The muddy waters of adoption fundraising

I don't write about the cost of adoption very often here. People are funny about money. People are even funnier about money when it involves bringing a new child into a family. I don't know why, but it's a thing. While I have never been at the receiving end of some of these comments, other families report that they receive a great amount of criticism over their fundraising efforts. Among the chief complaints...

"If you can't afford the adoption, how are going to afford the child?"

"You should never fund raise because it is demeaning to the child."

"Don't you have enough children yet? You can't rescue them all, you know."

"I'll donate, but I want to know that you are only doing the bare minimum to get this child home. I've never had an nice international trip."

And some of these can come from within the adoption community itself. People are funny about money. Now you start to see why it's a topic I generally avoid.

Yet just like remaining silent about the realities of living with a child with past trauma doesn't help anyone, remaining silent about the financial portion of adoption doesn't help, either. If we can learn to talk about rationally, it would be a good thing.

In order to do so, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. When we are talking about money and adoption, we are NOT talking about buying a child. The fees do not go to pay for a child. Adoption is not child trafficking. The fees associated with adoption go to a variety of places, but they are all to pay for the processes that the process involves, not for the child. Children are not a commodity to be bought and sold.

What are some of those fees? Well, if we start at the beginning there is the home study. You pay an agency anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for the social worker to come to your home, for the agency to keep up its Hague and state licensing, and for the processing of the paperwork it is responsible for. You may need to pay for FBI fingerprinting for everyone over 15 (I think... A. had to be fingerprinted), and for us that was $60 a pop. Next comes the US government wanting their share. To apply for the immigration permission, everyone over 18 needs to be fingerprinted again. By the time you've added all the fees for that application up, you are very close to $1000. Then there is your placement agency who works with the chosen country to facilitate your child coming home. They also have state and Hague licensing to maintain, they have to pay for staff to do a variety of jobs, they are the ones who prepare and send your dossier, and also to coordinate travel and guides in country. They need to pay staff and for office space. It all adds up. You can expect to pay between $6000 and $10,000 for these services depending on the agency and the country. But, you're not done yet. You will need to pay an orphanage fee of ~$5,500 so the orphanage can continue to provide a home to orphans. While many orphanages are state-run and funded, they are bare bones operations. Now you still need to travel for the actual adoption. There are plane tickets, hotels, food,  and transfers to pay for. All in all, if you add everything up, an international adoption will cost between $20,000 to $40,000.

It's a big chunk of change.

Then we have to add in another factor that makes funding an adoption tricky. The vast majority of people do not have this kind of money just lying around. They may be doing fine on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis, but this is a big number. Plus, there is no adoption insurance where you can file a claim and have the insurance company pay most of it, which is what happens with birth children. (Spare me the stories of people without insurance at this instance. You know that is not my point nor topic.) Additionally, even to qualify to adopt, your financial situation needs to be stable and a certain income or equity proved. It becomes a catch-22 to qualify for the actual adoption and then make yourself look needy enough to qualify for the handful of grants available to adoptive families.

Let's talk about those grants. There aren't enough by far to allow all the families who need one to receive one. In order to even apply the paperwork-weary must complete more rounds of applications and photocopy more reams of paper in an amount that just about equals the actual adoption paperwork. Some even have an application fee which add more money onto the amount that is needed. Even after all of that, the vast majority of people are disappointed. Some grant giving organizations prefer to give money to families whose church is also significantly supporting them. That makes if difficult for families whose churches aren't quite on board. For others owning your home disqualifies you. Or maybe your story isn't as compelling as another family's... You just can't count on being given a grant.

So where does that leave the vast majority of families? They either do fundraisers or take out loans or both. And as I noted at the beginning, the minute you start soliciting funds, you also tacitly solicit opinions. It's a touchy subject.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if families didn't have to solicit funds from others? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the second a family's community heard they were adopting that everyone felt compelled to hand them ten or twenty dollars? Wouldn't it be wonderful if children were so considered valuable and of great worth that an entire community would rise up and want to play a part in bringing that child home? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the family didn't have to resort to spending every waking moment touting t-shirts or puzzle pieces or any of the myriad of things families try to sell in order to bring their children home?

You may be able to tell I'm a little ambivalent about fundraising. Yet, in all honesty, I am still crunching numbers to see exactly what is needed to bring home T. (Remember for R., we won that lottery in the form of a giant grant which was given to her specifically.) As we get closer and closer to our official approvals, we may find that fundraising is our only choice. While it may sound as though I'm asking in a back door sort of way for money. I wouldn't turn it down, but really am just sharing what our reality currently is and what is going through my head.

Because if you want the reality? Money to fund the adoption is the #1 reason families don't adopt. They are afraid to start, probably because they have yet to see communities rise up in support of adopting families. The bottom line in all of this is that children miss out on having a family. And that is the ultimate cost.


Carla said…
Thank you for this post. It's a bit heartrending to hear, and yet, as an accountant by trade (and nature), I, quite simply, struggle to give money to someone who would not spend it in the way I think is appropriate (Ok. Ok. Go ahead and read it, "as I would spend it".) In the past I've gotten around it by finding a person or organization that has an incredibly giving spirit (and one not nearly as judgmental as mine), but whom I also trust, to be the "middle man".

Most recently our church has started an "adoption fund" for the families in our church that are pursuing adoption.

It has been very refreshing to fully support adoption financially without knowing the details, and thereby rendering my judgmental nature a moot point. My husband wisely said, "Money given to that fund won't be mis-spent."
GinaBrewer said…
So how do we give? How can we help?
Lucy said…
I was going to mention the church too. Certainly it seems the first place a family in need for an adoption should turn would be their local church, and if ever the local church existed to share the burdens of their members, helping the widows and orphans should be at the top.

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