Adopt at Any Cost?

2012 | Week of March 27 | #1196

I’m not positive, but I’m fairly confident I was pretty cheap to adopt. Of course, that was a long time ago. In fact, I was adopted during the so-called Baby Scoop Era, a period following World War II and lasting to 1970 when there was, sadly, a lot of babies born out of wedlock.

My adoption was through a private agency in Georgia; and therefore, it may have been more expensive than had it been a public adoption through the social services agency. Admittedly, my online research resulted in no information directly related to the cost. But since babies were readily available, I suspect the law of “supply and demand” kept any costs quite reasonable.

I never remember my folks even mentioning anything about money related to adopting me or my brother—which in retrospect I admire. I suspect they would have paid just about any amount for us. They were that intent on having children.

The other aspect of the finances related to my adoption I’m pretty sure about is that the government did not have any programs to help offset the cost of adoption. Perhaps there were some private grant programs available then, just as there are today; but finding records of them proves elusive.

Interestingly, research shows that while the number of babies available for adoption in the Baby Scoop Era was high, adoption was pretty rare, with between just 2-4 percent of families adopting and just 2.5 percent of children being adopted. Those numbers hold true even today.

In the height of the Baby Scoop Era, adoption agencies, public or private, worked hard to match children with adoptive families, in particular racially. Today, matching is not so important; and we see more transracial and international adoptions, which are striking in their appearance. Experts say these situations make us think adoption has increased, when actually the adoption rate, as well as the number of adoptions has been decreasing since 1970.

What we know hasn’t dropped is the cost of adopting.  Depending on how and where a family adopts, costs can be easily in the tens of thousands of dollars. Over the years, to promote adoption, various levels of government have offered financial incentives to help offset those expenses.

The federal government offers a one-time tax credit of up to $13,460 per adopted child for families that qualify. For over ten years, Wisconsin has had a $5,000 per adopted child tax credit available for adoptions that were finalized by a Wisconsin court.  Given that many adoptions today are international or originate and are finalized by a court in another state, many Wisconsin adoptive families are not eligible for this tax credit. Some have seen this as rather discriminatory and also as a real disincentive for Wisconsin citizens to adopt.

State Representative Rob Hutton from Brookfield and State Senator Devin LeMahieu from Oostburg agree that this lack of financial assistance could be a reason more Wisconsin families don’t adopt.  To remedy that situation, they are introducing a bill that will make Wisconsin families who adopt children from international agencies or from other states eligible for the nonrefundable$5000 tax credit, as long as the child actually comes to Wisconsin to live.  The bill is currently circulating for co-sponsors in the state legislature.

I don’t think families who believe God has called them to give children a forever earthly home will make a decision strictly on finances.  I think they’ll do everything they can to find the money; however, if the government offers this type of tax credit, I see no problem with their using that to help offset the costs, including adoption fees, court costs, and related legal fees.

It’s more than lamentable that adoption costs have skyrocketed.  I recoil at the idea of adoptions costing exorbitant amounts because I don’t think it’s right in any way to make children a commodity that produces income for someone. On the other hand, those who facilitate adoption placements need to pay their staff and overhead, and attorneys and courts aren’t wrong for charging reasonable fees. If some of the costs can be offset by federal and state tax credits, then that seems reasonable to me.

All this makes me even more grateful my adoptive parents were willing to shoulder whatever it cost to take this five-month old, blonde-hair, brown-eyed orphan and give her a forever earthly family of a loving dad and mom, even without government help.

For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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