Over the years many people have asked me why adoption is so expensive. Though I have to agree that there are some agencies that seem to be more “out to make a buck” than doing any kind of community service to help children, I do understand some of the costs involved. Here are five fee expenses to understand. One word of warning, explore these suggestions before signing any contract. Once locked into a contract, these suggestions can help but can’t save you from working with a greedy agency.
First, all agencies have separate fees for everything within the adoption situation itself but not all agencies tell you what those are. For example, when one agency says that an adoption will cost $25,000 and another says its $20,000 plus $5,000 for addition counseling and paperwork, the fees could actually be for the exact same things. One may be telling you the breakdown and one may not be. Neither of these agencies is doing it right or wrong, it’s just the style of the agency.
Second, before agreeing to anything it is totally acceptable for you to ask for a breakdown of an adoption professional’s fees and what these fees are being used for. Try to keep in mind that some fees cover things that will not be completely discussed. For example, when an agency says it is $12,000 for agency expenses this could include things such as the caseworker’s wages, mileage to and from appointments with the birth mother or to your home, advertising, phone bills, rent (for the agency not the birth mother) and general overhead costs of running any business.
Third, some agencies charge one large fee to cover all of the birth mother expenses that will be incurred during the time that the agency is taking care of her and some agencies will break it up into smaller payments over the period of time the birth mother is pregnant. If it is one large fee understand that the agency will be trying to recoup some of the expenses they’ve had for her before you took on the responsibility. If it is smaller payments assume you will be responsible for paying from the time you are chosen by the birth mother until at least one month after the birth since the birth mother will not be able to return to work to meet her expenses. It is always acceptable to ask specifically how much is going toward the birth mother in particular such as for counseling, rent, clothing, etc. and if these are ongoing fees or are all included in the one fee quoted to you.
Fourth, the amount quoted to you in your agreement with the adoption professional should always be TOTAL and CONCLUSIVE unless stated otherwise in the contract you sign with them. This means that once you sign the contract for a certain amount in fees they are not legally allowed to coerce, insist, or assume that you will pay for anything else. And yes, this means that if it isn’t in writing that you have to and the birth mother suddenly says she needs her cell phone bill paid you are under no obligation to do so, even if (and especially if) you are told it will affect the adoption outcome. If your agency suggest that is the case please report them to the BBB and the Department of Human Resources in their state if they do. This is unacceptable.
Fifth, ask a lot of questions about any type of fee you are paying! You have the right to full disclosure, a term used often by adoption professionals. If an adoption agency tells you that the expenses are for “various office-related expenses” this may be true and may cover those things mentioned above such as utilities, etc. Then again, just because they tell you specifically what it’s for doesn’t mean you must agree. One agency I’m aware of charges around $9,000 each client for “advertising expenses” which I believe is marginally warranted but terribly excessive.
If the amount of any fee seems excessive or an agency is being too vague, you must decide whether or not the answer they have given you is valid enough for you and whether or not you want to proceed with making a contract with them. Some adoption professionals are just too aware of the emotional state of adoption and many adoptive parents feel at everyone’s mercy and are unable to ask too many questions for fear of spoiling their chances of adopting. I can tell you that this is not true! There are more than enough good adoption professionals out there that will answer your questions truthfully with fees that make sense. So ask!