Ask the Adoption Coach: Beginning Adoption

adoption cost
Reader: Hello everyone! My partner and I are looking to adopt and it’s a bit easy to get overwhelmed with all the information that comes your way once you start down this road. Would anyone be willing to share their experience/provide information on how their adoption went. We would also be particularly interested in how you were able to overcome the financial obstacles that come along with adoption. We both have college degrees with stable careers; however, we don’t have 20-30 thousand dollars laying around to give to an agency (we’d much rather but money towards a college fund). We’re on the east coast of the United States and are interested in a newborn/infant. Thank you so much for any info you might be able to provide!
Adoption Coach:
Dear Reader,
Thank you for sharing your story. Your concerns about the cost of domestic infant adoption are common to many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. You can read this post explaining why domestic infant adoption is often so expensive.
One option to certainly consider is to choose to pursue a foster care adoption. There are over 120,000 children in the United States who are legally free for adoption and are waiting for a forever family. There are single children, sibling pairs or groups, children of all races and ages, and children with a range of special needs. I mention this option because foster care adoption is typically free of charge to the adoptive parent. Additionally, many children adopted from foster care receive a monthly stipend, have health care coverage, and some, depending on the age they are adopted, receive a free college education (with stipulations).
Another option is to pursue an agency-free adoption. In this case, an adoption attorney handles the adoption, which can cost significantly less than an agency-facilitated adoption. However, many times an attorney-handled adoption involves the adoptive parent paying some, if not many, of the biological parent’s expenses ranging from housing, food, utilities, medical care, etc. Consult an experienced adoption attorney to find out what biological parent expenses are and aren’t allowed to be paid and if there is a cap on how much you can pay. Of course, choosing to pay an expectant parent’s expenses is financially risky. You very well may pay thousands of dollars in expenses, and then the biological parent may decide (before or after the child’s birth) to parent rather than continue with the adoption plan. Furthermore, paying biological parent expenses sets up a tit-for-tat precedence which can put undue pressure on the expectant parent to place the child when perhaps parenting is the better or desired decision. And of course, you mentioned that you do not have $20,000-$30,000 to spend on an adoption. With the savings you do have, keep in mind that this money could be completely wiped out if you pay biological parent expenses, whether the parent chooses to place or not. Where does that leave you and your partner financially?
Besides the financial risks, there are two more downsides to attempting to find an expectant parent or couple on your own and using an attorney rather than an agency. The first downside is that finding your own adoption situation can be difficult. And oftentimes, this decision presents prospective adoptive parents with ethical dilemmas. What are ethical ways to search for a prospective birth mother? Where do you draw the line? Are you comfortable putting personal information “out there” (be it online, in a profile book, etc.) for anyone to view and have access to sharing?
The other risk is that when choosing to work with an attorney rather than an agency, there is often not the pre-placement and post-placement support that the biological and adoptive parents need to make informed, ethical choices. Many adoption agencies have in-house counselors and social workers to assist triad members through the adoption journey. Of course, one possible solution is to work with an attorney and hire an experienced adoption-educated counselor to assist in the situation.
I should note that in some states, adoption facilitators can be hired. Facilitators connect prospective adoptive parents with expecting parents who intend to choose adoption. However, in some states, facilitation services are illegal. Additionally, these services cost money.
In the beginning stages of adoption, it’s helpful to do a lot of research so that you can truly become familiar with what adoption is and is not. The public generally believes adoption stereotypes which are based on adoption situations highly publicized (and sensationalized) in the media. Keep these things in mind. First, there is no easy route to becoming parents via adoption. Each adoption avenue has its pros and cons, and each adoption situation is unique. Second, adoption is a complicated, bittersweet, ongoing journey. (It doesn’t end once the child is adopted.) Third, there is no one-size-fits-all description for any triad member. (The triad is the adoptive parents, the adoptee, and the biological parents.) Thus, commonplace stereotypes regarding any triad member simply to not apply across the board.
Decisions about which adoption route to choose, how to pursue finding a match or placement, openness to specific situations, etc. should be made based on education, not on ignorance. Best wishes as you pursue adoption as the way to build your family!