Robyn’s Adoption Land. Facilitators do not exist. When working with an agency, the agency does the intake for expectant mothers. The agency provides options counseling, at no expense to the expectant mother. If the e-mom feels that she needs financial assistance, the agency assesses her financial situation and helps her apply for aid (WIC, SNAP, Medicaid, Section 8, etc.). If possible, the agency helps the e-mom find resources in her community (domestic violence shelters, food pantries, charities that have the means to help pregnant women). If the e-mom is unemployed, they try to hook her up with some networking for job possibilities. Only after all of this do expectant mother expenses come into play.

Edited to add: To be clear, the first steps (options counseling, help with community resources) are available to all e-moms. However, money from the Expectant Mother Expenses Fund is only available to e-moms who make an adoption plan.

How Are Expectant Mother Expenses Paid? 

When they sign with an agency, PAPs pay a certain amount of money to the agency’s Expectant Mother Fund. This is a flat amount, which is the same at all agencies. It’s an average of the reasonable and customary allowed expectant mother expenses. It allows agencies to operate not just as adoption factories, but as places where women experiencing unplanned pregnancies can go to get relatively unbiased information and help. Why should PAPs fund this? To put it bluntly, because they want somebody else’s kid. PAPs should want all e-moms to have access to counseling and services to ensure that adoption really is the best option for the child and birthmother.

When all PAPs pay the same amount, there isn’t a bundle of money tied to one e-mom. They don’t lose any money. This fee is payable once – agencies can’t charge it on a yearly basis, even if PAPs have been waiting for more than one year. Also, the flat fee counts as a charitable donation for tax purposes.

In some cases, PAPs can work with attorneys. When working with an attorney, PAPs cannot be charged more than an agency would charge for expectant mother expenses. Of course, they may be charged less.

What About Special Circumstances?

There are situations in which e-moms may need more than the usual amount of expenses. I’m speaking specifically of domestic violence, in which a woman is fleeing an abusive partner, and pregnancy complications that require bed rest. In an agency adoption, generally, the Expectant Mother Fund would cover this, because some e-moms wouldn’t need as much as others, so there’s a balance. In an attorney adoption, however, more money may be required.

This is where it gets tricky. It’s not black and white. We don’t want to take advantage of PAPs, but we also want e-moms and children to be safe. We don’t want anyone abusing this exception to get more money.

Who Gets the Money?

All money is given directly to the service provider. For example, the agency sends a check to the landlord or the electric company. When food is involved, money is provided in the form of a gift card to a local supermarket. There’s no PAP sending a moneygram via Western Union to an e-mom. No way, no how.

Can Agencies Provide Housing?

Currently, some agencies – and even some facilitators – provide housing for e-moms. Some agencies actually require that e-moms live in their housing, while others simply have it available as an option.

In Robyn’s Adoption Land, agencies may provide housing if the e-mom is fleeing a domestic violence situation. They may also provide temporary housing, for up to one month, if absolutely necessary, in limited cases: the e-mom gets out of prison and needs a place to stay, the e-mom is a teen who has been kicked out of her home, the e-mom has been evicted. The agency must help the e-mom find resources to obtain permanent housing.

Living in agency housing can be incredibly coercive. There are agencies that tell new moms, “If you choose to keep your baby, you will be kicked out of our apartment.” It can be like living in a bubble. It may be necessary in some cases, but it’s not ideal, and should not be the norm.

Agencies cannot charge more than the area’s average rent for the same type of dwelling.

Conclusion

In Robyn’s Adoption Land, expectant mother expenses are paid only if absolutely necessary. Pregnant women are helped to find resources so they are not reliant on PAPs to pay their way. This discourages scams and removes some of the coercive nature found in today’s birthmother expense “system.” PAPs aren’t losing thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars in multiple failed matches, which may or may not have been legitimate to begin with. PAPs aren’t re-creating the social welfare net. Agencies are doing more to ensure women have the resources they need, to provide actual options.

What did I miss? Who disagrees? What do you think?

Photo source.

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11 thoughts on “Birthmother Expenses In Robyn’s Adoption Land

  1. So glad you’re bringing up this conversation. It’s timely for me because I had the opportunity to see this issue from the social worker’s standpoint last week while working with an agency.

    As you know I had my own ideas about this when I started writing this section of my book, and you were one who helped me see shades of gray in something I thought was fairly black and white.

    Among the nuances I got from my conversations with social workers last week:

    * If we do house a woman while she’s pregnant but not afterwards, what does that say about her value to us?

    * It an be uncomfortable being the social worker who approves (or doesn’t) expenses. One told of a $950 receipt for Nordstrom maternity wear. Fell under the guidelines but didn’t sit right with the sw — or the couple who paid the bill (not saying that all expectant mothers would make such a decision).

    * For the same reason, one of the agency people I talked with didn’t like the idea of a common pot for all PAPs to put into and any EMs to draw from. She expressed discomfort in being the ones to decide how to allocate limited funds. How would they sort through the shades of gray? What cell phones would be covered and what wouldn’t be? What clothes would be covered and not? Who would qualify for housing and who wouldn’t? It falls beyond the scope of what many are equipped and prepared to do.

    Anyway, it’s all very thought-provoking. It seems like not much in adoption is cut and dried, and I’m finally getting used to that!

    • In Robyn’s Adoption Land, there would be thresholds, income amounts below which expenses are allowed, and above which they are not. I think there should be similar thresholds in the real world. I believe that some agencies and adoption professionals simply tell expectant moms to claim as much as they can because they can, and that’s not acceptable.
      I also know from experience that money issues don’t disappear just because you give someone money. People have to be taught how to handle money. When I refer to “resources” in the post, I imagine that there would be budgeting classes at local credit unions, or Financial Peace University (a Dave Ramsey thing), or similar.
      In Robyn’s Adoption Land, clothes are never covered. There really are any number of places to go and get used maternity clothes – friends, thrift shops, swap meets, online swap sites, Facebook groups. Unlike housing, it’s a much easier need for a person to fill herself. And it eliminates the problem of the person who goes to Nordstrom for maternity clothes.
      I love it when you comment Lori!

    • Thanks! I do wish it were a real place. I cannot stand this hodge podge of state laws. If any good comes out of the Baby Veronica case, I hope it’s that politicians see the need for federal adoption laws.

  2. I think addressing poverty on a grander scale is better for adoption. If basic needs such as health care and housing was covered the real question then becomes can or can I not parent.

    I don’t fully agree with not allowing housing. I think I’ve posted before that our agency which is a multi-branch system of supporting women and their families. One branch is a home for women who are pregnant. Many are struggling with addiction and can receive drug treatment/counseling, job skills training, parenting classes as well as options counseling. Barriers to parenting are addressed and they try to overcome them. Most of the women parent some do choose adoption. The program is set up to ensure that they are able to make an informed choice as well as set them up for success no matter what. If the women give birth to healthy babies who have parents that are ready to parent they are far better off. The home provides a safe environment for women to make a choice. It also for many of them is the first stable home environment they have ever had. The women have the support of each other as well in this group environment. I think housing cannot be contingent on establishing an adoption plan I think it should be based on the assumption that these women will parent. This model can work if the agency is truly interested in the best interest of the child and not most interested in their bottom line.

    After the baby is born there is a transition into housing in the community. There is a daycare that the women are able to utilize so they can hold jobs. Daycare in our area has wait lists of 1 year + and the cost is reflective of the supply/demand. Parenting is not an option when there is not safe/cost effective care available.

    My last comment is an issue I have never seen addressed and I’m interested in your perspective and that is financial coercion from birth parents. When we were in the hospital J did pressure me for money. He would couple those conversations with not being sure about the adoption plan. Those conversations were the most stressful thing about our hospital stay.

    Great post. Have you thought about packaging your adoption land posts and sending them to your Reps? (maybe in bullet point form since they don’t read?)

    • I agree that poverty must be addressed to achieve real adoption reform. Totally.
      I forgot about your agency – you mentioned their housing program in a comment before. I’d never heard of an agency doing it that way. Most of the agencies/facilitators that I know of who provide housing do so as a form of, well, if not straight up coercion, then indoctrination.
      Financial coercion from birth parents is a good topic. I think I might put it in the post I’m planning on fraud. I’m sorry you had to experience that.
      I really don’t know what to do with this… I really think, as do many others, that adoption must be reformed. I just don’t know how to organize that. If I sent my ideas to my Congresspeople, I’m not sure what good they would do. But I suppose it couldn’t hurt.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Pingback: Robyn’s Adoption Land | The Chittister Family

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