// Adoption: How 3 Families Overcame the Financial Obstacles //
By: Taylor Haney
If you’ve clicked on this article, I hope it’s because I’ve piqued your interest. It’s not often that financial planning firms write about real life stuff. Well, we hope to change that. If you are a client of Visionary Horizons, or have kept up with our social media, you are probably aware of our Community Family Event in October. If you’re not in-the-know, check out our Facebook page or look at our Events calendar on the website to learn more about the event. We hope to educate our community on adoption and introduce them to a non-profit who is helping local families with the financial burden associated with adoption.
This article isn’t intended to answer all your adoption questions or to convince you to adopt; it’s simply to help give you perspective. There is a plethora of resources available online to answer all your questions. It’s no surprise to anyone that one of the largest barriers to adoption is money. Domestic adoptions can cost upwards of $35,000, while an international adoption could cost as much as $50,000 – yikes! Adopting locally through the foster system typically has no costs (I’d argue everything has a cost).
I mentioned that money was a barrier. I’ve discovered through research and speaking with several families who have adopted that money hasn’t proved to be a deterrent. However, it does require attention and careful planning. It’s prudent to understand what you’re getting yourself into financially. I’ve known families to acquire unmanageable levels of debt to fund an adoption, or spend money ignorantly because they lacked guidance. Don’t let doing a good deed cause you to make bad decisions. You don’t have to be alone in this process.
Recently, I spoke with three families from various backgrounds and locations. Each shared their story with me, including the trials they faced and the moments of joy they experienced. I had the opportunity to speak with Kate (Tennessee), Allison (Mississippi), and Mac (Virginia). Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Me: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today about your adoption story. First off, how long did the adoption take – from the day you decided to do it to having a child enter your family?
Mac: For us, it was a multi-agency, multi-part process. You could average it out to say about 2 years (Mac and his family have been through 3 adoptions).
Kate: I believe it took about 2.5 years. We adopted out of South Africa, so we expected it to take some time.
Allison: At first, it looked like it was only going to take about 7 months. We had a mother lined up and had a date in mind. The mother changed her mind last minute – which was fine – so our plans changed. We had our son from another mother a few months later. It took 15 months total, but we are still going through some of the legal stuff and should finish that up later this year.
Me: Was money a concern or major factor when considering adoption?
Kate: No. We just knew it was what we were led to do. Obviously, we had to make some sacrifices, but no, it wasn’t a major issue when we decided to move forward.
Mac: Money was a huge concern in the process. Again, we had multiple agencies, so there were a lot of costs to consider along the way.
Allison: For my husband, it was definitely a concern. Our total cost was about $15,000. It was much less than we expected, but we adopted domestically in Mississippi.
Me: Did you fundraise for any of your costs?
Mac: No. Once we reached the placement phase, it went relatively quickly, disallowing time for proper fundraising.
Allison: Yes. We actually did t-shirts through a company. Amazingly, we raised $8,000! We had hoped to get about $1,500, but were amazed by the response. We must have had a good design. And, the company we went through charged very little for the shirts, so we profited $8,000.
Kate: No, we decided that we didn’t want to fundraise. We did share our story with some friends and family. People ending up giving us money and my husband’s company donated, as well. It was a blessing for sure. The help we received covered about 35% of our costs.
Me: How did you fund the remainder of the costs?
Kate: My husband started doing landscaping and lawn work outside of business hours. While I was home with the children, he would get off from work and go straight to mowing lawns. He did this on the weekends, as well. It was long days for both of us.
Mac: Multiple jobs was the way to go. At one point, I had two additional jobs on top of my full-time job that regularly requires up to 60 hours a week.
Allison: We received about $5,000 from a grant and our church helped with the rest.
Me: Were you able to continue saving for your retirement?
Mac: Yes. I didn’t change my work retirement contributions.
Allison: Yes, my husband continued his 401k contributions.
Me: What surprised you most about the process?
Allison: That we didn’t have to spend any of our own money. Clearly, we have additional costs with a new child, but how we were able to raise all the funds was incredible. People we didn’t even know bought our t-shirts.
Kate: We were surprised how seamless things worked out. We had faith that our son would be loved and cared for in South Africa, and he was. To be honest, it worked out very well and that was surprising.
Mac: The home studies were very in-depth. I’m not sure I was prepared for how personal they were.
This article doesn’t do justice to the amazing stories these families shared with me, but I hope it sheds some light on what it takes to fund an adoption. Here are a few other highlights and themes I found during my research and interviews:
1) Be Prepared to Work – families typically take on second, or even third jobs.
2) Track Your Spending, But Don’t Obsess – there are clear fixed costs with adoption, but many variables. Keep your eyes forward.
3) Don’t Leverage Yourself – your existing family and finances are equally as important as your future family and finances. Don’t put your family on the back burner, and don’t forget about your current financial goals.
4) It’s Going to Take Time – you’re making an investment in a child’s life, don’t expect the process to happen overnight.
5) Remember Why You Are Doing It – adoption may look glamorous when you see pictures of a family with a new addition, but the journey is often hard and long. Commit to it.
6) Something Unexpected Will Happen – your agency may make mistakes, the country you are adopting from may decide they want more money, you may lose your job. Change is the only constant.
7) Share Your Story – there are many people who would love to help you, but are unaware of your needs. Sharing your story helps create a community of support around you. Fundraising, grants, and donations can go a long way in funding your adoption. Humble yourself. If you have a need, don’t be afraid to ask.
8) You Will Sacrifice – you will obviously sacrifice a lot of your time, but you may have to sacrifice vacations, savings, investments, additional education, etc.…
Money clearly isn’t everything when it comes to adoption, but it does matter – greatly. As it pertains to financial planning, adoption is no different than any other goal, but few clients bring it up and even fewer advisors ask. Adopting is an emotional, financial, and spiritual journey, amongst many other things. You can’t let your desire to help another ruin your own wellbeing. If you are considering adoption, I encourage you to spend considerable time thinking about the costs. Here are a few items you’ll want to consider and create a plan for:
1) How do you plan to fund the adoption?
2) Are you considering fundraising or applying for a grant?
3) Can you pay for the costs from cash flow, or are you planning to liquidate assets?
4) What is the time frame you are targeting?
5) Does it make sense to create a savings strategy for this goal and reduce expectations for other goals?
6) Do you understand the tax incentives for Qualified Adoption Expenses?
7) Do you plan to borrow?
8) Does your agency offer assistance?
9) Are you willing to ask for help?
10) Will the adoption, if self-funded, severely alter your financial goals?
If you have an advisor, these questions are the start of the conversation. A financial planner who has your family’s interest at heart can help guide you through the tough financial decisions you will approach. Understanding the long-term impact of your financial decisions is crucial, but I believe this can only be understood with a living, breathing plan.
Thank you to the families that were willing to speak with me and share their stories. I have learned a great deal. It seems no two adoption stories are the same. Each family was able to overcome the financial obstacles in their own way. As an advisor, I’m constantly seeking to get better. I have a responsibility to do that. My hope is that I can learn enough about the adoption process to help point clients in the right direction.
If adoption is of interest to you, we invite you to join us on October 18th, 2017 at The Empty Cup in Cedar Bluff. Here, you can find several resources to help you start the adoption process or find ways to help others with their adoption journey.