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What adoptive parents need to know about financing your adoption

Kelly Ellison Adoptive Parent/Founder and CEO/National Radio Host Your Adoption Finance Coach

Most people don’t make the decision to adopt because they have $40,000 in the bank. While building your family through adoption is a decision of the heart, ignoring the money required to complete an international or domestic adoption can put a family into a cycle of debt and stress.

Domestic or international adoptions range from $25,000 to $60,000, depending upon the circumstances. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, two thirds of Americans have considered adoption, while only 2 percent have actually completed an adoption. Most publications cite the high cost of adoption as the number one reason people do not choose adoption as a way to build their family.

There are many ways to create a comprehensive plan for funding an adoption. And there is no greater community builder than adoption to bring a committed group of people together around one mission. With the development of numerous tools and resources for prospective adoptive families, more children are able to find permanent, loving homes. This article offers advice for helping parents tackle the challenges of financing your adoption.


Do create a comprehensive plan for achieving financial goals

Your adoption agency or professional will provide you with a list of the expenses necessary to complete your adoption. However, sometimes in this list, there are gaps with regard to pre- and post-adoption expenses. While it is not intended to deceive, there is simply not a one-size-fits-all adoption.

After reviewing the list of expenses, you must develop a plan. Begin by asking yourself some difficult questions, such as: Who will be the primary caregiver when the child arrives home? Will that person leave work, resulting in the loss of an income? What health insurance needs will you have? If you are open to adopting a child with special needs, what costs will be incurred to get his/her medical needs met? Does your employer provide paid time off for adoption? Or will you have to take family leave? What vacation time have you accrued for your travel? How many people will travel? If it will be an extended trip and you already have kids at home, will they travel with you or stay home?

Remember to cover all of your bases. This requires a serious, honest conversation with your spouse or significant other. It is critical for you to have a comprehensive plan.

Do develop your inspirational story

Once you have made the decision to adopt and have created a plan for how you will achieve your financial goals, you can start sharing your good news with friends and family. But how? What will they say? Will they approve? The answer is that many will be thrilled and others will not. Some will have strong opinions and will share them with you at appropriate and inappropriate times. The key to telling an inspirational story is agreeing on the actual story. Share the compelling reason why you are choosing adoption and be ready for a rebuttal. This is not because so many people are adverse to adoption. On the contrary. It is primarily because there are so many myths about adoption, which range from good to bad to ugly.

Developing your inspiring story requires another sit-down, heartfelt conversation about why you are each choosing adoption and what parts of the story you are willing to share with friends and family.

Do share your story and invite others on the journey

Once you have decided on your story, it is time to share it. Sharing it in an open, loving fashion will disarm anyone who feels they want to damper your hopes of adoption. There are various ways to do this. Consider the old fashioned postcard or letter announcement, combined with links to your social efforts (such as a blog connected to Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin). These are tools you can use to keep your community updated on your progress.

Don’t forget to invite family and friends to join you in your journey. Establish a cash gift registry or some venue for receiving cash gifts. You will receive gifts--and the best gift for a prospective adoptive family is money to help offset the costs. As you tell your story and share your journey, remember that you are educating and inviting, not asking for money. Those who are drawn to help you will--and they will do so in amazing ways.

Do display your gratitude

You will get caught up in the paperwork. You will get caught up in the logistics, politics and the emotional roller-coaster of adoption. Whether it is an international or domestic adoption, this is a virtual pregnancy fraught with ups and downs like no other. So hold on, but don’t forget to say thank you to those who are holding your hands, such as your social worker, case manager or adoption professional, who is doing the heavy-lifting and making the adoption happen.

So often, we think we should do it ourselves. And while admittedly, you are responsible for 80 to 90 percent of your adoption expenses, you also need to prepare yourself for the fact that this is about your child and your community wants to be a part of it. How will you feel when someone hands you a check for $500 or more? Or gives you airlines tickets for your trip to China or South America? Be prepared for that moment. It will come. When you receive it, say thank you and be grateful because there will be a time when you will have an opportunity to pay it forward.


Do not overlook the possibility of grant money

There are many wonderful foundations and organizations that help adoptive families pay for their adoption expenses. But be aware, these grants take a great deal of time and energy, and are highly competitive. Additionally, some have strict guidelines, such as qualifying as a low-income family who is adopting a child with special needs. Before you begin writing the grant application, be sure you fit within the guidelines of the foundation’s requirements.

Do not ignore adoption tax laws

While you will receive cash gifts for your adoption, understand they are not tax deductible for the individual giving the gift. These are cash gifts that you will use to pay for your adoption expenses. And if these expenses meet the qualified adoption tax credit rule, it is likely you can count them toward your adoption tax credit.

Check with your tax attorney or accountant to be certain. There are online funds available where you can register your cause (adoption) and with a nonprofit partner, your friends and family can provide donations on your behalf. These donations are tax deductible to the gift giver. These gifts go directly to the nonprofit, which can be your adoption agency, and offset your expenses. But be aware that you do not get to choose how that money applies, and you must tax this from your qualified adoption tax credit. It is recommend to have both a cash gift registry for your own discretion and a donation option for those where this makes a difference. Check with your agency, as many will receive funds on your behalf.

Do not forget to educate and inspire

Adoption is expensive and emotional. But never beg or complain about how tough it is. Instead, educate and inspire. Invite and be inclusive with the process. Lean on a close group of family or friends with whom you can share the tough times. For others in your community, give them information and inspiration often, so they can be a part of your journey.

Do not fail to consider foster-to-adopt as an option for building a family

Foster-to-adopt is an entirely different process than adoption and one that bears little financial cost. Each year, there are more than 18,000 young people released from foster care in our country, with no resources and more importantly, no family. If domestic and international adoption are not your path, consider foster-to-adopt as a viable option. Due to the many myths and misconceptions about this form of adoption, it is important to become educated and recognize that thousands of foster children have found happy, forever families today--and this could be you.

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Adoption can be a difficult experience for families. So many things are out of your control. It is tricky to know what to focus on and what is important. Create a detailed plan and like any plan, be flexible and change it accordingly. Be sure to soak up every minute of the process because you will never be here again.

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Kelly EllisonAdoptive Parent/Founder and CEO/National Radio Host

Kelly Ellison, is an adoptive parent and fund-raising professional for over 25 years working with national nonprofits such as CampFire USA, Points of Light Foundation and Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City. She has raised literally millio...

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