Deciding to adopt was easy for us. We had discussed it before we were married. I had several cousins who were adopted, so I asked my aunts how they went about adopting them. Each story was different. Their adoptions had taken place 20 to 30 years previously and adoption practices had changed. A lot!
We didn’t really know where to start, so we found an agency we were familiar with and made a phone call. They discussed their requirements over the phone with me while I was feverishly taking notes. We met all the requirements, so I set up an initial interview and ended the call feeling overwhelmed.
At the interview, we were given a stack of papers to complete. We went over the costs for adopting. We were asked to begin attending education classes the agency provided to hopeful adoptive parents. As I looked at the stack of papers, it just depressed me. Did I really have to fill out all of this paperwork that seemed personal and intrusive? It included questions about how we were raised, how we planned to raise children, about our infertility, our married life and relationship, our employment, our finances, and the list went on. I tend to procrastinate when I feel overwhelmed, so I left the paperwork in a drawer for about four months before I even began to tackle it.
Then there was the cost of adoption. We had been married just over two years, and while we didn’t have any debt, other than a car, we weren’t in great money-making careers yet and were already tucking away as much as we could to save for a home.
I finally got around to the paperwork, we were able to scrape together enough for our adoption, and in the end it all worked out; then came three more children at even higher adoption costs, and more complicated paperwork with one international adoption. Here are some tips we’ve learned over the years for getting through the paperwork and paying for adoption without incurring long-term debt.
- Fill out the easy stuff first (e.g., application, references, etc.)
- Locate documents you need (e.g., tax returns, birth/marriage certificates, etc.) Don’t delay this part because sometimes you have to wait for copies to be mailed.
- Get your fingerprinting done as soon as possible if you need fingerprints for a background check, so your adoption isn’t delayed while you wait for clearance.
- Make a goal for completing the tough stuff. We set aside two hours every Sunday to work on the questionnaire/autobiography portion of our home study. It seemed less daunting that way. We started to look forward to this time to spend together.
- Look into all options. If you cannot afford an adoption through an agency, look into private adoption using an adoption attorney. Be careful, though, as some private adoptions end up costing more than using an agency. Also look into foster-to-adopt programs, especially if you are open to adopting an older child.
- Begin saving immediately for your adoption. Set aside as much as you can from each paycheck into a special adoption account. You never know how much time the adoption will take, so you may have weeks, months, or years to save. After your adoption is paid for, continue putting aside money for the next adoption, if that is in your plans.
- Have an adoption yard/garage sale. We did this to pay our airfare for our international adoption. Many family and friends contributed items to sell and even helped organize a bake sale to go along with it. We earned enough to pay off our airfare plus donate mattresses to the orphanage.
- Consider getting an extra job for a short time. My husband took on a part-time job cleaning a school in the evenings after work. I got a part-time job at a grocery store. It wasn’t a lot of extra money, but every little bit helps.
- Consider a loan. If you don’t mind debt, look into low-interest adoption loans.
- Remember there is a tax credit. You have to pay adoption fees first, but you get a credit on your next year’s return. This can help pay off a loan.
- Some employers offer an adoption benefit. My husband’s work gave us money towards an adoption. We just had to submit the receipt and proof of adoption. We worked with our adoption agency and they allowed us to make three payments. Once we had a receipt, we submitted it to his work, were reimbursed, and turned around and paid that towards our last payment.
- Some health plans will cover some adoption expenses. Check your plan. They may cover adoption fees or birth mother’s medical expenses.
- Consider liquidizing some of your assets. When we adopted our twins, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. I had stock options and a 401K plan that I cashed out when I quit. It was exactly what we needed to pay for the adoption. We also did not get hit hard on tax penalties for cashing them out because of the adoption tax credit. Talk to an accountant if this is an option for you.
I’ve learned through our adoptions that it works out the way it should. There was one adoption we had to turn down because it just was not within our financial means. I was devastated at having to say no, but if we had pursued that adoption, we wouldn’t have adopted our twin girls a few months later. I truly believe Heavenly Father wanted those girls to come to our home. So, follow your heart, work hard, and leave the rest in His hands.