Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adoption for Cheapskates

Do you hate that title? Are you appalled that anyone would consider applying frugality to the adoption of children?

What if it turned out that being frugal about adoption actually helped those children most seriously in need of parents?

Welcome to Grace's world, where the desire to adopt and rear children ran smack into financial reality. Don't worry--this is a story with a happy ending. I wound up adopting five daughters, and we all survived.

I was 30 years old when I adopted my first child out of foster care.

I was 50 when I adopted my fifth and last child, also out of foster care.

They are all adults now, ranging in age from 43 to 20. They are mostly on their own. (OK, so the 28 year old returned home and is currently living with me, but the plan is for her to be gone by spring!)

Rearing children is never cheap and my children are no exception.

But the adoption process itself can run into thousands of dollars, particularly for children from foreign countries, and even more particularly for the near-mythical 'healthy white infant.'

My children's adoptions cost me not one dime.

My state paid the attorney fees.

My state provided health insurance until they were 18. (I put each child on the insurance provided by my employer and used the state coverage as secondary insurance, which meant I had no co-pays!)

My state provided psychological testing at no cost.

My state even provided a monthly stipend for each child.

If you're curious about your state, the National Council on Adopted Children maintains this website.

The federal government also provides tax benefits for families that adopt. It benefits those of us who adopt special needs children from foster care most of all. (Special needs can mean the child has physical, intellectual or emotional issues. It can also mean that the child is above six years old, is African-American, or comes with siblings.) Everyone can get a tax credit up to $12,150 per child, but those who adopt from the state can get it whether or not they actually spend that much (which they won't--they may well not spend anything) and they can even use it for costs incurred for an adoption that winds up not happening. Check it out here. The credit can also be carried over to the next year if one's tax bill doesn't come up to the credit.

All states require that prospective parents thinking about adopting from foster care take a series of classes meant to introduce families to the realities of rearing adopted children. (No, it is NOT the same as rearing biological kids--neither better nor worse, but different.) These classes are free and provide a great deal of information about the available children. I would encourage everyone considering adoption to take the classes even if they think a state adoption is not for them.

There is so much more to be said about adoption from foster care, and so many other aspects to factor into the decision, but this is a financial blog, so this post is focused on the finances of adding adopted children to one's family.

Cheapskates can adopt. Grace is proof of that. Would I have adopted had the state aid NOT been available? You bet. But I would have stopped with the first, maybe the second child. I could never have adopted all five without the benefits provided by the government, so I am grateful for the programs that were and are available.

November is Adoption Month.

Consider it!


Nicole said...

Thanks for the information! Some states also provide in-state tuition for adoptees, which I think is brilliant.

MasterPo said...

FYI - The $12k adoption credit will expire 12/31/10 as it's part of the Bush Tax cuts. :-(

Maggie said...

That's amazing and I didn't know any of that. Thanks for informing us all!

Florence said...

Grace, you are beautiful! What a blessing for everyone!

Grace. said...

Master Po--we're both a tad wrong. The law is set to sunset December 31, 2011. But odds are it will be extended at that time. And the amount of the credit will increase in 2011 to $13,150.

There's still time for Master Po's household to take in some grasshoppers!

LC said...

What a great, informative post . . .and a continuing revelation of a big heart.

MasterPo said...

Grace - Not counting on the Bush tax cuts to be extended. Would be nice. But don't hold your breath. If for no other reason than Obama campaigned on a promise to let the tax cust expire and in return he got the support (and admiration) of many very left/liberal groups. While it would be good policy to extend the cuts (though a mere 1-2 year extension won't really do much in the longer run, but let's not digress...) if he does sign an extension that's going to put him at major odds with a big part of his support base. And the fur will fly.

And anyway, MasterPo and Mrs. MasterPo have already taken in 2 wonderful additions to the family. :-]]

Living Almost Large said...

thank you! truly a wonderful blessing

Linda said...

I can tell Master Po that as a staunch supporter of President Obama, I would send no fur flying if those credits were extended to adopting families. That's just silly to make this a political forum.

Not only do children benefit from what you've done, Grace, and are doing in this post, too, but also our society as a whole benefits, too, when its children are nurtured. Thank you on behalf of us all.

Anonymous said...

Very true!

The state of California is very generous. A relative of mine who suffered great heartache in trying to bear a biological child, and did foster-to-adopt in California. The process was VERY quick. Once approved, she had a newborn within days. She has since adopted him and his biological little sister. Had them both from Day 1.

As a twist, she was able to save up the money to hire a surrogate. So, she now has 3 children under 5. (Such a blessing, after many lost babies and lost hopes for the dream of a big family).

I think it's sad that adoption is painted as such an expensive proprosition when there are so many babies out there that you can't even give away. I am always pointing out to people that there are other options than the typical "pay a fortune for a healthy white baby" scenario.

MasterPo said...

Linda - The adoption tax credit is part of the Bush tax cuts. If the Bush tax cuts are not extended or made perm then special, separate legislation would need to be passed to extend just the adopton credit.

Don't see that happening either.

Jerry said...

My wife and I are seriously considering adoption. What an amazing thing you done that leads to the successful rearing of children that would otherwise be neglected. That's amazing that the state paid for insurance and your attorney's fees. We may look into this.

Grace. said...

Master Po--my tax expert tells me that the current adoption credits will not sunset until the end of 2011. And if that should happen, the prior credit of $6000 for the adoption of special needs children will still be available.

Janette said...

Grace- wonderful article.
I can teach them- but raising them---not so much.
I am glad there are people like you who can!

Nicole said...

I just got the saddest email from one of my graduate students. Suffice it to say, if you adopt through the state you will not become a victim of private adoption fraud.

MasterPo said...

Grace - Not entirely so. The higher tax credit is part of the Bush tax cuts. However, one of the many side features of Obamacare is to raise and extend the credit for 1 year only. So unless there is special legislation at the end of 2011 the credit drops.

$6k is a lot less than $12-13k. That may be fine for a state sponsored foster adoption but for a non-state foster adoption MasterPo assures you the expenses can be astronomical! Getting the larger credit can be the go/no-go for many people. (why the whole thing is not deductable or credited is unimaginable anyway.)

MasterPo said...

Nicole - MasterPo presumes you mean the email was from someone wanting to adopt, paid the mother's expenses, then she backed out?

If that's the case, it happens faaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more often then anyone wants to believe. :-(( And there's nothing legally you can do.

Don't look for sympathy on adoption websites. You'll be crucified.

Urban Exile said...

Are all these subsidies for special needs children? And what are special needs defined as, anyway? Are these measurable physical and mental obstacles only, or...?

Grace. said...

Currently, and through December, 2011, the tax credits are available for any non-step-parent adoption, not just special needs. But if it's not a special needs adoption,you must have receipts for actual expenses to claim any part of the credit. If you adopt special needs kids, you get the credit, no matter what you did or didn't spend. What constitutes special needs varies from state to state. The NCAC link in the post will show you how each state defines it. Usually, it means a sibling group, physical or mental health issues, over a certain age, like six or eight, or, sometimes, a hard-to-place racial group (usually African-American).

Nicole said...

Master Po-- No, the birth mother did not exist. There was no record of her in any hospital. Unraveling, the agency they thought they used turned out not to be real and is no longer contactable, etc. etc. etc.

So no, not the birth mother legitimately changing her mind (which could happen if you adopted through the state). Actual scam artists pretending there was a baby preying on a desperate couple.

But thanks for your sympathy for my poor student in any case.

MasterPo said...

Nicole - We dealt with a women a few years ago who did similar. She kept asking for money and more money and more money for all sorts of things. It didn't pass the "smell test".

Short version: We found out through a 'friend' of hers she had no intention of putting her child up for adoption, just trying to get money.

We tried to get the FBI involved since it was out-of-state wire transfers which made it a Federal crime. We had a witness willing to give a statement. They didn't care.

There are soooooooooooo many stories like that but you NEVER hear of it, or, the adopting parents get blamed somehow! :-O

Gets my blood really boiling!!!

Grace. said...

Adopting parents should never be blamed for a scam. However, sometimes when dealing with birthmothers who later change their minds, some prospective adoptive parents act like they've been cheated, as though a pregnant woman "owes" them the baby. In the adoption world, that gets on a lot of nerves.

MasterPo said...

Grace - Not for nothing but when you have paid thousands of dollars in living expenses, legal fees, travel, medical etc. only to find out the women never intended to give the child up "owes" takes on new meaning.

Especially in light of the fact that you can not deduct those expenses or otherwise get them back.

Adoption is expensive. Very few people can afford just 1 let alone 2 or 3 scams.