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Managing Adoption Expenses


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Just two thoughts. The first is that it is not uncommon in the adoption field for African-American children to be considered "special needs" because they are more difficult to place. Therefore, they are placed within a separate category in terms of costs. There are also agencies that have a hierarchical fee structure in which you pay a differential amount depending on the race of the child you choose. In these scenarios, the adoption of African-American children is always the lowest on the fee structure, even below the adoption of Asian, Hispanic, etc... children. Also, it is not unusual for the adoption of Caucasian children to cost two to three times that of African-American children.

I think that for those who have adopted African-American children, this is a reality that they are more aware of, because of the choices that they explored during the process. I will tell you that it has come up so much in my study that it is a theme of experience (which means it came up a lot).

Getting back to the more emotional aspect of what this means. Although one can come up with a rationale for why agencies do this, ultimately they are choosing to do this because adopters are not as willing to adopt minority children in generally, and African-Ameircan children specifically. And it is hard to feel like the message is not being reinforced that African-American children are worth less than other children. I know that I have a strong reaction to the cost differences. I think ultimately we have to go back to the personal level of- what does it feel like to constantly get the message that others see your children as worth less- simply because of their socially defined race? And second, what is it like for the children (outside of adoption, as well as inside the adoption) who will have to confront that reality?

Adam,

I believe that we all make a lot of generalizations when we talk about our experiences, what is interesting to me is how much the arguments have been picked apart on this particular topic. An amazing amount of gneralizations are made on this forum about adopters who are not open in terms of open adoption or those who choose to adopt internationally, but I don't see anyone picking them apart. However, this topic has really seemed to hit a nerve. Do not get me wrong, I think that it is great that there is reaction to the experiences talked about here. I think in general this country needs to become a lot more sensitized to the experiences of minorities in this country. However, I always wonder what personal nerve this topic has hit for people. I know what it hits for me, but I think that we are all individual and therefore our reactions and what we react to will be different.

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A point of clarification, if I may:

From a fee perspective, the costs of actually getting children placed into qualified homes do not vary according to the child's race. (Case-related expenses sometimes vary, because full-Anglo cases don't always entail Medicaid coverage, since many full Anglo birthparents don't qualify or won't apply.) But the skin color of a child does not reduce the agency's costs in the servicing of any particular case.

We are still required by our office lease to pay the same amount of rent regardless of the race of clients being served here; we are required by our license to employ bachelor and master's-level professionals to serve our clients' needs, regardless of the race of the children being placed here; we are required by our agency policies to offer the same post-adoption support and services, regardless of the "demand" for the kind of placement being made, etc.

However, given the needs of hard-to-place children, many private agencies such as Abrazo have structured their fees in such a way that a certain proportion of every "full-service" agency fee subsidizes the lower fees charged for special needs placements... meaning, interestingly enough, that the adoptions of children considered "hard to place" weren't (and aren't) any less valuable.

The fees in our Promesa (special needs) program are just paid, in part, by all the other families who did not take home these children of promise, the ones whose needs qualify their parents to adopt at a fee offset partially provided for by others.

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Elizabeth,

This is where that breaks down for me. And I am not speaking about Abrazo in particular because I was not even aware that there was a Promesa program when we entered the program. However, I have read several agency webpages and called for more information on their special programs. Some of them are very clear that the difference that you are paying is based upon the race of the child that you are adopting, even going so far as to have a separate fee schedule simply based on race.

My understanding of special needs adoptions- that is the adoption of children who have special medical needs- is that the difference in costs is given in order to offset a lot of the medical costs that the adoptive parents will be taking on. So if you use a similar arguement about the price differences related to race wouldn't you essentially be saying that parents who adopt minority children and African-American children in particular will face more costs in raising their children than those who adopt Caucasian children. I don't really follow that argument.

My interpretation has been slightly different and I would love to hear your opinion as someone who I know has struggled with this issue in the field. I believe that there is desire to make sure that all children have homes, irregardless of their race, gender, ability status, etc... As a field overall, I believe that the struggle becomes how do we encourage adopters to move outside of their comfort zone and become more open to all children. One way might be to offset the costs of these adoptions with the fees garnered from other adoptions.

I can hear your passion when you speak on behalf of all children awaiting homes and I can only imagine what it is like to face this issue day in and day out and try to find a workable solution. I hope that you are not hearing this as an attack on your hard work, only concerns about the field overall.

I admit that whatever the reason, I do have fears about the overall message that the costs differences send. But I also believe that I struggle with the same underlying problem- how do we level the playing field for all children. I do think that adoption suffers from the same institutionalized racism as the rest of society and I am not sure what the answer to the problem is.

Interested in your perspective,

Bobbi

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Just an added note to the above post for clarification. I am not saying that agencies necessarily see children as less valuable or that parents who adopt through these programs receive "less service" or there is less effort on the part of the agencies in the placement of these children (that would probably depend on the agency- some being more ethical than others). Rather, that because of the racism that exists in society we are left to struggle with how to deal with the fewer choices that are available to these children- and that sometimes the solutions may create problems that they were not intended to (e.g., reinforcing the idea that children are differentially valued based on their race). Perhpas this is simply a reflection of society itself, but then the question becomes how do we fix the core problem behind each of these issues- institutionalized racism.

BTW- I really hate this medium. I think about what a rich discussion we could all have if we were face to face. I miss the face to face information that would make this discussion so much more rich and meaningful. Thank you all for struggling with these issues with me.

P.S. Elizabeth, when I reread your post again, I think I misinterpreted part of it. You are saying that the parent is paying differentially based on the child, but the agency is not giving less of an effort or expending less money in placing the child. Is that right?

Edited by MFTMOM
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My understanding of special needs adoptions- that is the adoption of children who have special medical needs- is that the difference in costs is given in order to offset a lot of the medical costs that the adoptive parents will be taking on. So if you use a similar arguement about the price differences related to race wouldn't you essentially be saying that parents who adopt minority children and African-American children in particular will face more costs in raising their children than those who adopt Caucasian children. I don't really follow that argument.

Hmm-- interesting! I've never heard of this, and in my experience, the kinds of children who have medical conditions severe enough to warrant additional care costs do continue to qualify for SSI and Medicaid coverage even after an adoption has occurred, unless the adopting family has sufficient insurance coverage to manage these costs without aid?

I think most adoption professionals, if honest, will tell you that the "kinds" of families who are usually most open to hard-to-place children often are more financially-limited than those seeking to adopt a "HWIO" (Healthy White Infant Only), for whatever reason. So agencies that are truly charging fees just to cover their services (vs. facilitators selling adoptions for personal gain) have few options, for offsetting their costs except through differential fees.

Elizabeth, when I reread your post again, I think I misinterpreted part of it. You are saying that the parent is paying differentially based on the child, but the agency is not giving less of an effort or expending less money in placing the child. Is that right?

Correct. Agency fees (for ethical nonprofits, at least) are intended to cover nothing more than the agency's actual costs of providing services, and such costs-for-service don't ever vary based on any child's racial identification.

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Elizabeth,

Since I have you on a roll ;) One more question. From your perspective, if adopters who are more open racially are generally more financially challenged, why not offer a sliding scale fee based on the financial abilities of the adopters- rather than the characteristics of the child?

I know that there have been debates about sliding scale fees in therapy, so perhaps the reasons are similar. I guess my hope would be to find a solution that does not have some of the "side effects" that the existing system can have.

Bobbi

P.S. I will leave it at this because I almost think that we have moved to another topic and this should represent a new thread.

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So why offer adoption fees for special needs adoptions?

I'm not sure I understand-- we don't "offer" fees in any adoption? But we do have to charge them to keep our doors open and our staff supported.

If you're asking why agencies must charge anything for special needs adoptions, you'd have to pose that question to the kind of agency that has unlimited funding sources-- unlike ours.

But I'm guessing the answer is: because otherwise, the costs of all other agency adoptions would necessarily skyrocket, and adopting parents in special needs cases be exempt from any portion of the financial burden that every prospective adoptive parent bears, to some extent.

If we had a foundation with unlimited funds to cover the costs, in an ideal world, there would rightfully be no fees associated with any adoption. (But then, in a perfect world, every birthparent who had an untimely pregnancy would be provided the financial means to keep every baby within their biological family or otherwise eliminate the problem through other means, and adoption would become a moot point.)

I agree that the conversation here is drifting away from the topic, somewhat? so how about if we continue it under one of the threads that focusses on fees and finances and resume our exploration here of what it is that we all can do to work towards the elimination of "color-ism" in adoption preferences?

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I agree that this is a different thread- just to clarify, what I meant to ask was:

Why offer adoption fees that are different than for other adoptions, not to insinuate that agencies should not be paid for services rendered. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

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I agree that the conversation here is drifting away from the topic, somewhat? so how about if we continue it under one of the threads that focusses on fees and finances and resume our exploration here of what it is that we all can do to work towards the elimination of "color-ism" in adoption preferences?

Okie-Dokie :)

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Here's an interesting blog that addresses this very topic: Fees, Sleaze & Other Adoption Yuckiness. If the "bargain baby" references make you uncomfortable, they have the same effect on me. But read it anyway. There are some very salient points contained therein.

For those who are wondering how other agencies' domestic adoption fee structures differ from Abrazo, here's one example.

See also this one.

Here's another another example.

And one more, for good measure.

Plus, one example with a sliding scale fee schedule.

Is it any wonder that discussions of adoption fees make all of us uneasy? There's a very thin line between charging a fee for services and selling a child for profit and even some of the reputable nonprofits can sometimes leave room for uncertainty.

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The adoption fee is $40,000 for both out of state families and Texas residents. We do have special situations, in which we consider an infant or child "hard to place". This usually means that we do not have an adoptive family waiting which meets the parameters for a specific match. In this case, we can offer a "hard to place" fee.

For a fully Hispanic child the fee would be $34,000. For a biracial (African-American/Caucasian) child the fee would be 26,000. For a full African-American child the fee would be $20,000 to $23,000 depending on expenses.

I find this unbelievably disturbing. Children are priceless, regardless of color. That this Dallas agency feels it appropriate to break down the value of a placement based on the racial combinations is absolutely horrifying to me.

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Agreed! When reading of the exorbitant adoption fees that some collect, the word "shakedown" occasionally comes to mind... (but granted, this comment may be seen by some as the pot calling the kettle black, so to speak.)

Here are some additional readings on adoption fees and making sense of them, where possible:

Adoptionomics

What You Need to Know about Adoption Costs

Adoptive Families: Comparing Domestic vs. International Adoption Costs

Adoption Consultancy: Why Flat Fee Adoptions Cost More in the End

Counterpoint: Why Bill Betzen Opposes Pass-Through Adoption Costs in Favor of Flat-Fee Adoptions

AAC: Who Cares if People are Exploited by Adoption?

One word to the wise: while adoption is truly the investment of (and in) a lifetime, whatever you do (or pay) to adopt will continue to impact your family long afterwards, so never let desperation cause you to abandon your good judgment nor make decisions (financial or otherwise) that you cannot live with!

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One out of state adoption agency in VA that we reviewed, they broke the price down from $18,000 for Caucasian or $5,000 for Africian/American. Now, mind you this is a Christian adoption agency.

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Children are priceless, regardless of color.

I completely agree with this point, but I think that I draw from it different conclusions than you do. I think that all children are priceless -- or, said differently, all children have value well beyond whatever fees are being paid to an agency to assist with placement -- and this is why I don't think that having differential prices for different adoptions in any way implies that the children involved in those adoptions are less valuable.

Put another way, there are plenty of adoption agencies out there that charge more than Abrazo does for their services -- is anyone arguing that this means that the children placed through Abrazo are less valuable? Or that Abrazo should raise their fees to avoid that impression? I doubt it.

The issue of subsidizing certain adoptions based on the race of the child is clearly emotionally loaded for (at least) two reasons, but it seems to me that if people want to encourage multiracial families then there is nothing wrong with giving a financial nudge to encourage the adoptive families to do so. It may be sad or frustrating to you that some people need such an incentive, but I'm not sure I understand the argument that it is unethical. We as a society give people financial incentives to "do the right thing" all the time -- how many of us take tax deductions for our charitable contributions, for example? -- and I think that financial incentives are often more effective and more honest than emotional or guilt-based incentives.

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and I think that financial incentives are often more effective and more honest than emotional or guilt-based incentives.

Very well said. Actually, I agree with your entire post Darren (and Kay).

Both of our adoptions were done through Abrazo and each placement had different/unique "total" adoption costs, which does not mean one child is more or less valuable than the other. There is no correlation between the cost of an adoption and "the worth or value" of your child.

Karen

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Hey Karen,

Perfectly said!

I can take no credit for Darren's brilliant economic mind, I believe all the credit goes to his dad for that one. (And his mom gets the credit for his emotional sensitivity.)

I do have a question though: how do you talk about adoption fees with an adopted child when they grow old enough to understand? Do children draw conclusions about their worth from differential fee structures? Has anyone had experience with this? (I mean, beyond rude questions from strangers about "how much did you pay for her?")

Best, Kay

Edited by Calix
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I do have a question though: how do you talk about adoption fees with an adopted child when they grow old enough to understand? Do children draw conclusions about their worth from differential fee structures? Has anyone had experience with this? (I mean, beyond rude questions from strangers about "how much did you pay for her?")

This is a very real concern, because it is an issue that does trigger pain among people who were once adopted-- absolutely. And I think this has been addressed, elsewhere here on the Forum, because I know it comes up not infrequently. We live in a society that is so consumer-focussed, it's no surprize that our children, too, get caught up in the mudslide...

I hear lots of people complaining about the cost to adopt. Then I start going over how much Denali cost in the first year and they usually shake their head in agreement and say 'yeah, the ($) isn't such a bad deal afterall, now is it?' --comment posted on a Dog Rescue forum

I know I posted this before, but when I was trying to research "ethics of adoption fees" yesterday, I kept bumping into multiple arguments about a different concept, instead! and while I'm not a pet person and I'm not trying to be insensitive to the very valid debate over the horrific exploitation that comes with unfair adoption costs, I was struck by the similarities between responses to infant adoption fees vs. pet "adoption" costs: So how much of the argument over adoption fees/costs is about child-welfare vs. economics?

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I hope everyone understands that my original post on this subject was not to say that the agency or others were saying that the value of my child was less than that of a caucasian child. We all know that is not true. I was just speaking from my point of view only. As a biracial mother of two AA children this all strikes a different chord maybe then some others. When I speak I only speak of real life experiences because that is all I have to go on. I don't even like to discuss money in relation to my children. Because essentially I see them as gifts from someone greater than I ...and on that you can put no price!

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I do have a question though: how do you talk about adoption fees with an adopted child when they grow old enough to understand? Do children draw conclusions about their worth from differential fee structures? Has anyone had experience with this? (I mean, beyond rude questions from strangers about "how much did you pay for her?")

Best, Kay

Hi Kay,

Basically it's no one's business!

But dare I be so rude to well-meaning (rude) people that ask. I usually just say that the costs are similar to what is paid for most babies to be born, of course there are medical fees and other perfectly legitimate fees that can (and should) be paid on behalf of the child you hope to adopt. I really think most people ask because they are curious to know if there is ever money exchanged between parents for the "gift" of placement? :unsure: They really do not know that that is illegal. This is sometimes when I choose to educate about the merits of using an adoption agency, wanting ourselves and the birthparents of our child to have access to and obtain all the services we were/are eligible for.

As far as talking with your child about their adoption costs, personally I do not go into detail about any of our financial matters with our children, so this would be no exception. However, when my children become adults and were to ask me specifically, I would have no problem discussing it.

Karen

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I don't plan on telling my child that there were adoption fees unless they point blank ask. I am like every other adoptive Mother...each of my children are priceless. You can not put a price on their head. Whatever fee I paid in no way determines their value. To be honest...I don't even know exactly what fee we paid for Makayla. It is something I do not dwell on.

And I do not want her to dwell on it either.

sidenote: Angel being a foster child became ours with virtually no fees (minus the attorney we hired trying to expedite the process). If "price" in the minds of some is directly related to the child's value....then what would that say to our precious Angel?

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Because essentially I see them as gifts from someone greater than I ...and on that you can put no price!

I agee Sabrina! Which is why it does not matter how much or how little an adoption costs.

Follow your heart and it will lead you to "whom" you seek.

I can remember getting all worked up (inside) during orientation when the staff presented the financial expectations/risks part of adoption. Whew!!! I am an accountant, which didn't make the numbers any easier to digest (at that point). But I can honestly say that those were fleeting moments in the BIG picture...now ask me, what I wouldn't pay "on behalf" of the children I have been blessed with! There is no answer.

Hopefully, every parent feels the same way.

Karen

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sidenote: Angel being a foster child became ours with virtually no fees (minus the attorney we hired trying to expedite the process). If "price" in the minds of some is directly related to the child's value....then what would that say to our precious Angel?

If you wanted to carry the analogy further....the same could be said for children born through expensive fertility and IVF treatments...many not covered by insurance...with costs upward of $50,000 or more....versus babies conceived without medical intervention?

A friend of mine conceived through multiple fertility treatments and IVF with her first child....then once she had carried a pregnancy to term, was able to conceive "naturally" about 14 months later with her second child. Would she say that one child was more valuable than the other, and had more worth just because a medical procedure was carried out by a doctor who specialized in fertility treatments, who used advanced medical technology to "mix" egg and sperm in a dish, then implant the fertilized egg in her womb....while the other was conceived through "plain 'ole" marital relations?? The first child's conception definitely carried a much higher price tag. Does that mean the first child will be expected to contribute more to society because of the elaborate means which were employed to create her?

We don't intrude upon someone's personal privacy by asking "how much did it cost" of people who visit fertility clinics, why should we ask those same questions of those who choose to adopt?

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sidenote: Angel being a foster child became ours with virtually no fees (minus the attorney we hired trying to expedite the process). If "price" in the minds of some is directly related to the child's value....then what would that say to our precious Angel?

If you wanted to carry the analogy further....the same could be said for children born through expensive fertility and IVF treatments...many not covered by insurance...with costs upward of $50,000 or more....versus babies conceived without medical intervention?

A friend of mine conceived through multiple fertility treatments and IVF with her first child....then once she had carried a pregnancy to term, was able to conceive "naturally" about 14 months later with her second child. Would she say that one child was more valuable than the other, and had more worth just because a medical procedure was carried out by a doctor who specialized in fertility treatments, who used advanced medical technology to "mix" egg and sperm in a dish, then implant the fertilized egg in her womb....while the other was conceived through "plain 'ole" marital relations?? The first child's conception definitely carried a much higher price tag. Does that mean the first child will be expected to contribute more to society because of the elaborate means which were employed to create her?

We don't intrude upon someone's personal privacy by asking "how much did it cost" of people who visit fertility clinics, why should we ask those same questions of those who choose to adopt?

So true!!!!!

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