adoption agency

The Economics of Adoption: Using an Attorney vs. Private Adoption Agency

So I’m that guy that decided to go forward with a private adoption thinking it would be cheaper and easier than working with an adoption agency.

Adoption agreement

When we received the information that the birth mother of our first adopted son was once again pregnant, we had some mixed feelings. With our first son, we went through a private adoption agency and the cost was difficult for us to manage. We have no regrets at spending the $30,000 fee that the agency charged the first adoption, but we just didn’t feel that we would be able to afford another costly adoption so soon afterward. At the same moment, we wanted the baby and could not imagine telling our son that we couldn’t afford to bring his brother into our home when he was older. It seemed silly on one hand to quibble over the cost of adopting a half sibling, but on the other hand, it would put a serious financial burden on our family.

Upon further research, we were told by the adoption agency that their fees had gone up since our last adoption. The current fee would be $33,000 plus any medical expenses incurred during the birth. The medical costs could be anywhere between $7,000 and up to $10,000 if a c-section was necessary, and any costs associated with complications would be ours as well. That brought the cost to a range between $40,000 and $43,000.

Here is some un-professional tax advice for people looking to adopt. There are adoption tax credits available to adoptive families. In our situation there was up to $12,000 in non-refundable tax credits. Non-refundable means that you don’t get it back unless you owe taxes. If you owe taxes, the tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your tax bill. It will usually make your refund larger, but you won’t necessarily get the money back in the first year. Consult your CPA for further information on this.

Even with the adoption tax credit, the price was so high that we felt we couldn’t move forward with the adoption because of the cost. The only other option we had was to work out a private adoption and work with birth mother directly. Believing this would cost less, while knowing it would be difficult to manage the situation, we chose to move forward without the adoption agency.

We contacted the birth mother and told her our situation would not allow us to go through the agency, but that we would like to handle it privately. She was hesitant at first, but she decided that she would cooperate in order to keep the kids together. My wife and I started making phone calls and doing research into the costs that we would have in doing an adoption privately. We interviewed lawyers and spoke with social workers and hospitals to pin down all the costs that we would be responsible for.

Our budget included an estimate of travel and living expenses to move the birth mother closer to us during the last two months of the pregnancy as that is what she had asked us to do. All together we estimated the cost of a private adoption at between $15,000 and $18,000. That was still a stretch for our finances, but we decided we would make it work one way or another.

The adoption turned out to be very difficult. The day to day events could fill a book and I don’t want to get into the difficult details of the situation. To put it concisely, when you are doing a private adoption, you take the roles of social worker, adoptive family, and financial provider on yourself at the same time. It puts you in a very tenuous position, and opens you up for manipulation. If you know going into the situation that you will be manipulated, be sure and be open and honest with your spouse on how much you are willing to be manipulated. We found it to be very difficult to refuse extravagant demands when she threatened to leave and not place with us. We would not only be devastated at losing the baby, but any money we had already spent in the adoption would be unrecoverable as well. In some states there are legal limitations on what can be provided to a birth mother who intends to place a baby, but unfortunately the laws in our state are very liberal in this area and have virtually no limitations.

With our willingness to bend, we were able to successfully complete the adoption. There were several points along the way that we were afraid we were going to lose the opportunity to adopt the baby and looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous that it all worked out the way it did. We realized in the end, the value of the adoption agency probably would have been worth the added expense. We did save money on the cost of the adoption, but it took an emotional toll on us and our family and required a lot of work that we had not planned on.

By the end of the adoption, our lawyer now had a new, “Most expensive adoption.” The fees added up as they helped us navigate the situations that we dealt with daily. Be aware that your lawyer is not your friend. When you call them up to chat about a situation, they are billing you.
Between the added legal expenses and the added living expenses for the birth mother, our do it yourself adoption ended up costing just a little over $30,000. Yes, we saved some money, but it was a far cry from the budget we had started with. In the end, we had an amazing outcome. We walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby boy that has been a source of joy in our family ever since. While we would change some aspects of it if we could, the outcome was well worth the struggle we went through to get him into our home.

Our First Adoption

adoption

So I’m that guy who woke up one morning with no idea that in 13 hours, he and his wife would be walking out of a room with their newly adopted son.

We had been “paper pregnant” for almost two years. In adoption vocabulary, that means that we had gone through the home study and approval process with an adoption agency and were waiting for the right situation to come along and to be selected by a birthmother to have a baby placed in our home. The major difference between paper pregnancy and normal pregnancy is that the latter has a definite end date. We were losing hope as the situation dragged on.

We were currently working with a faith-based agency and we decided that our chances might be better if we went forward with a private adoption agency that a friend had used. The private agency was substantially more expensive, but they did not collect fees until the placement was in process, so this didn’t seem like a huge obstacle when we signed up.

It took a few weeks to sign up and be approved by the new agency, but soon we had a second “paper pregnancy.” We were used to the notion that nothing happened quickly in the world of adoption, so we were stunned when we received a call from the private adoption agency a little over two weeks later.

I remember the events of the day so clearly and vividly, even four years later as I am writing this. It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and we were driving close to home when the adoption worker called me. I pulled into a parking lot to focus on the call. She said, “We have a birthmother with a 3-week-old baby boy. She will be here in about an hour and I would like to know if you would be fine with us showing her your profile.”

“Of course, that would be great,” I said. She told us a little more about the situation and explained the financial obligations associated with it, and the phone call was over.

My wife and I were very excited. We faced other possible adoptions previously, so we were cautious about getting our hopes up for fear of building up to a letdown, but this felt different and exciting.

We went about our day and at 3 o’clock, my phone rang again. It was the adoption worker again. “We showed your profile to the birthmother,” she said, “and she loves you guys. She would like to meet you. How soon can you come in? By the way, if this works out you will need to be able to stay in town for 1 to 2 weeks while you wait for the states to finish up necessary paperwork.”

We live about 3 hours from the adoption agency’s office, so we told them we would be there at 7 o’clock that night. And the whirlwind began. We had 30 to 45 minutes to prepare our 5-year-old daughter and ourselves for a trip that would last at least a week. I went to work and tried to tie up all my loose ends there while my wife frantically packed bags for everyone. She also prepared for the event that we did adopt the baby and would need to care for him through that time period.

We were on the road in 45 minutes. The trip was filled with “what if” conversations. The most common centered around the question “What if this doesn’t work out?” But we also dwelt on the hopes and scenarios that would play out if it did work.

We arrived at the adoption agency’s office just after 7:00 that night. The adoption worker sat down with us and we spoke a little about the situation. She said that the birthmother wanted to wait to meet with us for about an hour so she could have some more time to say goodbye to the baby.

This brought about a whole new round of issues. We had packed and driven 3 hours with the thoughts that we would meet the birth mom that night and hoped that within the next few days we would get the baby. But with this new wrinkle, we were going to receive the baby in an hour. We had not been able to round up all the baby supplies we needed, so we took that hour to go to Target and pick up what we needed to take care of him through the night.

At 8 o’clock, we met the with the adoption worker again. It all seemed surreal as they walked us down the hall to the room where we would meet our baby for the first time. We walked into the room and there they were.

Our son’s birthmother was holding him and rose to meet us as we came in the door. She was a beautiful young woman. We sat down near her, and we began to talk. After a few moments, she asked my wife if she would like to hold the baby. That moment of her placing Max into my wife’s arms is burned into my memory. For the last 3 years I had been by my wife’s side through the tragedy of a miscarriage only to be followed by the hopelessness of infertility. I had tried to console her through the difficult times, but I felt powerless to take that pain from her. As I watched Max being placed into her arms, all that pain went away and I will never forget that moment.

We continued our conversations for another 15 minutes. We talked about the baby and how he had been developing over the last 3 weeks of his new life. We talked about what our communication would look like as we maintained a connection with the birth mother. The connection would be as much for her as it would be for him. The time went so fast, and when the social worker said it was time to go, we were shocked back to the reality of the situation.

My wife handed the baby back to the birthmother. She held him tightly as she stood bouncing him gently. Her heart was breaking as the moment had arrived that she had to say goodbye. She gave him one last hug, kissed him on the forehead and said to him, “Goodbye, little man. I love you.” My heart broke for her as I realized that this amazing experience that we were having was at the same time the most difficult thing she would ever do.

Then she placed the baby into my wife’s arms for the second time. This moment was so emotionally overwhelming. It was an act of pure love by the birthmother to place this beautiful baby into our arms, trusting that we would give him the life she dreamed he would have. For us, it was the end of a journey to grow our family through adoption. It had been a long, difficult time in our lives. That very morning we had woken with no idea that at the end of the day we would be holding our new son.

Words cannot describe how grateful we are to this young birthmother. This experience has continued to fill our lives with joy and happiness, and we will always be thankful. Looking back on it now, I know it couldn’t have been any more perfect. Every trial along our journey had prepared and directed us to the moment when our son was placed in our arms.