Saturday, February 28, 2015

So, how much does this cost?

      With the goal of this blog being to help recount our experiences with adoption from the beginning, I guess I have skipped a huge issue: how much money is actually going to be involved here? This is a hard question because it is so incredibly variable. But, I will try to give an idea of some of the things I have found and how we are planning. It is important to note that this is our experience researching agencies. If you are doing a private adoption and just working with a lawyer rather than an agency, this will be VERY different. Also, adoption through foster care has pretty minimal costs, usually less than $3,000.

      There are several areas where fees originate: agency fees, medical, legal, and referral. The agency we are working with has a pretty streamlined approach to this. They have a set agency fee that covers the biomom's counseling, pays our social worker, and pays the biomom's case manager. At our agency, this fee is $25,000. I have seen other agency fees go as high as $40k (sometimes agencies with higher base fees like this will have in-house lawyers, so your agency fee will include your legal fees unless there is an unusual situation that drives up the legal cost). Then, medical and legal fees are paid on top of this $25,000. Sometimes, these fees are minimal. With the revisions to health insurance laws that allow someone to stay on their parents' policy until they are 26, there are many young women considering adoption who will only have a few hundred dollars in copays that they need for their medical expenses. And, if the biodad is known, is on board with the adoption, and plans to come to the hospital to sign the paperwork, legal fees can be as little as $1,000-$2,000. But, if the biomom's health insurance doesn't include maternity coverage and there will be a more involved legal process, such as if the biodad is wanting to contest the adoption but the biomom wants to prove him an unfit parent and have his rights terminated (I have actually known of a few cases with this situation, such as if biodad has been in and out of jail and has a current substance addiction, or has been denied visitation with other children due to neglect or abuse),* medical and legal expenses can be $20,000+. Our agency has said that most adoptions that they do end up being $5k-$10k in medical and legal, so $30k-$35k total. We had acquaintances who were adopting, however, whose agency told them to have around $50,000 available.
    The other fee that can add quite a bit to the adoption cost is the referral fee. Basically, this is when the  agency the biomom is using (Agency A) doesn't have any potential adoptive parents who the biomom sees as a good fit, and she wants her case worker to contact other agencies for additional profiles. If the biomom chooses a family from another agency (Agency B), Agency A will charge Agency B a referral fee, basically a finder's fee (my anger about babies being treated so much like products/property is something for another time). Agency B passes this fee on to the person/couple the biomom chooses. Just two weeks ago, our agency had one of these situations, and the referral fee from Agency A was $10,000. In this situation, the biomom also had less than wonderful health insurance and was planning on having the biodad's parental rights terminated, so our agency's estimation was that this adoption situation would end up being close to $60,000.
     So, with all this in mind, different agency's have different ways of dealing with how variable this amount is. As I said, ours charges the base fee, then estimates how much the medical and legal fees are going to be based on the situation. That is the amount that is used to calculate what will be due at time of match and what will be due when the papers are signed following the birth. If something unexpected comes up that makes those fees higher, those are dealt with separately. I knew of one situation where there ended up being just a few dollars shy of $20,000 in unexpected legal fees , but the attorney involved allowed the adoptive parents to work with him, directly, to develop a payment plan and the adoption agency was no longer part of the arrangement. Other agencies just have you plan for a larger amount and refund any money that doesn't end up being needed. I know that we looked at one that had a set price that was just over $50,000. If the adoption came in under that, they simply give the money back to the family after everything was finalized.
   The fit between our financial situation and how the agency handles the money side of things played a big role in the agency we chose. We are just beginning our careers: my husband is a surgical resident, meaning he just graduated medical school 3 years ago and is still in supervised practice, making only a small fraction of what a fully board certified physician makes, and I finished grad school 2 years ago and have only been working part time to be home with our son since my husband works 90-100 hours each week. So, the idea that we could come up with $50,000 upfront and just pray that some of it would end up being reimbursed was totally unreasonable for us, based on where we are in life right now. I mentioned in my post about choosing an agency that money will play a role, and this is just an example of what that role was in our situation. Most agencies will have information on their webpage about the average cost (or at least a typical range) that most of their families fall within. If not, I have found that they are pretty upfront about this information if you email them and request it.
      There is a figure that I have seen circulating quite a bit online that puts the average cost of domestic infant adoption between $20k-$40k, but if you look at the breakdown that they used to get there, some figures seem pretty low.  Many of those calculations assume a maximum agency fee of $15k (which is quite a bit less than the agencies that we researched), maximum lawyer fees of $6k, and maximum medical expenses of $5k.

      So, basically, this was a long way of saying "It depends." We are hoping to secure right around $40,000 for our adoption. But, if there is a situation that feels right that will be more expensive, we would hope to not have to say "no" because of money. We'll just figure it out as we go.

*I am not implying that all (or even most) women who plan to place a child for adoption became pregnant by men who are unfit fathers. There is a terrible stereotype that those who place their children for adoption are addicts or have psychological problems or are in some other way "lesser,"  and I absolutely do not want to contribute to that stereotype in any way. I am just pointing out situations that I have been personally aware of that created more expensive legal situations.

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