After the experience we had last week (read that post first if you haven't already) I had several questions for LDS Family Services (LDSFS) about how they handle things. They made time to talk with me to answer all that they could and provide the reassurance I needed. This post is based on questions I had about how our agency handles birth mother fees, placement fees, the financial side of adoption and also the resources and help they provide for expectant moms. I wanted to know how they handle things differently from the facilitator we had interacted with. I wanted to know details of the financial side of things and how they keep this from being a baby selling business.
I'll start at the very beginning of the adoption process...
- Many agencies require a large fee to be paid up front by hopeful adoptive parents to even start the approval process, with no guarantee that you'll ever be matched. The "adoption facilitator" we were in contact with last weekend wanted a $16,000 fee up front and that was just her facilitator fee to be in contract with her for only two years.
- LDSFS had us pay $1000 after our intake interview when they determined we met the basic requirements to move forward through the approval process. The $1000 covers the cost of our home study (usually around $500-800) and the office work to get us to approval. I appreciate that they aren't asking for a huge fee up front. We don't pay the larger "placement" fee until a baby is actually placed with us.
- So now the beginning of the process for expectant parents. Most adoption agencies are just that, adoption agencies. They operate as a business to match expectant parents with paying adoptive couples. They are there to facilitate an adoption.
- Our neighbor told us when she went to LDS Family Services for help she really felt like they educated her on ALL of her options even though she came in saying she wanted to place. They really try to make sure all of the women they help are well educated about their options. They don't want someone to look back and think "I wish someone had suggested single parenting or I wish someone had educated me about adoption." An expectant parent's decision should be one made with all available information.
- Does LDS Family Services offer help to women who are choosing to parent?
- Yes, they help them come up with a parenting plan. They go over things like daycare, health care, and things that they need to know and figure out to parent successfully. I like this approach because it isn't "oh if you're not letting us place your baby then get out of here." They genuinely care about the birth parents.
- Are there continued resources offered to women who do choose to place their baby with an adoptive family?
- Yes, birth parents are welcome to have any adoption related counseling for free for life. Birth parents can go in and see professional counselors for free for anything adoption related like grief and loss.
- Adoption agencies provide something called "pass through fees" or "birth parent fees" to assist birth mothers. Each state regulates pass through fees and sets their own specifications. Our state's regulations are really vague and basically say pass through fees can be for anything "adoption related" which really can be anything. Some agencies pay for EVERYTHING. They'll fly a pregnant woman out, put her up in an apartment until she has the baby and give her cash for anything and everything. She's pregnant so really it can all be considered pregnancy related. Those fees, bills, and cash allotments are then passed on to the adopting couple. I've heard adoptive couples using other agencies say their birth mother would call requesting or demanding money for one thing or another. None of those women ended up placing and sometimes they weren't even pregnant.
- LDSFS caps the birth mother fee at $3,000 and everything is paid directly to the vendor. Usually their birth mothers don't even ask for the help, but the caseworkers see a need and offer the help. If they need help with housing there are usually families in the area who volunteer to provide housing. If they need help with rent then LDSFS will pay directly to the landlord. If they need help with food then a caseworker will go grocery shopping with them with an agency credit card. Maternity clothes work the same way. If they need help with transportation to doctor's appointments or to meetings at the agency then the agency can pay for a taxi. They never hand over money directly to the birth mother.
- Now for the actual placement fee. Most domestic adoptions are $25,000-50,000. Adoption is very expensive. Most women who are looking for a family for their baby would rather have the parents spend money on the child, rather than paying a huge amount of money to an adoption agency or to the birth mother to essentially "buy the baby".
- LDS Family Services though is a huge blessing for us when it comes to adoption fees. They work on a graduated fee based on income. The fee is %10 of your annual income, with a minimum fee of $5,000 and a maximum of $10,000 (plus a maximum of $3,000 pass through fees). Really, that low of a fee I don't even think pays our caseworker, especially considering how often I email and call her :) The fee goes to pay caseworkers and for office operation (legal team fees, office worker pay, basic operations, etc). In addition to the agency placement fee we will be paying our own attorney fees to (hopefully) finalize our adoption.
I am SO beyond grateful that we are working with LDS Family Services. Every birth mother friend I have spoken with who worked with them said they made sure they were aware of all of their options and then helped them with their decision. It's important to us that our birth mother picks us because she wants us to be her baby's parents, not because someone else decided for her, or because she's being paid to place.