Meet the parents who have drained their life savings to pay for adoption
Adoption is unaffordable.
A private adoption can run, on average, as much as $40,000 or more, according to American Adoptions. That’s a price that’s out of reach for many Americans — especially given that 60% of Americans don’t have enough saved to afford a $500 expense, according to data from Bankrate.
Still, 110,373 adoptions took place in 2014, according to the National Adoption Council. And many of them were private adoptions, which tend to be pricier. Indeed, while there is generally limited data available on the precise number of adoptions in more recent years, more than 60,000 U.S. adoptions were facilitated by private means in 2008.
Unlike adopting a child already in foster care, which tends to be relatively affordable, in a private adoption prospective parents work with an adoption attorney or agency to find a birth mother and adopt her child, which can ultimately cost thousands of dollars. Prospective parents must also pay to advertise to find a birth mothers; once they find one, they typically also must pay for the birth mother’s expenses through pregnancy — if the child has not yet been born — which can include housing, food, and travel.
Other private adoption costs include home visits from a social worker and a certification, in which prospective parents are approved for eligibility to adopt. The entire adoption from start to finish can cost tens of thousands of dollars, says Long Island, New York, adoption attorney Jamie Scher.
Despite the costs, people choose private adoption “because they want a newborn,” says New York adoption attorney Suzanne Nichols. “When you’re going to foster care, chances of getting a newborn are very slim; a child may be in the system for a couple years before he or she is available for adoption.”
Many parents who have chosen to adopt privately have faced harrowing failures, which have drained their life’s savings to zero — leaving them both penniless and childless.
“That’s extremely frustrating, and it shouldn’t be that prohibitive,” said Molly Diallo, a high school teacher in Miami and adoptive mother of a four-year-old daughter born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Diallo endured an excruciating two-year nightmare and spent $55,000 of her own money to adopt her daughter, and she’s not alone.
“I’m middle class — we’re in middle class America, and it closes so many doors,” Diallo told Moneyish. “There’s so many people that I know who would [adopt], but can’t afford it.”
Former New York City police officer and adoptive mom of four-year-old Olivia, GiGi Kearns, also knows firsthand how painful the struggle to adopt a child can be. She personally went through $50,000 of her own money and three failed adoptions before she finally became a mom, helped financially by philanthropic organization HelpUsAdopt.org.
HelpUsAdopt.org was founded in 2007, and has since awarded $2 million in grants to help prospective parents offset private adoption costs. The charity has aided in placing more than 200 children in homes across America.
More financial help may also come in the form of the federal adoption tax credit in the value of $13,570. In the recently-proposed tax plan overhaul presented by Republicans, the tax credit was slated to be eliminated altogether — that changed on Thursday however, when House Republicans passed an updated version of the bill in which the tax credit will remain in place.
“There would be more adoptions by loving families if the costs were not so steep,” Scher concluded, “and there are so many good homes that would welcome kids that need them. It’s amazing that in America, you can get pregnant and have as many kids as you like, but if you want to adopt, you have to go through a really tough process to get there.”
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