Joel and Kendra Paris always knew they wanted to adopt. The couple, who both work in the non profit sector, just never realized the financial means to do it would be sitting right there in their west Texas kitchen.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, domestic adoption through an agency can range from $20,000 to $45,000.
“We aren’t exactly swimming in a pool of cash,” Paris told TODAY Parents on the costs associated with growing a family through adoption.
During an orientation meeting with their agency, the couple learned that some families use fundraising options to meet financial goals in order to adopt and a lightbulb went off.
“I turned to Kendra and said ‘Man I wish we had something cool’,” Paris, 36, said. “She literally said...'Uh, you make bread. You could sell that.’”
After living in Dresden, Germany, Paris found himself in Abilene, Texas without access to the bread he had come to love in Europe. A combination of YouTube videos and a love for baking led Paris to learn how to create the bread he missed from abroad. He has since mastered the recipe and turned it into fundraiser for their family.
“I like it, (and) my friends like it, so I started slow and sort of grew from there," Paris said.
To date, the couple has raised several thousand dollars to support their goal of adoption while they wait to be matched.
"We were actually in the process of looking at fostering to adopt when Kendra found out she was pregnant with Julien," Paris told TODAY Parents of their son. "We were not really far in that process and kind of pulled out to focus on her pregnancy."
As Julien got older, the couple began trying for a second child.
"We tried to have another child and it just was not something that was working," Paris said, adding they learned Kendra, 38, has some medical conditions that can make pregnancy dangerous. "We tried fertility treatments and those did not work and so we basically sat down and said, 'Adoption was always the plan, why are we doing all this other stuff?'"
Paris estimates the couple had spent $4,000 on fertility treatments, some of which was covered by insurance, before they began pursuing adoption.
"Our family’s adoption will be about $30,000," Paris told TODAY, adding they have chosen to pursue adoption through an agency called Christian Homes and will also benefit from the federal adoption tax credit.
"That covers the application and two day orientation, background clearances, training, home study, legal services required by the state, care and expenses for birth mothers considering adoption, and post adoption services for the rest of your life and rest of your child’s life."
Cost of adoption
Kristen Hamilton, the director of communications for the National Council for Adoption, talked to TODAY about the average cost of adoption in the United States.
“NCFA recently conducted the largest survey to date of adoptive parents,” Hamilton told TODAY. “We can report that according to this survey, since 2010, the average cost of domestic infant adoption is $32,000 and inter-country adoption is $35,000, though I would caution that it can vary widely by country.”
Hamilton added, “Adoptions from foster care often have minimal or no costs, but parents in our survey did report an average cost of $1,200 which would primarily stem from legal fees.”
Why don't you "just adopt"?
When couples have trouble conceiving on their own, people may encourage them to "just adopt" — but Ryan Hanlon, acting CEO and president of NCFA, told TODAY “just adopt” insinuates the process is straightforward.
"It’s too simplistic to say 'just adopt' because adoption and having a child by birth are not the same, and completing an adoption is often not simple," Hanlon said. "We should acknowledge the complexities of moving from infertility to adoption, including the grief involved with infertility, and their emotional readiness to parent through adoption."
Hanlon added that in addition to emotional and financial obstacles, not all individuals, or families, meet requirements for adoption.
"For those that meet requirements, there is a bureaucratic process of paperwork (and) background checks to complete an adoption," Hanlon said. "And even with that complete, there is an unknown timeframe for when they’ll be matched for a placement."
Becky Fawcett, a self-titled “unsuccessful fertility patient” who founded HelpUsAdopt.org, added that this language doesn't take into consideration what an individual or couple has already been through on their journey to build a family.
"People mean well but this is a very dismissive and unkind comment to someone who is struggling to build their family," she said. "The language also doesn’t take into consideration what they are about to go through if they adopt. It’s not always an easy road and it’s a financially exhausting process."
Financial help with adoption
The NCFA told TODAY there are resources to help individuals or families adopt including grants, employer benefits, adoption loans, and, for those who qualify, the adoption tax credit.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in 2020 was $67,521 for Americans.
"Do the math," Fawcett, a mom by adoption, told TODAY. "The cost of adoption presents a financially impossible situation for so many American families who want nothing more than to welcome a child into their home."
Fawcett founded HelpUsAdopt.org to address the inequality in the world of adoption grants and make adoption more financially accessible.
"Our grant program offers an inclusive platform where applicants can seek help for grants to close the financial gap and help to bring their children home," Fawcett said. "Helpusadopt.org is a unique adoption grant program in that our doors are open to all, including single parents and the LGBT community, we are not religiously affiliated, there is no application fee and we offer large, problem solving grants up to $20,000."
This year, the program will be awarding $1 million in adoption grants.
"The big question to ask yourself is this: If American families can’t afford adoption then what happens to the millions of children here and around the globe who need adoptive homes? What happens to them if they never have a home or a family?" Fawcett said. "Making adoption more financially accessible to all will only help more children come home."