In 1997, the fabric of our family was forever altered after Mary Beth and our 11-year-old daughter, Emily, visited Haiti. Emily was profoundly moved as she began to understand the impact of poverty in new ways. She met children in Haiti who, for many heartbreaking reasons, were unable to be cared for by their biological families and had been orphaned.
For Emily, these children were her peers, and imagining life without the family and support systems she knew felt overwhelming and unjust.
That trip was the beginning of our family’s journey. We would soon welcome home three daughters through adoption — Shaoey, Stevey Joy and Maria. Each has brought immeasurable joy, and we are forever grateful to be their family. As the parents of six children, it’s impossible to overstate the profound impact that adoption has had on our family. The journey has been a hundred times harder than we ever imagined, but a thousand times more enriching than we ever dreamed.
It’s one thing to hear that there are 15 million children worldwide who have been orphaned, abandoned or relinquished. But when you are face to face with children who can’t be reunited with their biological family or find a family through adoption, statistics give way to a personal connection — a child with a name and a story, with a desire to belong and be loved.
We have met hundreds of families who want to adopt, but can’t do so because of the significant costs. The average adoption costs between $25,000 and $40,000, and for many families, this is an insurmountable barrier. Additionally, the ongoing expenses of providing adequate services and therapies in post-adoption support can be extensive.
In 1997, with bipartisan support, Congress did something remarkable to address this by creating the adoption tax credit. By providing a one-time tax credit of up to $13,570 to offset adoption costs, more families are able to adopt, helping address the great injustice of children living without permanent, loving homes.
But the adoption tax credit is in jeopardy. The recently unveiled House tax reform proposal would eliminate it.
Losing the adoption tax credit, a vital and practical approach to overcoming the financial cost that prohibits many families from adopting, would be catastrophic for thousands of American parents hoping to adopt and the precious children waiting for a family.
Thousands of children have been adopted by American families who have used the adoption tax credit, and to these families, this credit has made all the difference. As adoptive parents, we want other families to have the opportunity to provide waiting children with loving homes.
In a divided political and cultural climate, issues like the adoption tax credit should unite us. The adoption tax credit can mean the difference between a child being adopted or remaining in foster care. One thing every American should agree on: We must prioritize anything we can do to help children enter loving homes where they can grow up, learn and thrive in an enriching environment. Without continuing support for this credit, children, families, communities and our society will certainly carry the loss.
If Congress truly wants to reform our tax structure to benefit American families, preserving the adoption tax credit is an obvious step in the right direction.
Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman, are authors and co-founders of Show Hope, a nationally recognized voice for adoption advocacy and orphan care support work. Mary Beth Chapman serves as president of Show Hope. They live in Franklin, Tenn.