Missing Pieces
Missing Pieces by Lisa Ritter Starr

The Price of Process

by Lisa Ritter Starr

Recently I had dinner with friends, and our after-dinner discussion turned to adoption. Seated at the table were two other couples, both of them married with biological children of their own. Both couples revealed that they had thought of adopting a child, though they might not have gone as far as investigating their options. The only thing they knew about trying to adopt was how expensive the process can be.

The husband of one of the couples explained that this additional expense was definitely a deterrent in pursuing adoption. He asked me, "Why does adoption cost so much? What is it that you are paying for when you give thousands of dollars to an agency?" I thought about that question, and gave him the answer to the best of my knowledge, which was limited. It was then that I knew I needed to research it more thoroughly.

Why does it cost so much to adopt? The answer, I have found, is not simple. Depending on the type of adoption, and not including the cost of raising a child, the price tag is anywhere from zero to $30,000 and up. There is also a tax credit for adopting, as well as assistance offered by some employers to reimburse a portion of the cost.

Waiting Child Adoption

Adoptions of children currently in foster care are commonly referred to as waiting child adoptions. Agencies are government social work offices rather than "adoption agencies" per se. Available children may be infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and schoolage, and almost all of them are classified as having some special needs ("special needs" meaning anything from emotional disturbance to physical or developmental impairment). Waiting child adoptions may be paid for in part or in full by the government under what is called Title IV adoption assistance. For more information, search the U.S. government Web site or check out http://nefe.org/adoption/adopt.pgs/expb.html.

Domestic Private Adoption

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of private adoption agencies in the United States. Some are affiliated with religious groups and charity organizations, and many these days specialize in open adoption. You can search your state's yellow pages or look for a book such as The Adoption Option Complete Handbook, by Christine Adamec, which is updated annually and includes a list of adoption agencies nationwide.

Costs vary depending on the agency, your particular situation, and even the birth mother's situation. Total cost can run from $4,000 $30,000+. These figures include a variety of expenses: application to the agency's program, copies of paperwork, performing a homestudy, adoption classes for prospective parents, agency overhead and operation, supervision of adoption until finalized, birth parent counseling (usually life-long) and sometimes the birth mother's hospital expenses.

Some agencies offer a sliding scale, and some simply will not charge as much for the homestudy fee, classes, or application. For an excellent breakdown of fees, including information on typically low and high price ranges, see http://costs.adoption.com.

Independent Adoption

These are adoptions facilitated by a lawyer rather than an agency. Because the search process is not standardized as it is with an agency, and lawyer fees vary by the lawyer's experience and education, fees range from $8,000 $30,000+. Expect to pay for legal fees, document processing, and the cost of advertisement to find a birth family and child.

International Adoption

Many couples would like to adopt internationally for a variety of reasons, but usually the sheer number of waiting children sways prospective parents to lean in this direction. International adoption, however, tends to cost more, ranging from about $7,000 - $30,000+. In addition to the processing costs of domestic adoption, international adoption requires collaboration from a second agency in the child's home country. You can expect to pay more overhead costs, as well as dossier fees, court costs, and travel expenses to meet and pick up your child.

Tax Credit

A tax credit is available to couples who adopt, and the credit is based on income, type of adoption (special needs adoptions may receive more credit), and whether employer assistance is available to you. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $152,390, you may be considered for the full credit of $10,160. You cannot receive any credit if your AGI is over $192,390. For more on these figures, check out H & R Block online and search under "adoption tax credit."

Out of Pocket Expenses

According to nefe.org, you should keep in mind that some adoption expenses are not included in the agency fees. For example, you may need to provide several copies of legal documents that may need notarization, photos of you and your family, time off from work for interviews and classes, childcare for your other children while you perform interviews or attend classes, and travel to and from the agency or your child's home country.

If you choose open adoption and I hope you do you will be in closer contact with the birth mother and may want to help with pregnancy-related expenses. It was a great help for me to receive this assistance. I had excellent health insurance that paid for all of my medical expenses, but when I received healthy food and maternity clothes from my daughter's adoptive parents, it could not have been more helpful and appreciated.

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