Dave Ramsey would choke on his latest beans and rice recipe if he knew the amount of consumer debt we have.
(Didn’t know Ramsey had ventured into meal planning? Neither did I until recently. Hey, it’s an area where people can save money if they plan wisely, so why wouldn’t the King of Financial Frugality offer some help?)
Anyway, the reality of it is that adoption is expensive. Or at least, private adoption is.
Many people wonder why it costs so much when there are supposedly all these babies and children all over the world who need help, a home, a family.
If only it were that simple…
So why does it cost so much? I’m going to stick with what I know: private domestic newborn adoption.
For starters, there’s the search for a birthmother. We happen to work with an agency that does nationwide placements, so they are marketing themselves across the country at pregnancy clinics, doctor’s offices, on the Internet, etc. They have people available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to anyone who might call looking for more information.
Each birthmother and prospective adoptive parent(s) is(are) assigned a caseworker. This person walks each side through every step of the process. Once both parties decide to move forward with a match, the caseworker will oversee everything that needs to happen, arrange all the legal and advisory parties that need to be involved, act as an intermediary, answer questions, and just generally support both sides.
Under California law, an independent third party is required to advise the birth mother. This person is known as an Adoption Services Provider (ASP) and must be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Marriage and Family Therapist. They will advise the birth mother and oversee her signing of all documents to ensure she is of sound mind, understands what she’s doing, and is not signing under duress.
Multiple legal advisers are needed (and we all know attorneys are not cheap). They handle things before and after the placement – things like researching and staying up to date on the adoption laws of the different states involved, preparing lots of paperwork, terminating parental rights, filing the adoption petition and decree, participating in the finalization hearing, and so much more.
Then there are the birth mother expenses. I talked a little bit about those in this post.
A few months after the placement, there will be a required home visit and interview from a county social worker (which we pay for).
Then there are potential travel expenses. Thankfully, we don’t have to go out of state this time, so we won’t have the cost of flights, rental cars, etc. Nor will we have to wait for interstate clearance to cross state borders with the baby. We had to do this with our first son, who was born outside California. It’s called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and requires more paperwork to be filed and approved in both the birth state and the receiving (home) state before the child can leave.
Once the adoption is finalized (with our first son, this didn’t happen until almost a year after his birth), there will be a new birth certificate to be obtained, as well as replacing the child’s temporary federal ID with his very own social security number.
Beginning to see how much is involved and how it all adds up?
The biggest chunk we pay at one time is once we get matched with a birth mother. And typically we need to pay that money within 24 hours of both sides accepting the match (we had a little extra time this round, because ours went over a weekend).
Most of that chunk is a retainer for the birth mother expenses that they’ve estimated for the time she’s been/will be with the agency during the pregnancy, birth, and after-care periods.
There is also a legal retainer, administration fee, escrow fee, fee for ongoing support services for the birth mother, and a third-party trust retainer – all covering many of the items I’ve outlined above.
When we were going through our first adoption and got matched with our son’s birth mother, we had to hand over $15,000 at this point. So that’s what I was ballparking for this adoption, give or take a couple thousand dollars, once we got matched.
To my shock, when we got the accounting letter for this second phase of this adoption, they were asking us for $25,100.
My jaw hit the floor, and I immediately went into panic mode.
How are we going to pay for this? That’s $10,000 more than I was expecting? We have to come up with this in 24 hours?!! What are we going to do? Why is it so much more?? And on and on my mind kept spinning…
I mean, we knew it would be expensive. But I was completely caught off guard by having to pay that much more, earlier than we were expecting.
So what did we do?
Stay tuned for part 2 to find out…