Two million couples in the United States are waiting to adopt and approximately 125,000 foster children are waiting to be adopted. Many infants are being put up for adoption at birth. One would expect adoption to be widespread under these circumstances. However, this is not the case.
Adoption numbers have been falling since 2007, with half of 125,000 foster children waiting to be adopted and 18,000 infants adopted domestically in 2014.
Adoption is oftentimes an arduous and lengthy process. Many factors contribute to this problem. Such as an inefficient child welfare system, a lack of a national and coherent adoption system, and emotional and cognitive difficulties experienced by prospective adoptive children that can, unfortunately, make it difficult for them to be placed. Despite all these factors, perhaps the primary barrier to adoption is the expense.
Domestic adoption can be incredibly expensive, costing roughly $43,000. This high cost is attributed to the complicated nature of adoption. The process requires many professionals, agencies, and parties to be involved. This includes lawyers, social workers, counselors, birth parents, child-welfare workers, and adoption agencies. Additionally, almost every step of the adoption process requires the payment of fees, such as the home-study cost, paperwork fees, travel, adoptive parent training, interim childcare, and court legal fees.
Adoption costs don’t even take into account other factors, such as the opportunity cost of parents who sacrifice wages to pursue adoption, and the continuing cost of adoption after it has been made official. Unfortunately, adopted children are often traumatized due to adverse childhood experiences, which leave them with cognitive and mental difficulties. In order to address these issues, it is often necessary that parents pay for the services of therapists and counselors.
Under certain circumstances, adoption can be inexpensive or even free. For example, it costs nothing for foster parents to adopt their foster child. However, fostering is not a viable option for many prospective parents. Not just because of the financial and emotional strain, but also because of the lack of support from the child welfare agency, professionals, and the frustrating unexpectedness and transience involved in foster care. Foster child adoptions also take a significant amount of time, as the government is required to exhaust every effort to reunite a foster child with his or her birth parents.
Various governmental assistance has been established to monetarily help adoptive parents. The Federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance assists families that adopt special needs children, defined in this case as “higher risk” children, such as older children, minority children, and siblings. This also includes those with physical, mental, medical or emotional disabilities. Although the Title IV-E bill promises to reimburse “reasonable and necessary adoption fees,” the federal government does limit monetary assistance to $2,000 and the reimbursement amount is often much lower. Many large employers also provide adoption assistance to their employees, although the benefit usually doesn’t exceed $4,000. Despite these attempts to make adoption more affordable, the costs are still unattainable for many couples wishing to adopt.
The expense of domestic adoption remains all the more unfortunate because of the dropping rate of international adoption, which has decreased by nearly 75% since 2005. Many countries have severely restricted adoptions while others, such as Ethiopia and Russia, have ended outside adoptions altogether. As a result, adoptions within the United States are in higher demand than ever. A demand that should be reflected in the number of children being adopted domestically, but again, this isn’t the case.
While the argument to decrease adoption costs may seem like an emotional one, it should be considered a financial one as well. Adoption emotionally benefits parents and children, giving couples a chance to have a family. An option that might’ve been unattainable for them otherwise. Adopted children experience better welfare outcomes. Including stable psychological, cognitive and physical health. Additionally, adoption allows children to experience permanency, which is a key aspect of establishing stable relationships and academic consistency and contributes to a positive adulthood experience.
On top of this, studies have determined that adoption is financially beneficial for the state. One such study found that a dollar spent assisting a family to adopt a child from foster care saves three dollars in social benefits. This is due to the fact that adopted children experience better life outcomes. Meaning they develop into happy and high-functioning adults, and bring social and economic benefits to society as they do so.
The unfortunate truth is that adoption is entangled with a poorly-functioning child welfare system, bureaucracy, and high costs. It ends up leaving hopeful couples and needy children languishing in limbo. Making adoption more affordable ensures better futures for them, and by extension, more positive outcomes for all of society.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.