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Why adoption is expensive and why that’s okay (and what you can actually do)

19 June 2019

Or, How my opinion on adoption costs completely flipped by the close of our adoption.

When we started our adoption process about a year and a half ago, I was outraged at the price tag. It wasn’t a surprise, of course. We reckoned ourselves to it before signing the first batch of paperwork, but that doesn’t make it go away.

I fumed at the injustice of the hurdle. How many more children would be in safe, loving families today if it didn’t cost a year’s salary to put them there? How many amazing parents get stuck at the starting line because of the scandalous price tag?

Normal, natural reactions from a family long-burdened for another child to love.

And lately I see the cost of an adoption held up against the cost of an abortion as a way to say, “This is why adoption is not a good option.” Which is just inaccurate.

It has also highlighted to me that my passion on the matter has completely reversed. I knew it was changing even before we brought our son home, but it’s been in my face lately.

So allow me to explain.

Why adoption is expensive

Short answer: Because we’re dealing with vulnerable, traumatized children.

It takes a lot of work to double and triple check that a family is safe for a hurting child, and all of that work requires man hours.

We are still paying off a five-digit sum, but I submitted very few payments for more than a thousand dollars at a time. It was a couple hundred for fingerprints here, a couple more for paperwork there, a few hundred more for background checks elsewhere, translation fees, international mail delivery, certification of paperwork, and on and on.

And all of it is necessary. Because the other side of the coin is child services agencies that don’t triple-check families or take every extra precaution, and we’ve all heard at least one of those horror stories.

Those stories end with people asking why the agencies and individuals involved didn’t do more. The answer is funding. Not because someone is neglecting children on purpose because they didn’t get the raise they asked for, but because there’s not enough funding to pay enough people to do the triple-checking.

We say it shouldn’t have to come to money. That there are other ways to ensure the honesty, integrity, and safety of a family seeking to adopt … but how? How does that paperwork get processed and how do those interviews happen without paying someone for their time?

Maybe everyone involved in the adoption process should be volunteering their time? It would just never get done. There were seasons when it seemed like our family coordinator at AWAA worked full-time just on our case. I want to pay her—and everyone who helped me bring my son home—and I want to pay her well for her hard work.

I used to think there was some greedy lawyer or corrupt government official in the shadows somewhere, adding zeros to their fees in order to line their own pockets. There isn’t. I didn’t see anyone living like a king off the adoption industry, but I did meet a lot of people giving up extra time and going the extra mile to put kids in good homes.

It’s expensive because it’s important.

Why it’s okay

And these kids are worth it. Any kid is worth it.

Why should it not be expensive? Why should it be easy? Why should anyone who can write a good letter and fill out a few forms and hand over a few hundred dollars be given a child—a child that has already experienced the most dramatic, tragic loss?

Because we know the dangers. We know what happens when it’s too easy for a child to get placed, or stay, in a home that’s not safe. If adoption, somehow, cost more than it “should,” I say fine. Make it hard. Make me prove it. Make vulnerable children too “expensive” to be a commodity to someone who is thinking about how to turn a profit.

Do I still stress out about the money sometimes? Yes I do. But I look at my son, here in our home—flourishing in ways he never could in an institution, and enriching our lives in ways we never could have imagined—and it’s worth it. He’s worth it.

And what you can actually do

Does this mean we throw up our hands and just keep shrugging, “The system is broken?” Does this mean that the best solution is to, “stop flooding the (broken) system with more children?”

Of course not.

Of. Course. Not.

1. Adopt or foster

Before you think, “Oh I could never …” just pause. I had no grid for how to do this either. We didn’t have ten thousand dollars in savings. We didn’t even necessarily have the full support of some of our closest people (because they didn’t have a grid for it either and they were worried about us).

You’re not a perfect parent? You’re not a parent? You waited too long? You have a full family already?

There will always be a, “but …” option. Pray about it. Look into it at least a little bit and just see what it’s really like. Talk to someone who fosters or who has adopted.

There are other ways to help, but before you just scroll to #2 … take a minute. Because yes, there are other ways to help, but what these kids need more than clothes and school supplies and even mentors, is families.

2. Adopt an adoption or foster family

If you really can’t be a forever family, find one you can help. They almost definitely need money, but they also need hand-me-downs, babysitters, photographers, meals, etc.

There is probably one at your church or in your neighborhood. I promise: The process of fostering or adopting a child has humbled them beyond their wildest dreams and they will not be offended at a polite, “Hi. You’re doing an amazing thing, and I want to help you.”

If you’re super introverted, search #adoptionfundraiser on Instagram and pick a family. Donate to their fundraisers. Share their story. Advocate for them. Encourage them. I promise you, they need it.

3. Donate

We talked about the money. It takes a lot. You can donate to a good adoption agency or a good foster care agency (like Safe Families), and it all helps.

If you want to make it a little personal, search that hashtag again and start donating to random families. They’re all worthy (see the above, they’re doing it) and—again—they all need it.

Keep Adoption Expensive

The problem is not that adoption is expensive. The problem is that more people spend more time reposting social media memes about the expense than actually doing anything to help vulnerable children.

The resources to put every child in a good, safe, loving home are out there. And some of them—whether its thousands of dollars or a pan of baked mostaccioli or a couple hours of free babysitting—are in your hands.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Gloria Turner permalink
    19 June 2019 10:05 PM

    Absolutely beautiful!

  2. Alease permalink
    20 June 2019 10:16 AM

    …and it’s so sad to say, but most overseas adoptions come with medical bills also. I see a lot of these blessed kids on my flights and the majority of them come with physical ailments, especially if you get a male. God bless your family for enduring the process.

    • Lex permalink*
      20 June 2019 1:56 PM

      It’s true there are frequently medical needs – they are often a big factor in a birth family placing a child for adoption. More expenses to consider. We’re definitely working through those now as well.

      But not all! And while many children are listed with “medical needs,” they are often minor to Westerners. We would hardly consider eczema, for example, a serious medical condition. But overseas it gets lumped into a list of “skin ailments/conditions,” and becomes stigma for some poor kid.

      There are actually more boys available for adoption – at least in China – with very minor or NO medical needs. It’s just harder for boys to get adopted and no one is really sure why. Some consider just being a boy a “special need” in China. I did some investigating and wrote about it here –

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