A major credit card company’s commercial asks what’s in your wallet. If you are planning to adopt a child, a better question to answer is, “What’s in your adoption budget?” While items such as attorney’s fees, agency fees, and a home study are no-brainers for inclusion, several other items are common expenses and should not be overlooked. Let’s consider nine of those items:
1. Copying Charges
Adoption is a paper-intensive process. This article on Adoption.com notes the “daunting stack of forms and paperwork” prospective adoptive parents must complete. As one judge who handles adoption cases remarked, “You have to kill a rain forest to adopt a child.” Prospective adoptive parents must produce much of the paper to be pushed during this process.
With what paperwork are hopeful parents to be inundated? There are applications to complete for the adoption attorney or agency, and for the home study provider. There may be background forms required by the state in which the adoption court proceedings will take place. There is documentation to be submitted in support of a home study application. The financial assessment made in connection with the home study, for example, will include a review of pay stubs, bank statements, and tax forms at a minimum.
Prospective adoptive parents should not hand off originals of important documents such as their marriage certificate or birth certificates. It is also prudent to keep copies of applications and forms submitted to the agency, attorney, or home study provider for their records, so copies must be made. Whether a prospective adoptive parent is purchasing copies at a store offering copying services, feeding coins into the copier at the post office, or running off copies on her/his personal printer, costs are associated with producing copies to submit for the adoption process.
The number of copies required will rise if prospective adoptive parents work with more than one adoption resource. Adoption professionals routinely advise this practice in order to increase the odds of a placement being made. If this sound advice is followed, it is not one copy but multiple copies of documents, applications, and forms which need to be made.
2. Cost of a Profile Book
To receive placement of a child, a prospective adoptive couple must be matched with an expectant mother. A common method for this selection to be made is allowing the expectant mother to review profile books on available couples. Profile books provide her with numerous pages of pictures and information about possible choices.
The onus is on the prospective adoptive parents to create a profile book for the adoption resource to show in the matching process. Commercial services may be retained to assist in putting together this type of book. Alternatively, a profile book may be produced by the couple themselves, perhaps by using Shutterfly. No matter which method is chosen, a cost will be incurred. Using a commercial service is likely to be more costly than self-producing a profile book, but the latter option will require more time and effort.
The pictures adorning the pages of a profile book have to come from somewhere. While family, vacation, home, and wedding pictures may be available already, couples may desire some professional pictures taken of themselves and their children (if they have any) to put their best foot forward. Pictures specifically relating to their desire to adopt, perhaps holding a sign announcing their journey to add to their family, are popular. Add the cost of having professional pictures taken on top of the cost of compiling the profile book itself.
Part of the home study process or the documentation which must be produced in an adoption case may be medical reports on the prospective adoptive parents, and any children in their home. The goal is to ensure that the child being placed will be entering a healthy environment with parents who are physically able to care for him or her. That goal would not be served if a prospective adoptive parent was terminally ill or addicted to drugs.
To acquire a medical report, a physical examination—or at least a trip to the doctor—could be required. In addition, lab work such as drug testing may also be necessary. If that medical appointment or lab work is not fully covered by insurance, a co-pay or amount towards a deductible may be incurred.
4. Notary Fees
In the slew of documents which prospective adoptive parents must submit in the course of an adoption case are affidavits or documents requiring notarization. When notarization is required, the person signing the document must appear before a notary public who observes the signature being made. The National Notary Organization defines a notary public as an official appointed by state government to serve “as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.”
How is fraud deterred? The notary must verify the person signing is indeed the individual named as the signer in the document. Production of valid identification such as a driver’s license may be required. The notary is also tasked with determining that the signer is freely and knowingly affixing his signature to the important paper, as opposed to doing so as the result of fraud or duress.
Notaries can and do charge for their services. Such fees can be avoided if a prospective adoptive parent personally knows a notary who would not charge for that assistance. Addition-ally, banks sometimes provide notary services at no charge for their customers.
5. Travel Costs
Unless the adoptive placement will occur in the local area, travel will be involved. That travel may be within the prospective adoptive parents’ state of residence, in which case, driving to the destination could be possible. In interstate cases, where the child to be placed is in a different state, airplane travel may be the best option.
Travel costs, of course, are never simply limited to gas for the car or plane fare. On a road trip, tolls may have to be paid on certain routes. If the trip is of several hours’ duration, a stop for food needs to be on the itinerary. Leaving from an airport raises the question of how the prospective adoptive parent will get to the airport. Will she or he drive and then have to pay for parking there while he is gone? Will Uber be contacted to get her/him from home to the airport? Is enough luggage being taken that there is a charge for extra baggage, or a tip needed for a red cap? If a flight is taken to the placement destination, how will the prospective adoptive parent get around there? Must a car be rented? More Uber charges incurred?
6. Hospital Photos
When newborn placements are made, the prospective adoptive parents greet their latest addition to the family at the hospital. These first few hours together are a milestone in family history and should be documented. Sure, the new parents could take their own pictures, but that presumes they are able to do so. Is their cell phone charged? Did they forget their charger in the haste to get to the hospital? Is the phone low on memory? Can they get good pictures in the hospital lighting?
An attractive option is to utilize a commercial photography service that operates in the hospital; such services take professional quality pictures right there in the hospital room. Videos may also be offered. Typically, such sessions are offered for free, and the adoptive parents then view the pictures taken and purchase what they like. Using a professional to take pictures not only makes it more likely that good quality shots will be obtained, but also allows for both parents to be in the picture with their new bundle of joy. Professionals can offer tips on cute shots the new parents may not have thought of, or suggest ways to get the best shot of baby.
7. Food and Lodging While Awaiting ICPC Clearance
If a child is being adopted by prospective adoptive parents from another state, Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) processing must take place and a clearance received before the child can be taken from his or her home state. The provisions of the ICPC call for both the sending state and the receiving state to review adoption paperwork on the case. Both states must give approval for the child to be taken out of his home state for the purpose of adoption.
Unfortunately, the ICPC review process is a consecutive and not a simultaneous one. First, the state where the child is, referred to as the “sending state,” goes over the documentation submitted in the ICPC packet. That ICPC office may request additional documentation or information before its approval is given. The ICPC packet is then forwarded to the ICPC office in the state where the prospective adoptive parents live; the prospective adoptive parents’ state is called the “receiving state.” The ICPC office in the receiving state may likewise request further documentation or information before giving clearance.
Lengthening the time to obtain the ICPC clearance is the type of work that the office which conducts the review does. In many states, such as Florida, the ICPC office is a government office which observes normal business hours and holidays. An intervening weekend or holiday will slow the approval process.
While all this ICPC reviewing is going on, the baby or child must remain in the sending state. It is illegal for him to be taken across a state line prior to that point. The bottom line of this prohibition is that one or both prospective adoptive parents need to stay in the sending state until ICPC clearance is received. Obtaining clearance takes days, so lodging must be arranged; food will also have to be purchased until the adoptive parents are cleared to leave the sending state.
As placements sometimes occur with little notice, prospective adoptive parents might not have time to research lodging options to identify the best deal. If the placement is being made at a time of the year when hotel rates are higher, such as during spring break in Florida, a chunk of money will go towards putting a roof over the new parents’ heads and food in their stomachs. Having those possible needs previously budgeted relieves some of the stress which is already occurring as a result of travel and the addition of a new family member.
8. Certified Copies
Once an adoption is finalized, proof is needed of the legal addition of the new family member. Such proof will be required to obtain a new birth certificate for the child, to request a Social Security number in the child’s adopted name, and for other important activities. The best evidence of the child’s legal relationship is a certified copy of the court’s final judgment granting the adoption, and it is often the only evidence which is acceptable. State vital records offices, for example, will not issue an amended birth certificate without that best evidence being produced.
A certified copy is a copy of an original document on which it is noted that it is a true copy of the original document. The certified copy must be signed by the person designated to give certification. The court clerk is the one legally authorized to certify court documents.
After a final judgment of adoption is entered, the court clerk will be requested to issue certified copies of a final judgment of adoption. Fees are charged by the clerk to certify documents. The fee schedule of the applicable court should list what the certification charges are. The charge might be per page or it might be per document. Whatever the charge is, paying it is a necessary step to obtain verified documentation of the child’s new legal status.
9. Amended Birth Certificate
A birth certificate is an official legal document which gives information about a person’s birth record. This certificate will indicate when and where the named individual was born, as well as list the individual’s parents. Once a child is adopted, her original birth record must be revised. While she will still have been born the same time and at the same place, her name was likely changed through the adoption and her adoptive parents are the ones to now be listed as her parents.
A revised birth certificate, usually referred to as an “amended birth certificate,” must be requested from the vital records office in the state where the child was born. Even if the child is adopted in a different state, the birth record remains in the state of birth. Adoption is the most common reason why a birth certificate would need to be amended.
Along with a certified copy of the final judgment of adoption and any state-required application form, a request for an amended birth certificate must include payment for that service. The fees charged for amending a birth certificate can be determined by reviewing the vital records website for the state which issued the original birth record.
Some states will charge simply for the amended birth certificate; others will charge for amending the birth record and for producing a copy of the new record too. An option to request production of the amended birth certificate on an expedited basis may also be offered. In Florida, for instance, “rush” handling is available for a $10 fee.
An adoption is an expensive undertaking, so having a budget for it is a financially prudent approach. Items to include in an adoption budget may be ones which the prospective adoptive couples were not aware of, such as certified copies, notarial fees, and a profile book. Taking these items into account will help in realistic financial planning; it will also allow practical questions to be asked of the adoption agency or attorney as to which items are included in what they charge. Having a realistic adoption budget provides prospective adoptive parents with a good idea of what’s going to be coming out of their wallet to obtain their bundle of joy.