Most families I know are shocked when they first hear what it costs to adopt a child. It isn’t cheap. In case you didn’t know, it can cost anywhere from $15,000 – $50,000 to adopt a child. Domestic adoptions can run higher if PAPs are paying for the birthmother’s expenses. (Exception: adopting through the US foster care system is almost always free.)
I would guess that many families considering adoption see those numbers and initially abandon the idea. The amounts seem overwhelming. They certainly did to us. But don’t let the fear of financing an adoption stand in the way of providing a family for a child in need.
Funding an adoption isn’t easy, but it is possible –even for middle class, pay-check to pay-check families (like ours). When my husband and I first started the process to adopt we had almost no savings to pay for an adoption. I heard people who had done it say, “Just move forward, the money will come.” That sounded good, but I was pretty nervous about putting it to the test. I’m not proud to admit that even though we’re Christians, and deep-down believed the funds would come, I still tended to worry and fret about finances during our first adoption. Every time a payment was coming up I would lay awake at night freaking out because we didn’t have the money in the bank.
It took me a while (a long while!) but finally I started to see what was happening – we were praying and asking God to provide the funds for this adoption, and each step of the way, He was providing it! I learned that He wasn’t always just going to drop the money into our laps (though sometimes He did). He wanted us to do our part to work for it. But what we couldn’t come up with, He sent. Sometimes it didn’t come in until the very last second, and it often came in ways we weren’t expecting, but by the time every deadline arrived, so did the money.
We knew God wanted effort and sacrifice from us to come up with the extra money, so there were no extras purchased during that time period. We saved as much as possible from each paycheck. No movies, fewer dinners out, no extra shopping, etc. I took on a second part-time job. It didn’t pay a lot, but the money went straight into our adoption fund. My husband started doing some extra projects at work. We borrowed money from a family member which we later repaid on a monthly basis after we got home with our son. We found and were given a small adoption grant. We started selling t-shirts I designed (that part was fun!), friends and family handed us checks at church and in the grocery store and we found money in our mailbox. We got two no-interest adoption loans, one we paid back with our tax refund and one we’re still paying on monthly.
Some people wouldn’t blink an eye at going into debt for a house or vehicle, but refuse to consider an adoption loan. For us, getting our child home was so much more important than a new house or car.
In a one-year period we were able to come up with about $20,000 to adopt our first son. At the end, when we were home and looked back on it all, we could hardly believe how miraculously it all came together, just like people assured us it would!
Our next two adoptions were mostly paid for out of our adoption tax refund (see the link on that below), fee reductions due to SN, and a large grant that was given because of the kids’ SN. Though I still had some occasional bouts with worry about funding, I was more relaxed throughout the process because I had learned that that God would provide. As someone said to encourage us during our time of fundraising – God funds what he favors. And He certainly did fund our adoptions.
There are so many resources and ideas for funding an adoption. Don’t think because you don’t have $20,000 sitting in the bank that you can’t do it. You can! Look for resources listed at the end of the post.
Ongoing costs of parenting our special needs children:
We’re parenting two SN children. Thankfully, we have fairly good insurance. Our daughter has a significant physical disability and while she hasn’t had a lot of medical costs (doctors visits, hospitalizations, etc) we have the cost of PT/OT, adaptive equipment and modifications of our home/cars, etc to accommodate her. These things haven’t been much of a burden thanks to some creativity and amazingly generous people. Her wheelchair (specially designed & outrageously expensive) was paid for mostly by insurance. We were faced with a $3,000 co-pay that the mobility store graciously waived because “they heard her story and know that adoption is expensive.” Amazing! PT/OT is covered by insurance, ramp modifications to our house are being done by family and friends so we don’t have to pay anyone to do them, and we’re regularly given gas cards to help with the cost of getting to appointments. I know people find it surprising but we’ve really had very little extra out of pocket costs due to Jovia’s special needs.
Our little boy has different SN that require many doctors’ appointments and other services. His care costs more right now simply because his primary nutrition source is Pediasure and wow, is that stuff expensive! Thankfully, insurance has been paying for it. There are programs that would pay for his food if we couldn’t afford it and were willing to accept their assistance. His therapies and doctor visits are almost completely paid for by insurance. His medical needs have not been a financial burden for our family.
There are many services and help available for families parenting SN children. Advocacy and networking are key to tapping into these resources. Birth-to-three programs are wonderful (and free) for those with little ones. Early Intervention is free here. Our local EI has been great to work with and has loaned our family equipment so that we don’t have to purchase several very expensive items (SN stroller, standing frame, walker, etc). For families that can’t afford co-pays there are, in most states, assistance programs to help those with SN children afford medical care (for example, BCMH in Ohio). There is the Ryan White program for HIV+ children and prescription cards for medicines. PT/OT/Speech is provided in many (all?) public schools to children once they hit school age. There are many programs and resources available to help families with the financial aspect of caring for their special needs child. Examples of these resources are listed below.
Some families I know would like to share how they afford and parent their special needs children. I hope they’re an encouragement to you:
“I was in line for a domestic adoption and SPECIFICALLY told my agency I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do special needs. (My son) was born perfect appearing and came home at 2 days old. But at two months old, I knew something wasn’t right. To cut a longer story short, he has Septo Optic Dysplasia. He had to see four medical specialists (above and beyond his pediatrician) for his first three years. We started Early Intervention when he was just 18 months old and he had four therapies a week until he was three. I also see two separate alternative medicine docs who are not covered by insurance. Then there is (my daughter). She has HIV but no other real services at this point. She has four appts a year at the PID and then her usual pediatrician appts. All of that is pretty covered by insurance, other than the copays (normal) or out of pocket maximums. The good news is that (early intervention) (for the kids) is severely reduced thru the state. It is a sliding scale based on income, the MAX of which is $200 a month, even if you’re a millionaire. So some people pay nothing and the most is $200 for TONS of services. As you know, people have to ADVOCATE for their children to get into these things. (My son) wasn’t so far behind when I started screaming, but my mama’s intuition told me he wasn’t right. I pushed until they said yes and then I pushed some more. Those first three years are critical — particularly because it’s free but also because their brain is developing so fast.”
“we are moving forward with our special needs adoption with faith that God will provide. It’s more a concern for the actual adoption process than anything else. We feel confident that our insurance will cover his needed surgeries…then Shriner’s hospital where we will go frequently has a habit of writing off the excess so there is no burden to families. Still there will be the cost of flights and such, but we trust God for all things, why not this too? he is calling us to this child, we believe He will provide!!”
“I will share briefly…about our experience with the financial aspect of SN adoptions. We have been blessed in this area. Our first two adoptions, were domestic, and they both had medical cards (through their birthmother) until our adoption was finalized. They have prenatal drug/alcohol Exposure, but nothing long term. Our 3rd adoption was also domestic, and had a medical Card until finalized, but he has sickle cell disease, which can be expensive, when he has pain crisis. We have decent insurance, but still the co-pays and deductibles can add up quickly. We did not know he had sickle cell when we adopted him. Our goal is prevention, and so far it is working well. He has only about 1 hospitalization per year. It is fairly financially manageable. Our 4th adoption, was a domestic with limb differences. We did apply, and were granted, a non-ward IL state adoption subsidy for his medical expenses. He had several surgeries and therapies the first few years of his life, but there is nothing more that can be done for him at this point.
Our 5th adoption was our daughter from China, with Beta Thalassemia. We thought we knew all about this disease, but were shocked when she came home to us in heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, and unable to walk more than a few feet. She spent 3 days in the ICU on her homecoming, and was transfused every 5-7 days for months after coming home. This was a HUGE financial burden, but God totally took care of it. We applied for assistance, through the hospital, and it was granted. Shortly afterward, we found out about a Research project thought St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and our daughter qualified. So, for now, St. Jude provides all of her Beta Thal related medical expenses, and settles for what our insurance pays. This has truly been a gift from God! What a blessing!
Our 6th adoption is our most challenging. She was a domestic disruption, at 4 months. She has hydrocephaly, cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment, severe cognitive delays, epilepsy, and so on! She is basically about a 2-3 month old in a 3 year old’s body. Our atty insisted that if we pursued her adoption, we had to apply for the non-ward IL state subsidy for her care as well, which we did. We were approved for this subsidy,and it therefore provides for her medical Care. Our 7, 8, & 9th adoptions are a sibling group, that we took legal guardianship of in Feb. They have medical cards at this point, until our adoption is final, which should be in December. The 2 oldest are fine, no SN, the youngest has MR, Autism, ADHD, and PTSD. Still trying to decide if we should apply for the subsidy for him or not. He does require some meds, but nothing to crazy.
So……bottom line for us…..we would not have been able to afford to continue to add to our family without some assistance. Many people are against any form of assistance. We were at the beginning. But, several of our children would have ended up in life-long residential programs, had we declined their adoptions for financial reasons.
We feel God has put these children in our lives, and we feel he has provided a way to help with their care, through the various programs mentioned above. We are a one-income family, and there are months that we are VERY stretched, but He has always provided. All of our adoptions were between $5000-32,000, and we have never had to borrow money to pay for them. He provides, sometimes in very miraculous ways!”
…We’ve done 7 international adoptions, so you can imagine the amount of “ransom” money, as we like to call it, that has been paid out to bring our children home. If you were to look at a ledger of our finances, our income and amount spent on adoption does work out in an accounting sense. But that is because that is not how God works. We have learned to trust him more and more with each adoption as we have experienced his faithfulness to us. We have seen and know that when He calls you to serve Him, He provides the means….There have been many times when we were in the middle of an adoption and had no idea where we’d get the money to finish paying for it. Every time, God has provided through things like unexpected work bonuses or anonymous donations.”
“Finances have always been a concern when it comes to adopting, but we have never allowed money to stand in the way of adopting a child. It is no secret to those that know us that our faith in God has moved mountains when it comes to financing an adoption. We have began each of our adoptions with very little money but by the time our fees are due the money comes together. Through much prayer and faith God provides….We have never ask for help from others until this adoption, we were first only adopting one little girl but we lost her referral. (The agency) called us about 2 little boys needing a family quickly, although we didn’t have the money for two we felt they were our boys. That was our first leap of faith, the money was provided. Then God put it upon our hearts strongly that we were to adopt (another special needs little girl), we had not a penny and owed 5000 on the boys but we said yes. Praise God families have stepped forward and we now only need another 2500 to have our country fees all paid. Our hearts are with special needs, and older children, ones that might be looked over by others, it has been for many years. Our first adoption we wanted a healthy girl from Korea, we received our referral of a healthy beautiful little girl only to learn a few months later she had CP. The agency tried to get us to not move forward but to accept another referral, how very sad of this agency that they felt she was not worthy of a family. That beautiful little girl is now a healthy 22 year old whom graduated with honors from Mount Vernon Nazarene this past week-end and now headed to grad school to be a physicans assistant where God has called her to practice medicine in Africa. Had we given up on her who knows where she would have spent her life, 22 years ago special needs adoptions were unheard of.”
Lifesong for Orphans
A Child Waits
Gift of Adoption
Pathways for Little Feet
Room for One More Child
Help Us Adopt
National Adoption Foundation
Sea of Faces
OATH Fair Hope
Grace Hands of Hope
MICAH Fund (African American infants only)
Blogs are a wonderful resource for ideas on fundraising for an adoption. Google Blog Search
Reece’s Rainbow (grants on special needs children)
Project Hopeful (photolisting, grants on some children)
The Morgan Project (grants & equipment swap)
By State Listing of Early Interventional/Birth to Three Programs
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (State resource sheets to help you find programs in your State.)
The Special Parent (resource blog from a mom of special needs children)