why does adoption cost so much? (and why we didn’t just send that money to Haiti)

I hear a lot of questions about why adoption is so expensive, and honestly, I don’t always have a good answer.

This month, we added up all of our adoption expenses and I was a little shocked at how much we spent on our adoption from Haiti. Because I had to type up an itemized list for our taxes last week, and because I’m a believer in transparency in adoption, I thought I would just share what we spent, so people can have an idea of where the money goes.

Our adoption expenses are a bit atypical because we didn’t use an agency.  There are some pros and cons to this – the pro being that had we used an agency, it would have added about $8,000 to our total cost.  I really didn’t love the idea of handing over a lot of money to an agency, and I was comfortable doing a lot of research and legwork myself.  In theory, an adoption agency cam help to assure than an adoption is ethical.  In reality, every adoptive parent needs to research and dig to make sure their own adoption is handled in an ethical manner.  We had a lot of trust in the missionaries who ran the orphanage and who would be handling the paperwork process.  I didn’t have a lot of trust in the Haitian officials, but being with an agency would not have shielded us from getting stuck in the their social services quagmire.

Anyways, here is a breakdown of our adoption expenses:



Before compiling this list, if someone had asked me how much our adoption cost, I would have said around $10,000.  I knew that the big expense was the $8000 we paid to Heartline, but I don’t think I really realized how much the rest of it added up over the course of those three years. 
The fees we paid to Heartline to process the adoption are often referred to as the “in-country fee”.  This money went towards the orphanage taking care of him, but also went towards an attorney processing our paperwork, and any fees on the Haiti side.  Because it took three years for Kembe’s adoption to finalize, I can tell you that $8000 was insufficient to even cover the orphanage’s cost of caring for him, especially because he had a private hospital stay during that time.

The next largest expense was travel – which again was affected by the three year span it took to finalize the adoption.  During those three years our family took a total of eight trips, and we often took our kids.  In total, we spent $6,156.  That number only involves airfare.  That expense is a lot more than we expected, but for people adopting from African countries that require two trips, travel expenses can be even higher.

The next expense is the $2600 we paid to US social workers to approve us to adopt.  Honestly, I don’t think these fees are all that exorbitant.  Home studies by professionals are a good thing. 
I think one other surprise is that we spent nearly $1.500 on filing forms with the US government.  This one seems high to me.

So . . . even looking at our own expenses, I can’t really directly answer the question of why adoption is so expensive.  There are a lot of steps and a lot of people involved in making sure a couple is eligible, and then making sure a child is truly in need of a family.  I think those steps are good.  I understand the concern that people are “making money off of adoption”, but at the same time, these people (the translators, the government officials, the lawyers, the social workers, the notaries) certainly shouldn’t be expected to work for free.   I think it’s a fine line.  I do think that adoption fees are too high, but when I look at our expenses, I don’t see a clear area where it could have been trimmed (beyond USCIS).  Now, had we paid an additional 8 or 10k to use an agency . . . that might be a question mark for me.  If we paid this much to adopt an infant in the US, I would definitely have some questions about where the money went.

I do think that there are some professional who make a lot of money from adoption, and I don’t like it.  But I didn’t really like seeing my OB driving a Porsche, either.

Speaking of my OB, this was an interesting revelation.  I actually paid more money to deliver Karis than I did to adopt Kembe.   Our adoption cost just under $19,000.  Karis’s delivery cost nearly $26,000 out-of-pocket.

Okay, so now to answer the two inevitable questions that arise from a discussion of adoption expenses: how did we afford it, and why didn’t we just send that money to Haiti?

We definitely didn’t have $19,000 just laying around.  Our first step was to take out a home equity loan in 2006 when we started the process.  (I haven’t even calculated how the interest rates of a three year adoption have affected our expenses.  I think maybe I don’t want to know that.)  In addition to the loan, our church gave us a gift of $2000 from their adoption fund to pay for our homestudy.  After Kembe came home, we did a t-shirt fundraiser and, along with a grant from Lifesong for Orphans, we raised $4000.  We also expect a tax refund of $13,000 thanks to the adoption credit.  So, that is how we could afford to adopt.

Now to the other question we get in relation to adoption expenses: why didn’t you just take that money and give it to a Haitian family/give it to a mission in Haiti/buy a well?  First of all, because we wanted to build our family through adoption.  I don’t think it’s either/or scenario (we DO give money directly to Haiti) but I don’t think you can put a price tag on a forever family.  Also – I don’t think that adoptive families should be held to a standard of charitable accountability that is beyond what we would hold the general public to.  I mean, why isn’t everyone sending $20 grand to Haiti?  Yes, adoption is stupid expensive, but so is a boob job.  So is a new car.  So is having a new baby.  (For the record, I’ve never had a new car or a boob job.  I’m just sayin’, adoption is not the only expense that could be foregone in favor of third-world financial assistance). Ironically, I have never had someone leave a comment on my blog asking why I chose to have another biological child instead of sending that money directly to Haiti.  In fact, the next time I’m asked that question, I might ask that person to go around and quiz pregnant women on why they are being so selfish.  Or I might just punch them in the face.  I’m going to wait until the moment and see how I feel.

I mean, why are we questioning adoptive parents about money when there are people buying these things?

I feel really passionate about helping families in Haiti, and I would venture to say that most adoptive families tend to be pretty involved in assistance after they’ve spent any time in the sending country.  But I don’t like the way the decision to adopt somehow raises the question of how money might be better spent because there are a million examples in this world of how money could be better spent, and providing a family for a child is a really, really worthy use of money, in my book.

If you have adopted and feel like sharing, I would love to hear your perspective on the expenses of adoption.  Where did you spend the most money?  Were there fees  you were uncomfortable with?  Why is it so expensive, and is there something to be done about it?



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