So my friend says, “Why DOES it cost so much?”

Yeah, because dude, it is a LOT of money, isn’t it?!

Disclaimer: We are adoption neophytes, and we know it. Here is the extent of our experience, and then my answer about the money side of this equation.

I have always been drawn to the idea of adopting. We’ll chat soon about how that idea became reality for our family.

On the practical side, three years ago we nearly adopted a distant relative through the state but as our second son arrived before we could get all the ducks in a row, we did not end up adopting that child. She was placed with a distant member on the other side of her family. I’m still surprised how painful that whole thing was, and how much it brought me to the cross in the sense that I had to deal with deeper anger and frustration with God for the first time as a believer. (I became a Christian as an adult, about 12 years ago.)

We’re at the infancy stages of adopting now through a private agency. We went to the meetings about state adoption, and realized that there were several things that made it clear it was not for us.

      First: why we don’t just go through the state.
They simply don’t have nearly the need in our state now for adoptive parents of children under 2, and will just about not process the paperwork for a family with that age restriction. The child’s distant, remote and never-even-met-you relations are first approached about placement (remember, that was US a few years back). When a blue moon rises and they do have one arrive with need of a family, there are literally 60 to 80 dossiers waiting and ready. Three are selected and considered by a committee that may include the child’s birth family. So it takes years. It can take years just to get processed if you restrict it to a young child. One other point of concern with us is that they absolutely will not work with families who are not comfortable with a fully open adoption. Keeping in mind the circumstances that bring children to need for families, I find that to be potentially disconcerting. The workers didn’t tell us “do not go with us” but they made it pretty clear we would be unlikely to have a child placed with us through them. They even gave us names of agencies to check out!

I can’t say that “losing” the state option wasn’t a bit of a disappointment. On the bright side, at least on paper, social services must be doing a bang-up job in the Northwest! And the kids are rarely waiting like they used to, so that’s a huge big awesome deal. I hope things continue to be streamlined and reformed in ways that truly benefit those children.

     So, today, off the cuff, here is my answer to “Why DOES it cost so much?”

I assume you’re talking domestic. International costs fund the orphanages, agencies, sometimes social services in the community, and indeed in some cases the bribery involved for the greasing of bureaucratic wheels.

So, domestic, best case scenario: You are funding the highly trained counseling pre- and post- placement for the birthmother and potentially the birthfather as well. This includes (as it should) funding that same counseling for families who in the end choose to parent, thereby garnering no fees for the agency outside of state funding. You are funding the advertising and outreach an agency does, and probably some of their political outreach as well (re: abortions, adoption law, etc). Social workers must have a masters, minimum, and most agencies have their own on retainer. A home study is required to adopt from anywhere in/to the US, and the licensing for the people who visit families to approve them, grilling them and their children, is necessarily extensive as well.

That said, it’s still free to adopt through the state and I’ve heard that some states have more need than ours.

The agency we found finally (through the super-chick who played piano at our wedding), is incredible at first blush and we hope they’ll continue to impress us. They charge $15,000, pretty much one of the lowest fees we’ve seen.

This agency requires adoptive families to sign a Christian statement of faith, which we are all over and glad to see. In the swirl of adoption information, intensity of issues and opinions, it is really a source of comfort that we share that belief. Most of their adoptions are semi-open, meaning the birthmother often meets the family before placing with them, updates are sent from the adoptive family on a regular basis, and the families communicate through the proxy of the agency, but there is not usually direct contact between the birth family and the child. While I understand the affront that is felt by some birth mother advocates at this form of “open” (which they would called closed), I was impressed by the consideration and respect this agency showed to potential birth mothers in answers to several of my questions.

There are agencies whose fees start at twice or more what ours will be. Perhaps they are affected by the region in which they operate. The cynical side of me has other comments, but for now I’m going to focus on where we are in this marathon process and on the things I’ve found to be beautiful therein. Later maybe I’ll dig a bit deeper with sharper claws, and I do pray for the whole system and the kids in need at this point in history. Adoption always begins with loss. You should pray, too, or dig, as needed.

I hope the movement gaining momentum in the Christian church that calls people to support adoption and adoptive families will continue to grow. Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life is a good place to start if you’re interested. The short of it is: it would be great if the church were to be known for supporting its members in adoption. There are programs that start short term loan or small grant programs for church communities to fund, and I heart that concept. The IRS gives us certain tax credits which also helps a LOT, but tax help only comes after you’ve shelled out your clams. So it’s hard and sometimes seems unfair. Bleh.

So, there’s the long of it from our viewpoint. More is likely to come!

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