Sunday, November 9, 2008

Question about Price

When Hubbs and I are looking at these different adoption agencies, one of the big things we look at is their fee structure and total price.
We have an agency that we really like that says the average domestic infant adoption will cost about 10,000. That is great! Most other agencies we look at quote 18,000 to 35,000!! That is a huge difference, so it makes me think what is the first agency not doing that is not costing them the extra money? Or why is the second one ripping me off?

How much did your adoption cost? Do you know why there is such variance in fees between agencies? This is really confusing to me, so any help would be great.

7 comments:

Anonymouse said...

We have ended up with a private adoption, which is going to be much more affordable than we had planned.

We hired an adoption consultant to hook us up with reputable agencies in states that have favorable adoption laws, etc. The costs that we ran across were all in the $18K-$35K range (depending on the ethnicity of the child mostly).

We have some friends working with an agency that has led them to believe it will be more in the $10K area. I'm interested to see how their adoption turns out and to see if anything seems to be "missing", etc.

Lori said...

You can find some reading on this subject here.
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption-cost.php

I wrote about choosing an adoption agency here:
http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/2006/07/questions-for-choosing-adoption-agency.html

Good luck with your decisions, and keep asking questions!

Heather said...

There are a lot of different reasons that costs vary:

- Which services are provided as part of that fee (some agencies include legal costs, some provide many more hours of counseling/support, some don't spend much on advertising, some don't include pregnancy-related expenses, etc.)
- Location (staffing costs in major metro areas are often higher)
- Pricing structures which commodify children based on race and/or health
- How the agency is structured (sometimes agencies use their infant adoption program to subsidize other programs or vice versa)
- Agency size (economies of scale kick in with larger agencies, so their per adoption costs are sometimes lower)
- Some are for-profit and simply setting the cost as high as the market will bear

Our second adoption cost almost twice as much as our first, but was still in what we considered a reasonable range. ($35k sounds super-high to me.) We had a much, much better experience, though, with the second and felt that the birth parents received better support. The first one cut too many corners with staffing and just couldn't give any one adoption the attention it deserved.

It's good that you're asking questions now--I wish we had with our first adoption!

Polka Dot said...

I, too, struggled with the cost when first looking at agencies a few years ago. So many are so expensive.

Here's what I found (and a lot of this is just my personal feelings and findings):

- Almost all agencies sent me a huge packaget with pictures and journals and newsletters and this and that. Can you imagine how much this costs to send to the hundreds of thousands of prospective parents?

- A lot of agencies I found expect you to pay for some, if not all, of the birth mother's living expenses.

- A lot of agencies also assume you're going to be willing to send money to the birth mother if needed / requested.

- Some of the fee goes to counseling provided to the birth mother (totally understandable).

- Some does go to an attny (this seems to be pretty standard across the board, but the fee amts vary).


I finally found an agency through one of those 'it had to be fate' sort of happenings. When I got their packet, it was a simple 8 pages that broke everything down. And 4 of those pages were about finding the right agency. No sales pitch, no pushes, nothing flashy or fancy. This agency charges 15% of your salary, not to exceed $8000 and that includes the home study. The attny fees are added to that, and the total cost should be around 11 - 12,000.

I felt comfy with them from the start, but the final deciding factor was finding out another blogfriend had used this same agency for her home study and they couldn't have been happier with their decision. Their daughter has been home for 3 months now.

So ... no ... it doesn't have to cost 18 - 40 grand or even close. We just have to be willing to do the research and footwork to find the reputable agencies that don't charge an arm and a leg.

millie said...

Hi, I came here through Lost and Found. My husband and I are currently pursuing domestic adoption. We looked at a lot of agencies here in NorCal. I think many of the differences relate to in state and out of state adoptions (out of state is MUCH more expensive) in addition to often excessive "placement" fees (which often goes towards advertising, etc). Many agencies also have different fee structures for different ethnicities.

Living expenses can also up the fees. Many agencies do not pursue other options such as Medical here in CA and just pass those fees along to adoptive parents.

We chose an agency that had a fee for services model so we could pay for the services we wanted (homestudy, post adoption placement) but not their outreach program.

I think our adoption will end up costing around 12-15k including homestudy, consultant fee, website development, extensive counseling for the expectant mom and other fees and everything needed for finalization.

Alex said...

Here from LFCA.

When looking at adoption agencies, the big issue for me wasn't costs but how the agency approached adoption and particularly how it treated prospective birthparents. I didn't want an agency that focused on "closing the deal" and felt strongly that women in contact with the agency (considering placement as one alternative) should be able to get good information from it about all the options available to them. Also that free post-adoption counseling needed to be available long-term to birth parents who found they wanted it.

The agency we worked with used a sliding scale and the price we would pay was in the $25K range depending on things like travel, how long it took (homestudies must be repeated yearly), and whether we needed to contribute to a birthmom's support (safe housing, medical care -- nothing "special") during her pregnancy. But those prices were broken out for us as things we might need to pay with approximate amounts and not included in the fees to the agency (which themselves totaled about $18K).

Two other things I liked about the agency we chose -- for a fee ($1500), they let you take up to two years "off" from adopting once you get started (the $1500 fee is payable only when you resume the process). So that if your life changes substantially (new job, job loss, move, death in the family, illness, etc.) you can take "time out" without having to start over. We actually ended up doing that as we conceived after getting started, and are trying to work out whether we want to pick up with the process or not. And, payments were due -- about $10K up front and then the remaining about $8k in two payments, one at match and one at placement. The thing was, though, if the process broke down (e.g. you were matched and then the birthmom changed her mind), you didn't have to start over from a financial perspective (so if your total was $18K and you'd paid $14K you'd only have $4K left to pay even if you had to start again after a match failed. Though of course fees for specific services, like a homestudy that needed renewal, or for sunk costs, like a birthmom's medical care, were always gone once expended).

Hope that helps. Oh, the agency we worked with was the Independent Adoption Agency, http://adoptionhelp.org. Good luck finding one that meets your needs.

Lori said...

Hi, Melissa.

I asked someone on a private board (feel free to join at forums.foreverparents.com), and here is the answer. You can also find the answerer at forums.adoption.com under the name "Linny."

It's a rather lengthy answer, but she doesn't have a blog account and doesn't want to post anon...

Your question as to why some agencies charge more than others is a very good one. It's also one that's often asked and pondered by many a hopeful adopting couple.

Some agencies *do* do more than others. Some provide counseling for biological parents (or more of it, some even up to one year). Others will offer and provide counseling for the adopting couple too. Some agencies have a huge overhead in advertising, manpower and branch locations. Others simply have a rented office space and a couple of caseworkers to counsel birthmothers.

Obviously, advertising, more personnel and a fancy building mean the clients (adopting couples) will be paying more to the agency. However, just because an agency does a lot of advertising, doesn't necessarily mean you'll have your baby any earlier. Believe it or not, IMO, a lot of finding your baby has to do with the amount of agencies/attorneys you choose to work with at one time; as well as just being at the right place at the right time.

An agency who tells you that you'll have a baby within a set time frame, is only giving you an estimate. (This is why it's often stated in their contracts (if they have one with you), that they give no guarantee you'll have a baby placed from them.) In reality, the birthparents are usually the ones to choose a couple and/or decide whether or not they'll parent or release for adoption once the baby is born.

Let's say you have $10,000 to use toward an adoption.
The agency tells you they charge $10k for their agency fee; but there can be a huge difference between their fee...and what the complete adoption will cost.

When you initially talk to an agency, ask these questions, your conversation may be something like this:

"I see your fee is $10k. Does that cover the legals and finalization of the adoption?
(Many may say that this covers the legals (the signatures from the birthparents to allow the adoption), but not the finalization (the submission of the legal petition for adoption and the actual judgement from the court that this child is completely yours).

If this fee doesn't cover the legals or finalization of the adoption, this means you'll have to pay additional monies to complete the adoption. Further, if your baby is born in another state, you'll have to pay an attorney to conduct paperwork for an interstate compact agreement (ICPC) in order to bring your wee one from the state of birth, to your home state. These additional fees can vary GREATLY, and it's up to you to know ahead of time what those fees may generally be. (Which means, you'll need to contact an attorney ahead of time, either in your state or in the child's birth-state to know the costs.)

"Do you require any matching monies?" (Many agencies do if you're wanting to do a 'match' with a birthmother.)

"Is any of that money refundable should the birthmother choose to parent; or, if something were to happen so that the adoption could not take place?"[/u]
(Many agencies will not refund your match money. Additionally, many will give the 'song and dance' about how they'll simply 'rollover your money to another adoption situation'...or, 'put you at the top of the list for the next situation', or, 'take out only a precentage of that match money for their administrative fees and allow you to apply that money to another situation as soon as possible'.
All of these 'gimmicks' (as I refer to them) are all ways in which the agency is allowed to use YOUR money, while YOU wait. Once you pay them this money, the incentive to keep you as a client is lessened, at the very least. While that might sound contradictive to producing good adoptions, keep in mind that any large agency that's doing a LOT of adoptions during any year; also has a LOT of clients.....who've paid a lot of matching money; who may or may not still be waiting for whatever reason.

So if the agency says their fees are $10,000., you can see that amount may not always reflect what a [u]complete adoption may cost. Ten thousand may only be their placement fee and might exclude any birthmother expenses, legal or finalization fees, ICPC fees or whatever else they may (you may) want in the end.

Keep in mind though....and I write this cautiously---because it doesn't happen every day for everyone....that there ARE situations when your $10,000 WILL pay for EVERYTHING. We actually had an adoption where $10,000 was the complete fee. The birthmother had contacted the agency after the baby was born, she didn't require pre-birth counseling, she had no medical or extra expenses; the baby was considered harder to place (but not to us :) ), and we were at the right place at the right time. Our only other expenses were our homestudy (which we'd previously paid for to our own agency), and our travel (which was fine because we were very familiar with that particular state.)

Soo, what do you do? Here are my suggestions:

1. Search and find agencies that carry a good reputation.

Sometimes, you'll find one person stating the agency did a very good job; then find someone else who'll say they had a terrible experience. Try finding more than two people to to talk to! Generally, word gets around about agencies and attorneys. Join an online group or a nearby adoption support group (and one that isn't necessarily sponsored by an agency), in order to get an idea of how reputable an agency is.

2. Find agencies that will only require you to pay ALL, or at least the majority of the adoption fees after the baby is actually released for adoption and in your arms.

Some people think these types of agencies don't exist. They do, believe me. Though you may have to do some searching, they DO exist.

3. Find agencies that require only a small amount (or nothing) to apply to them.

This kind of arrangement isn't really that unusual...especially if you're wanting a child considered a minority or one that might be harder to place. Remember that the term 'harder to place' is completely in the eyes of the parents. What might be considered 'harder to place' to one person, may certainly be 'exactly what we're wanting' for another.

4. Find as many entities as you can afford in order to network.

Instead of paying $1000.00 and submitting ten profiles to one agency who may or may not send them across the country; consider applying to five agencies for the same amount of money and sending two profiles to each of them. You'll find that even smaller agencies can have good networking with other agencies and attorneys (some even out of state) ; so while they may have only two of your profiles, those two may be sent to adoption entities you'd never have had access to by putting all of your profiles (and money) with one, large agency.

5. Consider networking with adoption attorneys as well as agencies.

Many states allow adoption attorneys to network with each other and other agencies. Oftentimes, attorneys will charge much less than an agency, simply because they don't have the advertising or overhead that an agency will have. Additionally, some attorneys will charge hourly for their services; and oftentimes, these costs are smaller than a 'set-amount' charged by an agency.

You'll find that choosing a lesser expensive adoption takes more than finding an agency through the local yellow pages and signing up with them. It often takes more time and effort, but the payoff just might allow you to save those extra dollars for raising your new daughter or son.

Sincerely,

Linny