November is National Adoption Awareness Month. If you’re pursuing adoption, perhaps your journey is due to fertility issues, being single or part of a same-sex couple, or simply a fundamental desire to provide a loving home to a child in need. Whatever the reason, adoption is a joyful, life-changing experience for both parent and child.
It also requires careful consideration: practically, financially, and emotionally. I can attest to this as a proud adoptive single mother of two, and President of SageVest Wealth Management.
When I first explored adoption, there seemed little clear guidance about this important life event. While everyone’s adoptive experience is unique, I’m happy to share my own insights with other prospective parents.
Domestic Adoption Versus International Adoption
International adoptions were prevalent for decades, but changes in international laws have now extended wait times to several years. As such, there’s a growing interest in domestic adoption, where placement can occur in less than a year. Some of the key differences between domestic and international adoption include:
Age Of Child
Children are typically aged one or older in international adoptions. While domestic adoptions obviously include older children, many occur at birth, allowing a true parent-child bonding experience from infancy. I was fortunate to be present at the hospital for the birth of both of my children, becoming Mommy less than an hour after birth.
A primary risk associated with domestic adoption is the birth parents’ rights to change their minds. The post-birth revocation period varies by state from 24 hours to weeks. Revocation is a distinct risk. However, it’s a risk that needs to be weighed against the international adoption time parameters and the risks that international laws can change, which I’ve witnessed, rendering friends stranded overseas for months.
International adoptions typically involve a wait-list. Conversely, domestic adoptions often entail matching birth and adoptive parents through a process that’s akin to a dating service. Adoptive parents create profiles and are chosen by birth parents. This means that you might get chosen straight away, or it could take longer.
– A strong profile with quality pictures and easy-to-read text is recommended.
– Your preferences on gender, race, birth mother expenses, and more may also impact how quickly you might be selected. I was open to either sex, and to any race, and, in both instances, was matched in less than 4 months.
Some countries preclude adoptive parents based on marital status, sexual orientation, age, and more. While they vary, most domestic agencies are more liberal e.g., AdoptHelp, Inc.
Closed Adoption Versus Open Adoption
This refers to the amount of information shared between the biological and adoptive parents. While international adoptions are commonly closed, domestic adoptions may be either closed or open. However, they’re seldom 100% closed. It’s common for the adoptive parent(s) to receive information about the birth mother, including medical records. It’s also fairly common for the biological and adoptive parent(s) to communicate directly beforehand. An open adoption usually also entails some level of ongoing communication e.g. sending photos and updates. While this might seem intimidating, there are merits to open adoption, such as the emotional comfort your child might gain in knowing their birth parent cared, plus the ability to share medical information later in life. This is a personal choice that each birth and adoptive parent should carefully consider.
Preparing Financially For Adoption
There are also financial decisions to be made that differ from those when starting or expanding your family the old-fashioned way. None of the options are cheap. Fertility treatments vary, but can be up to $20,000 per cycle, often with limited medical insurance coverage. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000. Adoption isn’t cheap either. Costs range from $20,000 to over $50,000. Agencies typically quote their fees, but there are many layers to adoption expenses:
Every adoptive parent must complete a home study, involving a long list of requirements to qualify you as an adoptive parent. Home studies are conducted by social workers, take several weeks to a few months to complete, and cost $1,000-$2,000. It’s essential your home study is completed and in good order, as it’s often required before you can bring your child home.
Most agencies advise hiring a professional photographer and designer (such as Our Chosen Child), to create your adoption profile. Costs range from $400 to $1,500.
Agency And Attorney Fees
Adoptive parents typically cover all adoption agency and attorney fees ($15,000 to $35,000) for both themselves and the birth parent.
Birth Mother Expenses
Birth mothers often request financial assistance, though state laws determine what’s permissible.
Note: Scams do exist, where birthmothers solicit support from multiple families. These are especially prevalent in private adoptions. Agencies can help to research and protect you from these situations.
If adopting out-of-state or internationally, be prepared to live in a hotel room or rental home for at least a week or two, until you’re legally cleared to leave. One travel tip is to notify the airline when booking flights that you’re adopting. You can request a waiver of change fees associated with your return date, as this will be unknown.
Family leave can be murky during the adoption process. Be sure to consider any costs relating to unpaid leave.
Most states require one or more post-placement visits with a social worker to ensure a healthy home environment prior to finalizing adoption.
Adoption Tax Credit
The Federal government currently offers an adoption tax credit to defray the costs of adoption. The maximum tax credit is currently $13,570 if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $203,540 or less. The credit is reduced if your MAGI is between $203,540 and $243,540, with no credit for higher income earners.
There are plenty of adoption options to consider, including foster care placements, personal connections, private advertisements, and adoption agencies. Explore your state adoption laws to decide if it’s best to focus locally or expand your search e.g., I opted for out-of-state after learning that drug and alcohol abuse rates in the Washington, D.C. area are above national averages.
Tips For A Successful Adoption
Regardless of how diligently you plan, adoptions are always emotionally charged. Tips to help make your adoption less stressful include:
Educate Yourself About Adoption
One of the biggest challenges in adoption is the element of the unknown, including an often limited pool of people you can ask for advice. Research helps to equip you in making wise decisions and preparing yourself for the journey of adoption. For a list of key adoption questions to ask as you consult with professionals, print out the SageVest Wealth Management Questions To Ask An Adoption Agency Printable Checklist.
Respect Personal Differences
Your approach to life is likely very different from that of the birth parent(s). This can be challenging. A social worker can help you navigate the process.
Have A Birth Plan In Place
If you’re adopting from birth, it’s important to have a birth plan in place. This should be shared between you, the birth parent(s), social worker, and all medical professionals involved. Ideally, the social worker will spend committed time with the birth mother at the hospital, helping to navigate emotions and difficult decisions.
These may be medical, emotional, financial, or legal.
Various paperwork filings are required during adoption. Stay organized with access to documents, important contact information, and a summary of your expenses.
Family is often at the heart of wealth planning. SageVest Wealth Management focuses on helping you to pursue what matters most for you and your loved ones. Please contact us to discuss your life, family, and wealth objectives.