Every time someone asks about the cost of private domestic or international adoption, every time someone posts a fundraiser or asks for tips on raising or saving money, there are at least two people who chime in with variations on this theme:
Adopt from foster care – it’s free!
Sometimes, the comments are cheery:
We were licensed, and brought our kids home – a sibling group of 2, 18 mos and newborn – within 6 months, and we only paid $1K, which we got back from the tax credit.
Sometimes, the comments are little guilt trips:
With so many kids waiting in the foster care system, I just don’t understand why someone would adopt internationally or spend thousands of dollars to adopt a newborn.
Sometimes, the comments are downright rude:
” [I]f the cost of domestic, international, or embryo adoption is too expensive for a family the obvious choice would be foster adoption.” (actual comment)
“I wonder why anyone would pay $33000 or $44000 to adopt a child when they can be paid to adopt a foster child … how economically senseless is that?” (actual comment)
If you can’t afford to adopt a child, how are you going to afford to take care of that child?
This entire line of thinking makes me angry.
No one type of adoption is right for all families, including foster/adopt. I’ve already discussed why we didn’t adopt from foster care, and I believe that we have the same reasons as many other people. In addition, there are still states that do not allow same-sex couples to adopt from foster care. So, no, foster/adopt is not “the obvious choice” just because other types of adoption are far more expensive.
Adding a child to your family is not solely a question of economics. Anyone who looks at adoption only in that light is not prepared to be a parent. Different children have different needs. That’s true even for children born to their legal parents. When you add different types of beginnings – orphanage, foster care here, foster care in another country, prenatal drug exposure, and so on – you change and potentially add to their needs. Not every parent is prepared to parent any child. And before you say that biological parents don’t get a choice, read my post on that subject.
Adopting a child privately domestically or internationally costs an average of $30K. How often does a family need to have $30K on hand for something their child needs? I think the largest one-time expense we’ve ever paid for Jackson’s regular care was his preschool tuition – which varied from $500 – $1000 per month. Not chump change, but not $16,000 all at once, either.*
Furthermore, we don’t want people to adopt from foster care because it’s free. We want people to become foster parents because they support the goal of foster care: reunification with biological family. We need parents who are going to support and love these kids regardless of if they ever adopt them. We need parents who are going to support the relationships these kids have with their biological families. The foster system doesn’t need parents looking for children as young as possible with as few special needs as possible to adopt. The foster system needs parents who can support children and birth families with their unique needs.
We don’t want parents to go into adoption with a coupon mentality. Every parent needs to assess what they believe they can handle competently. From there, they can decide if the children available through foster/adopt would fit their families. They should not be forced or cornered into foster/adopt because it is the only adoption they can afford.
I’d also like to address this notion of “free.” Foster/adopt may still be free or relatively free in some areas. However, from what I’ve read on adoption groups, some states are contracting out adoption services to private agencies. One woman, who adopted a special needs child from foster care in a state that wasn’t her own, paid $12,000 because her own state’s foster care office couldn’t help her adopt. If there are any complications in a foster/adopt case, the foster/prospective adoptive parents may need to hire their own attorney, as Cherub Mama did. (She and her husband lost, and the kids went back to an unsafe situation.) Clearly, not all foster adoptions are free.
Children from foster care often come with special needs. Some will qualify for subsidies, state medical care, and even college tuition at state schools. Some will not. A person should never adopt from foster care because of the promise of a subsidy; each parent should be able to care for their children without constantly relying on the state. What happens when subsidies are cut?
I am not knocking people who choose to adopt from foster care. It is a completely valid way to build one’s family. But so are private adoption and international adoption. Each family needs to consider what is best for them.
* Most adoption expenses can be spread out over the many months it may take to adopt. However, agency or facilitator fees are generally all due at once. Hence, the $16K.
(For the record, this is another post that has sat in draft form since last year. Go me!)