Is adoption an affordable option for you?

Biniam Volk, 3, holds up a U.S. flag while sitting with his adopted family (L-R) sister Lauren Volk, 10, brother Max Volk, 7, mother Caeli Volk and father Joe Volk of Bristow, Virginia, during the children's citizenship ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office November 14, 2011 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Charles of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania met his 5-month-old daughter when she was three days old.

The adoptive dad said that he and his wife have always been "committed to the idea of adoption" and five months ago, their opportunity to become parents happened suddenly.

"When we got the call, we spent a lot of money buying clothes and food and different supplies because we didn't know ahead of time. We found out the day she was born that we were going to be parents," Charles says. 

The sudden news and scramble to prepare for a baby girl in their home was just the beginning of a long adoption process that still hasn't been finalized. All in all, it's cost about $30,000.

"It was a number that shocked us initially, but thankfully our adoption agency gave us a fee schedule and told us what to expect so we've been saving for a number of years," he says.

That's a typical number for a domestic adoption, according to licensed clinical social worker Emily Rosen, who specializes in adoptions.

"The least expensive way to adopt is through the foster care system but that varies by state and county. And then the most expensive is generally international and that's due to having to travel as well as stay for long periods of time overseas in hotels and you have to take into account food and things like that," Rosen says. "Domestically, I would say on average it could be between $25,000-$30,000 and internationally it could be up to $50,000. It's a lot of money."


VETTING AN ADOPTION AGENCY

Rosen offers these tips on how to determine which adoption agency to use:

  • Be sure the agency is licensed and accredited
  • Visit an agency and see if you have a connection with the staff
  • Attend a free, informational meeting hosted by the agency
  • Ask other adoptive parents which agency they used and how their experience was
  • Browse the Web site of Joint Council on International Children's Services, a watchdog organization for international adoptions

Rosen cautions families to be sure they have extra savings when making the decision to adopt because unexpected expenses can pop up along the way -- like the birth mother changing her mind or a country deciding to close its borders to international adoption.

In Charle's case, it wasn't so dramatic, but just a small change to their adoption application proved costly.

"I was put in a great position about three months ago, I was given a promotion at work. It meant that I had to move locations, had to move out of state. So, when I told the adoption agency to update the address, I didn't realize it but we actually had to pay another $1,500 to update a lot of paperwork," Charles says.  They had to do another home visit and reinspection"That was definitely a big unknown that I didn't know about that we would have to pay extra money if we had moved so it was a little surprise."

Rosen says parents who are adopting abroad may also be surprised by the cultural differences of doing business in another country.

"There are certain countries where it's not unheard of or thought of as strange to kind of keep cash in your pocket to pay off somebody to get a Diet Coke or file a piece of paper and in this country, it's looked down upon. So, you have to be culturally sensitive," Rosen says.

As challenging and costly as the adoption process can be, Rosen encourages parents to exercise patience.

"What I always tell people is that no matter what, the child that was meant for you will come into your life," she says. "Every single person I've ever worked with has said to me, 'You know, when you told me this a year ago when I started this process, I just thought you were a cornball. I didn't know what you were talking about, and now that I've met my child, I absolutely know that I had to go through all of those problems to know that this was the child for me.'"

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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