Thursday, March 5, 2009

But it's so expensive....

One of the most common responses we get when we tell people we're adopting is something like "wow, isn't that really expensive?" or "yeah, we would consider adopting, but it's so expensive." There seems to be this idea out there that adoption has to cost tons of money. That's not really true, although it's true that it certainly CAN cost alot of money. Also, no matter what your method, lots of money will change hands.
There are a lot of reasons why adoptions cost money. That is a post all its own, I think. But here is some of what we learned in the course of our investigations about the money when we started to research adoption. This isn't bible truth by any means, so take it as one couple's research, and know that there are exceptions to everything.

In general Foreign Adoptions cost more than domestic.
This isn't always the case, of course. But the agency fees for a foreign adoption are generally more, because they have to have employees in that country, and there is more to subsidize as far as overhead costs. Also, there are government fees on top of agency fees, and then the cost of travel is definitely more. Add in money lost from not working while you travel (some governments require long stays in-country before they will release the child, or multiple visits.). Domestic adoptions can cost just as much, but there really is no reason for them to. The agencies that charge more should be including birth mother expenses in their fees. If you're required to be responsible for birth mother expenses, the agency fee should be significantly lower - think under $10,000.

There is a Federal Tax Credit available to those who adopt a child. This doesn't pay off until after you've completed the adoption, but for those who finalize an adoption this year that credit is over $12,000. That's a lot of money. And it's a credit, not a deduction. That means that after all your income is calculated and your return decided on, you get credited up to $12,0000 OR the rest of whatever you paid. Note: you can only be refunded what you've paid in taxes, so if your family only paid $5000 in taxes in a year, that's all you can get back. But the credit rolls over, so whatever you didn't get back the year you finalized, you can get the next year, and the year after until you've gotten your whole credit.

Babies cost more. There are a lot of funding programs available for kids who need homes, both domestically and abroad. Our agency has special funds to help subsidize or completely pay for older kids' adoptions. The younger a kid is the fewer subsidies available.

White babies cost the most. This was a shock for us. The most expensive countries to adopt from internationally are Russia and former Soviet Republics where many of the children are white. The most expensive adoptions domestically are white infant adoptions. It's mostly a white privilege thing and partially a supply/demand thing, more white people can afford to consider adoption and most of them want to adopt a child of their own race. The less expensive foreign adoptions are places like Ethiopia and Haiti - and I've written before about how one agency we had the option of sending our profile to broke down the percentage of African American as far as 25%, with the lowest fees being for 100% African American babies.

All that being said - there's programs out there to help fund adoptions, so you don't have to be rich to do it. Andrew and I are certainly not wealthy, not by any stretch. Here's how our adoption will break down.

Application fee: $250
Homestudy fee: $1565
Agency Fee: $4500
Matching Agency Fee: $7,000 - $23,000
Follow-up visit fee: $300 - $1000
Finalization fees: $1000 - $1500

So in total our adoption will cost at least $14,615. and at most 31,815, plus travel within the USA. Quite a spread, huh?

How the heck can we afford that? Well let's look at the funding sources we have available, in addition to pinching pennies on our own.

1. Tax credit - at some point we'll get at least 12K back.
2. No-interest loans: Our agency has these available for those who qualify. We qualify for one to the tune of $7000. Not too bad. Also, we have some family members who are willing to up the no-interest loan funds we can draw on a bit with their own money.
3. People like to help out. Other family members have slipped us money here and there.
4. This is the biggie for us: our grant. Our agency has a special grant program for their infant program. This is what levels the playing field for us, and lets us send profiles out to agencies whose fees are much higher as well as those whose fees are comparatively low. The grant works like this: Total Cost of Adoption minus Tax Credit times .75 equals grant. So the more we pay, the bigger our grant. So take that high end total cost, $35,815. Take out the travel, which doesn't count towards the grant, and run it through the formula and we've got a grant of 14523. Not too shabby. add the $7000 loan in and we're paying less than 10K out of pocket plus travel expenses. At the end of it all(grant and tax credit), even with the most expensive option the cost of the adoption is around $4k plus travel. Programs like this one is what is making it even remotely possible for us to afford adoption.

It's true that we've been especially lucky, and that we are just one unique situation. But there is other stuff like this out there, it just takes looking. At the end of the day an adoption doesn't have to cost more than having a baby biologically - and sometimes it costs less.


  1. Great post. Some employers offer Adoption Assistance - MS offers up to $5,000 per child!

  2. Hey there! It's bbody from TCOYF. I don't know why it took me so long to find your blog, but I'm glad I did!

    Great post. Figuring these things out is exactly what our weekend plans this weekend. The grant program with your agency is wonderful - what a big help.

  3. Juliet - that's a really good point! I know there are a lot of employers that offer assistance and MS is one of the best. If only I'd gone into computers! ;)

    bbody!! Hi! I'm glad you found me! I can't wait to hear what you guys figure out as you noodle through your options this week...

  4. I've been meaning to post this link for you:

    Turns out if you had a premature child, your expenses could easily exceed those of an adoption. I don't think people who give you these comments are thinking about that!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to share this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.