As an adoption professional working in private adoption, I am often confronted with what I call “The Money Grab” accusation. Often, well-meaning people make grand sweeping statements about the cost of adoption, such as:
“If you are a Christian organization, then why don’t you do this for free?”
“Why does private adoption cost so much, when it’s free to adopt from the state?”
“Charging this much money for a child is unethical!”
“It just feels like a money grab to me.”
“What is the agency really doing that costs so much, when people adopt independently, it doesn’t cost them nearly as much?”
It is important to me that people are properly educated on all aspects of adoption, including the cost. Allow me to respond to a few of these statements above.
For most adoption agencies, the biggest cost is staff salaries. As a nonprofit, our staff are not paid high salaries, but they must be paid for their work. There is so much that is done by our staff behind the scenes prior to the birth mother ever matching with a family. Although it is possible to do an independent adoption, in those scenarios, it is the adoptive family communicating with birth mother inquiries, paying for advertising, using their time to visit pregnancy resource centers, and talking to birth mothers that may contact them 24/7 and then screening each one to determine if she is legit or scamming, if she is a good match for their family, what the costs would be to support her during her pregnancy, etc. I once had a family who was inquiring with us that was doing this very thing. Just before deciding to apply with us, they had a birth mother contact them. They put their application on hold while they vetted the situation and called us often for advice. Ultimately, after flying to meet the birth mother and evaluate the situation, they decided not to move forward with the match. When they called to finalize their application, he told me how stressful the whole experience was and that he would pay us “any amount of money” to avoid having to do that again. (Of course, he was being facetious but I think his experience was very common).
Many families with our own agency do their own outreach and connecting with birth mothers, and while we encourage families to put their profiles on social media to gather more coverage, we always ask that the birth mothers contact our pregnancy counselors in order to connect with the adoptive family. The reason we do this is so that we can cut down on financial and emotional scams that sometimes come along with being in contact with a birth mother for the first time. It allows us to start the counseling with her immediately, and bring the family in when the time is right.
In addition, adoption from foster care is not free. This is a myth. While it may only cost the adoptive family 0 to a few thousand dollars to adopt from foster care, tax payers have already paid for all of the other steps in the process. Did you know that the average cost to care for a child in state custody is $60,000 per year? Certainly, foster parents are not receiving that amount of money. The majority of this cost is to pay state employees. Even after the child is adopted, the state continues to pay a monthly subsidy for the child. And of course, that money comes from taxpayers. So, the truth is that private adoption is MUCH cheaper but because the money is paid by the adopter rather than tax payers, it is often seen as “unethical”.
Regarding Christians stepping up to address this issue, many have! There are so many organizations out there now that offer grants, funding, and no interest loans. Most of these organizations are Christian organizations who recognize that we need to support adoption and adoptive families but not expect that professionals working in the adoption community should be working without pay. While I’m sure that you have heard people say they can’t afford to adopt, one of the first things we tell people when they come to us is that they can afford to adopt. We have seen families pay for their entire adoption through grant funding or crowd funding. The idea that adoption is not affordable for some is simply not true but most people do not know that these options exist. Our agency even has a person on staff who will meet with families if needed to go over all of these options and help them with their applications for funding.
Of course there are people out there who overcharge and see adoption as a money making business and that is sad. I typically see this more often in for profit organizations or adoption attorneys, though I want to be clear that not all for profit agencies or attorneys view adoption this way, and I am sure that there are some nonprofit organizations also operating with poor business practices. For many of these organizations, if the birth mother changes her mind, usually the family loses all of the money they have paid and have to start over. I agree with you that this should not be the case. Nightlight handles most birth mother expenses through our agency fees and families do not have to pay all the fees again if a birth mother does not place. This is our attempt to mitigate cost for adoptive families.
For more information on the costs of adoption and where the money goes, please see these other Nightlight blogs:
For ideas on funding your adoption, please see the blog and financial resources page linked below:
written by Lisa Prather , LMSW | Vice President of Operations