Sunday, January 17, 2010

Talking to Your Child About Money in Adoption

Money is an inescapable part of adoption. The lack of money is one common reason for placing a child for adoption. Without money, one cannot adopt. The desire for money motivates much corruption in adoption. Money makes the world go 'round, as they say.

Have you had that conversation, where you have the difficult job of explaining to your child that you paid for adoption services, not for her? At Grown in My Heart, Michelle of GotchaBaby introduces her breakdown of adoption fees by imagining that conversation after her daughter helped her send the last payment to the adoption agency facilitating the adoption of her brother:

And she happily held the sealed envelope until we got to the mailbox. I’ll admit, there was a moment of panic running through my head. “Do I tell her the truth, that we are finishing paying the placement fee for her brother? Is she going to ask why that costs money? Holy crow, is she going to connect the dots and figure out that we paid money for her adoption as well? Why can’t I just do these things when she is asleep???”

Once the moment had passed and I regained my senses, I had some time to think about the fact that at some point, this very topic will come up. What, exactly, will I say? Probably something along the lines of that we had to go through some classes and do some paperwork to be able to adopt them. That the agency that brought us together with their birthmother, Jane, does a lot of good things for people who need help, and the agency, in turn, relies on people to support their work. That the people who work at the agency helping other families all need to be paid, just like we get
paid for our jobs. Or something like that. That the agency we used provides services to all women and children needing help, helped me swallow the agency’s placement fee.

The issue hasn't come up with my kids yet. They've certainly been present when people ask me how much it costs to adopt, and I've always answered carefully about fees for services. I also reference the medical costs for giving birth to a child in my answer about the costs of adoption, so they can see that there are costs involved no matter how you add a child to your family. But I don't know how much of these conversations they've understood.

I remember how shocked my kids were when they figured out that their preschool teachers weren't working for love alone. I hope my explanations of tuition payments will lay the foundation for explaining adoption agency fees when the topic comes up.

Have you had that conversation with your child? Tell us about it!


Peripatetic said...

My mom simply explained to me that it costs money to run the orphanage, hire the nannies/people involved...administration fees...Being open and honest and saying what you understand of the situation is the key.

Wendy said...

I agree, honesty is the best policy. M has brought this up several times, usually when a stranger says something inappropriate, but also in relation to why we adopted and about her first family's and her foster family's finances. I think her peak of questions came when wanting a sibling and us explaining that we could not afford to adopt another sibling at the time she was wanting.
We have always been honest about the costs and where the money goes, some to our govt., some to China's, some to the orphanage, etc. She seems content with the answers but still wants to know why we can't just get enough to adopt a sibling! Luckily she no longer wants a sibling now that she knows of her bio sister and embracing her foster GeGe even more since our trip back.
Any process involving govt agencies involves money, not to mention agency fees. It is a fact that cannot be ignored, nor should it.

LisaLew said...

I think the important question is - why does the talk of money bother us so much as it relates to adoption?

There has been more than one occasion that someone has asked, in front of my daughter, "how much did it cost?" At this time, I consider myself educating my daughter, not this insensitive person. The answer would be something along the lines of "just like there are hospital fees to give birth to a baby, so are there agency fees to adopt." Kind of like Malinda explains.

But, that brings me back to the question - why does the question of money and adoption bother us so much? Because of the implication that our child could be bought - which is the furthest goal we have in mind. It comes up all the time, and it is painful.

Someone just anonymously blogged under "Happy MLK Day" with the implication.

I say to these people: OK, so we paid the stated fees to bring our children home. And, your point is what? That we should have left them in the orphanage and waited for the system to work itself out?
Have you ever been in that situation, left in an orphanage, where the infant and child mortality rate are crazily increased? I GET that money given in exchange for an adoption can be abused, but tell me what your alternative solution is for the children who need homes?
(Disclaimer : this is not "be grateful" or "saving" mentality but just the cold hard truth as I see it.)

Michelle@Gotchababy said...

Thanks for the mention/quote! LindaLew, you bring up a great point--why does it bother us so much?

The services provided for an adoption take time, and in our society, time costs money. Why would the hours spent on our home study be free? Why would the social worker who spent hours at the hospital during our daughter's birth/placement NOT get paid?

Good analogy to school tuition.

Idealists would say it would all be government run, I guess. But then the fees are paid in the form of taxes, and there's still not guarantee it's honest/legit.

Good conversation, Malinda!

Tonggu Momma Husband said...

Like LisaLew, I've always framed my answer to the "how much did she cost?" question, in the context of a normal pregnancy/birth process, just lacking insurance coverage to pay all the Dr./nurse/hospital fees for us. I typically add ... "If only the insurance companies and HR benefits treated everyone the same, then this topic would never come up, would it?" I also share that I personally know many kids who's birth expenses have swamped our adoption expenses. If the ignorance of the question remains, I typically move on, there's no helping them. It's often that they are just trying to judge status or cash flow in a simple us vs. them comparison ... kind of like cars, or resume's, or the square footage of our homes, or the expense of our summer vacations ... boorish. Thankfully, the topic has not come up yet with our daughter, I appreciated reading your thoughts on this.

*Peach* said...

As an adult adoptee this subject is a huge trigger-point for me. I couldn't "wrap my mind around" my own adoption/search/reunion UNTIL I found out the societal and monetary basis of adoption and realized my mother and I both were abandoned.