All About Adoption

A Q&A with Adam Pertman, Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

How Can We Afford It?

Q. Do different agencies charge different prices? Is it cheaper in the U.S.? I would love to adopt internationally, but it seems domestic is cheaper. How can we cushion the financial weight?

A. I wish the system was different, but adoption has evolved into an expensive process that is undermining too many would-be parents and, especially, too many kids who truly need homes. International adoption, like the adoption of an infant domestically, typically costs in the range of $15,000 to $35,000. Check with various agencies and other practitioners (such as adoption attorneys) to see what they charge and what services you receive for your money. Remember: You are paying for services, not for children. Boys and girls are not refrigerators that we buy and sell, and we should never think of them that way. Services include medical, legal, counseling, travel, and lots of fees along the way. Until or unless the current system changes, people need to save their money, take out loans, or figure other ways to pay the costs. One exception: Adopting from foster care doesn't generally involve any out-of-pocket costs, and often comes with some subsidies.

If We Already Have a Biological Child, Is It Harder to Adopt?

Q. My husband and I were blessed with our son when I was 22 and my husband was 20. My son is now three years old and we've just found out we can't have any more children. We always planned on having two, so we're looking into adoption, but I've heard so many stories that because I have one biological child it will be harder to adopt. Do you have any advice?

A. Most agencies, lawyers, and other practitioners will be happy to help you adopt. The fact that you have a biological child shouldn't be much of an impediment -- if it's an issue at all. It does sometimes raise issues for the parents and children as the family grows, but no more so than stepfamilies, for instance, and people generally handle them well. One of my favorite (true) stories is of a woman with several children, some biologically and some by adoption. Someone asked her, "Which are your own and which are adopted?" She replied: "They're all my own; I forget which is which." Keep yourself educated (lots of good books, support groups, and web chat groups are out there) and you'll be fine.

Can You Adopt by Gender?

Q. We have three biological daughters and we love them more than life itself. Somewhere down the road I was thinking I would like to adopt a son to even out our family. Do agencies let you choose by gender?

A. Well, the direct answer is "yes." Some practitioners will let you do so, usually informally. But it gets a bit complicated if you're thinking of adopting a newborn, because it cuts down your chances, (your odds obviously double and your timing theoretically could be cut in half) if you want a child of a specific gender. Plus, what happens if the woman delivers the "wrong" gender -- you need to start over, and the woman needs to select new parents at the very last second. But you certainly can do it. Another option method is to adopt from an orphanage abroad or from foster care. There, you really can select, because those kids need homes. Many people in your situation go this route.

How Do We Choose an Agency or Country?

Q. There are so many countries with kids waiting for adoptions. There are so many agencies, too. How do we decide where to go?

A. First, however you decide, you will almost certainly be happy with your choice once you have your child. Love and connections grow so quickly, and you'll wonder what all your questions were about. Second, please educate yourself about the process and the countries you are considering. You don't just bring the child home, you also bring home a piece of her culture that will inevitably become part of your family.

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