Adoption Costs and Why We Chose to Foster
This post was originally published in October of 2018 and revised and republished in April of 2019.
I have pretty much always known I wanted to adopt. My husband signed on for this experience when he proposed to me. We discussed deal breakers early on in our relationship. For me, unwillingness to adopt was one of them. He assumed that meant if we couldn’t have biological children. To this day I remember his surprise/shock when I told him that was irrelevant. My husband’s one request was that we preserve the birth order of our natural children, if we should have them. That to me was a completely reasonable request. Reasonable, that is, until I really looked into how much adoption costs.
Here’s a hard truth. Adopting a single child under the age of 8 is a pretty difficult endeavor. Most countries with any form of stable democratic government just don’t allow foreign adoptions of children under the age of 8 unless they’re a part of a sibling set. There are exceptions to this, but exceptions often bring caveats like ‘proven inability to have biological children’ that disqualified us. There are plenty of countries that allow foreign adoption of infants, but they are rarely countries you’d want to visit for any purpose other than picking up your child, or they’re halfway around the world. Given a person’s natural desire to understand who they are and where they came from, I didn’t want to saddle my family with repeated trips halfway around the world. We eliminated that option. Countries that allow infant adoption are also often not Hague Convention countries, which is an even better reason for do-not-pass-go.
Child Welfare and Adoption Costs
The reason that infant adoption is so difficult is because democratic nations care about child welfare. It’s counter-intuitive and a little backwards, but laws protecting children from harm are why adoption is so challenging. In the United States, we have a lot of these laws. Child welfare agencies are required, by federal law, to prove that you are mentally stable, physically healthy, and financially sound. These agencies also have numerous state laws to comply with in addition to the federal ones. The resulting process is arduous because it legally has to be. I can honestly tell you that I found pregnancy and childbirth a far easier and less invasive way to build our family. I don’t say that lightly – I had a 52 hour labor with my first son and my recovery to ‘normal’ activities after childbirth took more than 9 months.
For potential parents of adopted children, a private adoption agency’s burden of proof often passes directly to you as an expense. To place a child in your home, all agencies, state or private, have to prove that you’re mentally stable, physically healthy, and financially sound. Foreign adoptions have other associated costs and requirements (bare minimum is almost always at least 2 trips to the country of the child’s origin before you can take them home with you). For the private (non-profit) adoption agencies, all of this equates to a LOT of paperwork. That means it can cost a lot of money to adopt via a private agency.
My research suggested that the average costs of a domestic adoption are between $30-40K per infant (plus domestic travel costs where applicable), and foreign adoptions can be around that figure plus international travel costs, which can be substantive. I even met a mom who adopted an infant from California, then was contacted by her adopted child’s agency because her son’s biological mother was having another child and they wanted to know if she had any desire to adopt the sibling. She agreed, but I was shocked to learn that her second adoption cost more than her first, and that they were both over $30K!
Ward of the State = Burden of the State
Here’s the thing – I want to adopt because I want to make a difference. I am passionate about adoption because I know there are a lot of children out there that need stability and loving homes. I want to be one of those homes. I do not think it should cost me upwards of $30K to bring an unwanted child into my home, but the amount of paperwork required is truly staggering. It flat out costs a lot of money to process that much information.
Imagine if a woman gave birth naturally at a hospital and was handed a $30K bill. The average person would be outraged. This is something she could have done at home for free, but because she’s trying to do right by her child and herself, she went to a hospital and is out $30K? Unbelievable! Then look at it from the perspective of the hospital. Do the doctors, nurses, and staff deserve to be paid for the time they dedicated to her while she was in their care? Shouldn’t she pay for the supplies used during her stay to be washed, sterilized, or replaced? Shouldn’t she be responsible for the cost of the food she ate? The cost is the cost. Questioning the cost is the wrong approach for progress. If you want to get anywhere, question who pays it.
That brings me to foster care. If you adopt through foster care, the state pays the costs. The government that created those requirements and barriers to entry has agencies of employees dedicated to enforcing them. Their employees are paid via state and federal funds. The arduous process costs you nothing. In fact, the state pays you to do it. I can’t speak for other states, but Ohio requires 36 hours of training before you can become a licensed foster or adoptive parent. If you take this training through the state, once you’re licensed, they pay you for attending it. Private agencies make you pay for it.
Foster Care and Infants
Here’s another important thing to note. If a child is abandoned at a hospital after birth, he or she almost always becomes a ward of the state. When that happens, it becomes the state’s responsibility to officially sever parental rights and find a forever home for that child. During that process, those infants are in foster care. Terminating parental rights usually involves a court and is a drawn out process. Once it’s achieved, the foster parents are almost always given the option to adopt the child they’ve been caring for. As a result, there are almost no infants in the United States waiting for adoption despite the thousands unwanted that are born every day.
After realizing all of this, our path to adoption became crystal clear – adopt through foster care. We want to work within the system that puts the burdensome costs of adoption where they should be – on the government that created them to begin with. Their burden is our collective burden as a society, too. Unless we can somehow rally together to get the child welfare laws changed so they actually benefit the child, working within the system is where you can do the most good. We want to help. This is where we’re needed.
Until next time …
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