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Why is it so expensive to adopt a child?


Across the world, there are thousands of children in need of homes. In America, there are thousands of families looking for children to adopt. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?

Until you look at the price tag.

Jonathan and Amanda Teixeira of Denver struggled for a couple of years to conceive before deciding to pursue adoption. After talking to friends who had gone through the process, the staggering price seemed insurmountable.

“It’s infuriating,” Amanda said. “There are probably a lot of children who don’t have a home that would have one if it wasn’t for this ridiculously insane high cost.”

In 2008, the most recent year for which the Child Welfare Information Gateway has statistics, more than 135,000 children were adopted in the United States, including domestic, international and foster care cases. Adoptions can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars — usually a domestic adoption where you privately find birthparents without the help of an agency — to upward of $30,000.

Julie Gumm, author of “You Can Adopt Without Debt,” has adopted two of her children internationally. She was constantly being told by couples that they, too, would be interested in adoption — if only they could afford it. Those conversations inspired her to share her family’s experiences with fundraising for adoptions, rather than diving deep into personal loans.

“The biggest chunk of adoption fees generally go towards what I would lump together as ‘legal fees,’ ” Gumm said. “Just from the processing of all the legal work that goes into that sort of complicated process. But there’s a lot of variants.”

It’s possible to find ways to arrange a private newborn adoption for $6,000 to $8,000.

“A lot of it will depend on the specific situation, like if the adoptive family is helping pay for medical expenses,” Gumm said.

International adoption often requires couples to travel at least once to the birth country of the child they’re adopting. Sometimes adoptive parents must live in that country for a month or longer. In these cases, travel becomes an additional large cost. In addition, every small legal step along the way — such as filing for citizenship — comes with a price tag of a couple hundred dollars. It adds up quickly.

The Teixeiras, having already paid off thousands of dollars in school loans, were committed to debt-free living.

“Debt puts people in a bad situation. It’s not part of a secure financial life,” Jonathan said. “Especially for adoption. You’re taking on responsibility for another person. So it was important for us to be very financially secure while doing that. The idea of taking on thousands of dollars in debt just didn’t sit right.”

The Teixieras work as missionaries in Colorado and were used to fundraising money. So after reading Gumm’s book, they felt inspired to pursue that route as a method to pay for their adoption. They launched a puzzle fundraiser, where participants purchased a puzzle piece for $25. The 1,000-piece puzzle was of a popular Bible verse referencing children, and participants’ names were written on the back of the piece they purchased.

“We wanted to invite people to participate in our adoption with us,” Jonathan said. “This was one way they could do that.”

They adopted their daughter Josephine in 2014 after finding her biological parents on Facebook. In Colorado, to get on an adoption agency’s wait list is expensive, so the Teixieras created a Facebook post and hoped to go viral. They were extremely lucky, and their daughter’s birth mother reached out the day they created their post.

Their puzzle fundraiser raised $18,000, which covered the cost of the adoption, as well as travel to and from their daughter’s birth in California. They’ve helped multiple couples create their own puzzles and talked them through the fundraising process.

“Fundraising” is a scary word for many people. It can put couples in a vulnerable position, and the adoption world is often split into two camps: those who fundraise and those who strongly oppose the practice.

“People are scared their children will feel like they owe strangers a piece of their life,” Amanda said. “But there’s a way to talk about it with your child that’s super positive and depicts what it’s really about. I think those are just fears from people who have never fundraised before. We’re not afraid of fundraising.”

“When people think fundraising, they might cringe or think of GoFundMe pages,” Gumm added. “But there are a lot of creative ways to raise money, from garage sales to karaoke nights. I know families that have raised $10,000 through garage sales by just asking friends to donate their junk.”

Gumm suggested planning ahead financially as the most logical first step. However, many couples who choose to adopt have already spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, leaving their bank accounts shaky. Another option is grants. There are plenty of organizations, such as or Show Hope, that help couples finance adoptions.

Foster care is another path to consider, Gumm said.

“Adopting from the U.S. foster care system is generally completely free, or very inexpensive. I always say to families that if it’s just completely cost prohibitive for you to spend a few thousand dollars — up to much higher than that — and you still really want to do it, look into adopting from the foster care system,” Gumm said.

However, the foster care system also comes with joys and challenges. Adopting babies out of the foster care system is typically difficult, because of a high demand, and children in the foster care system often have very specific emotional and physical needs that some families may not feel equipped to handle.

There’s always a way to adopt if that’s what you’re determined to do. It’s just requires finding a way to get your hands on the money, whether it’s through grants, fundraising or simply cutting major corners in your family budget.

“It isn’t easy,” Gumm said. “But if adoption is what you want to do, don’t let cost be the thing that keeps you from doing it.”

Claire Swinarski is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter @claireswinarski.

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