Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Adoption

When we first found out that we would not be having kids the old fashioned way, we started going down the IVF road. About a week before my extraction we were talking in bed and found that we were both doing it because we thought the other one wanted it. So, then and there we decided to look into adoption and leave IVF as an option later if we decided to do that.

We found out that a home study was the first step in adopting. No big deal, we figured we would have to cover outlets and buy a fire extinguisher. That was the easy part. We knew we would be spending some money going down this road, but we had no idea how bad it was going to be.

Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a cheap skate, I have a very well paying job and I understand that certain professional services cost money and will pay for them when required. But, this home study business is a complete ripoff. We got quotes from $1500 to $5,000. Let's look at that. The average home study takes 3 visits to the home of anywhere from 2-4 hours each. That makes a total of 12 hours of on-site time. Add another 6 for them to prepare the report and administrative time. Total of 18 hours. That puts their billing rate between $83 and $277 an hour. COME ON people, that's absurd. While I understand that there is licensing and such involved, and everyone needs to make a profit, but even at $83 an hour they are raping you.

So, we start the process of getting our home study done. We agree to pay it in thirds at each home visit, at least this lessens the blow to the wallet. The first visit goes fine, and she collects the basic information from us. She collects copies of drivers licenses, marriage license, divorce decree, all that jazz. She talks with us about our feelings about trans-racial adoption. We had already discussed this amongst ourselves and we have no issues with it. Upon learning this, she tells us she knows of a situation in Charleston where there is a baby being born later in the year that they are having trouble placing. She calls her contact about this and gets them in touch with us. It seems like we are off to the races much faster than we expected.

On a side note, if you are going to be getting a home study done, buy an all in one printer that will make copies. It will make your life SO much easier when they ask you for a copy of this or that. They can be had for around $100 and in the big picture of this process, that's nothing.

We submitted our "profile" to the agency and were told that they would call us and let us know when they presented it to the birth mother. 2 weeks later, we call them to check on things to find out that they had presented it a week ago and were waiting for an answer from her. Strike #1- Not doing what you say you will. Another two weeks and we call them back again and find out that she had decided to parent. Strike #2- Not doing what you say you will (AGAIN). At this point we do not want to work with them. The way I see it, when I am paying more than $10,000 to them for their services, they best do what they say they will, if they don't, buh bye.

So, we go on the search for other agencies that we may like to work with. We quickly discovered some things that did not sit well with us.
  1. Many want at least a large portion of their fee up front
  2. Many request that you "apply" and must be approved before they will talk to you.
  3. A fair number want you to pay an application fee of $100 to $300.
  4. Most ask you to specify how much you are willing to spend when applying.
I cannot think of any other service that has the gall to behave like this. You enter into a contract with them while tying up many thousands of dollars in it. You have almost no recourse if you are not happy with the service they are providing. They also seem to be forgetting who is putting money in their pockets, if anything they should be applying with me to win my business not the other way around. Some general pre-qualifications are acceptable, but not an entire process. I also refuse to pay them to consider me as a client. And, if they are upfront about their fees, they should not have to ask me what my budget is.

Based on this, I developed my own little criteria when looking at agencies.
  1. Fees should be clearly posted on their website or given when requested.
  2. I will not pay them upfront unless the contract specificly stipulates performance requirements and allow me to terminate the contract if these are not met and any fees paid will be returned to me with interest.
  3. I will not pay to see if they will accept me as a client.
Well, this pretty much shot every agency down. But, somehow that didn't bother me. I feel these are all reasonable requirements and any ethical business should not object to them. We found one that met them, and we did start speaking with them.

What we found when talking to all these agencies was that they exsist to broker/sell children. Call it what you want, but that is what they are doing. Unreasonably large fees for the services they provide, practices that any legitimate business would be very reluctant to do. My final conclusion was that I wanted no part of this process.

The unfortunate part is that if you want to do a private adoption, you have to play this game. I completely understand some people are willing to do this, and in the end they are still helping the children and I respect them for that. So, if you are reading this and are doing private adoption, please don't take this as an attack against you. I just personally feel strongly enough about these things to not take part in it.

After speaking with several people, we were introduced to NYAP (National Youth Advocate Program), which is primarily geared at foster parenting, but also works with foster to adopt. After meeting with someone from there we decided that we would go with them and do foster to adopt. But, that story is another post about foster parenting.

Although I generally don't comment on comments, I do read them and appreciate them. So, please keep leaving them.

And for those men out there that are facing male factor infertility, you are not alone and unless you castrated yourself with a pocket knife or something, your not to blame either. It's just the way things go, so don't be too hard on yourself.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the adoption process - I can see why you don't agree with the practices of most agencies!

    Your last paragraph made me laugh out loud...I'm going to ask my husband if he castrated himself with the pocket knife (not really, but that is hilarious!)

  2. If you're the learned type, I highly recommend this book. It has a great expose of the "adoption market". (Like it or not, adoption is all about buying a baby - and since demand is greater than supply, that gives adoption agencies the upper hand.)

  3. I can't believe people are out to gain such a profit when these children need loving homes! I've heard so many terrible stories about the difficulty in adoption. The difficulty leading up to that decision is bad enough...Thanks for posting. I'm interested to hear more.

  4. In all fairness, the "whats your budget" thing is because some birthmothers want/require help to pay for living expenses during pregnancy, as well as medical bills, etc. We considered adoption for awhile and it was NOT something I felt comfortable with, but the variable budget isn't necessarily going to the agency.

  5. I can understand the birthmothers needing some support. If that is the case, that should be categorized separately than the fees.

    The problem with the budget question is that it is vague and open ended. It should be asked in a context of if we are willing to provide birthmother assistance and if so how much.

    My suspicion is that this is used to thin the herd of applicants. If you don't select a high enough value, they will pass on you and wait for someone with deeper pockets.

    What makes me so angry about this is that no matter how you slice it, children are being sold to the highest bidder.

    These agencies are making a mint off of each placement. They will tell you all day long that they are doing this for the good of the children, but at the end of the day, they are doing it for profit.

    Some will claim that they are non-profit. This is meaningless. It simply means that the organization does not make a profit. It does not mean that the board members are not well compensated. So, higher fees equals higher salaries for them.

    I am not normally one to support government intervention, but I think that is the only solution in this case. The only other option is to boycott the agencies, and there is no way that will happen. There will always be people who will pay the price. And, since supply outstrips demand, they will just laugh.

  6. "What makes me so angry about this is that no matter how you slice it, children are being sold to the highest bidder."

    You hit the nail on the head. Adoption is the marketplace for babies. The first thing they taught me in my econ classes in college was that everything has a price.

  7. The agencies I looked at did list the fees like that. There was a homestudy fee, a placement fee, and then the "birth mother support" which could be whatever you felt comfortable with.

    Again, agree on what you said. I really don't like the concept of buying a baby, and adoptions should only be like one or two thousand (affordable, but significant; don't want to price out poorer families, don't want people doing it on a whim).