November is National Adoption month.
Given that this is a personal finance blog, and given that I adopted five daughters without spending a dime for the adoptions, I think it is time to dispense with some of the financial myths surrounding adoption expenses.
The biggest myth is that adoption is prohibitively expensive. It can be, of course. Adopting.Org reports that a private adoption of a healthy, white infant can cost anywhere from $8000 to $30,000. International adoption runs a close second, from $7,000 to $25,000.
But I adopted each of my children from state foster care. Not only did I not pay anything for the adoptions, the state reimbursed me for the travel costs involved in meeting with my children and their social workers, and continues to give me an adoption assistance payment each month. Each child was also covered by Medicaid until age 18. (I put my kids on my own insurance plan when they came into my home, but having them on Medicaid meant I never had co-pays.) Health insurance companies are required to put your adopted children onto the policy as of the date of placement in your home, even if the adoption itself doesn't take place until later. Also, healthcare providers that don't routinely take Medicaid usually will make an exception when your family is already being treated through your employer's policy.
A number of employers (not mine, unfortunately) offer adoption benefits that are much like FLEX plans. Specific adoption expenses come out of pre-tax income. If your employer does not have such a program, it may well be worth your time to check this benefit out and present it to your employer as something they might like to offer. The big selling point is that because the employer will not have to pay FICA on pre-tax income, and because those FICA payments are usually more than what private FLEX firms charge to administer plans, the benefit is revenue-neutral for the employer. If your company already offers FLEX medical and childcare, call the administrator to see if they can handle adoption benefits as well.
There are also substantial tax benefits to adoption. These are available for all adoptions, whether domestic or international, but they are higher and better for anyone adopting out of foster care. Check out the IRS website for Forms and Instructions (Form 8839) to claim the tax credit. For one child, it is currently $10,960. It can be spread over more than one year. If the adoption is international, the credit cannot be claimed until the adoption is finalized. However, for a domestic adoption, there doesn't even have to be an adoption as a final result, provided the expenses were incurred as part of an adoption process.
For the adoption of a special needs child (and keep in mind that a "special need" can be as minor as a child being African-American, or over six years old, or part of a sibling group, or having a family history of mental or inheritable physical illness), one does not even need to have incurred that much in expenses to take the credit.
That's right--at least on the front end, one can actually make a profit on the adoption.
With my usual stellar timing, I adopted for the final time the year before that particular provision of the tax code was passed. So, no profit for Grace, unless you count the addition of five very special girls to my family as a profit.
Come to think of it, I do consider that a profit. And a blessing.