At What Cost?


“How much did she cost?”

“How much did you have to pay?”

“How much did I cost?” (My daughter’s question addressed to me.)

“How much did you pay for me?” (My son’s question.)

Ouch. This cuts deep, yes?

We have profound emotional ties to our children and the journey that brought us together. It’s painful to be asked what it cost you to adopt your child. Being asked infers that you purchased them, like a loaf of bread. I was asked this question a number of times, in establishments run by newly immigrated Chinese who were unaware that their question was highly inappropriate, when my girls were still babies. (I’ve never returned to these businesses.)

Yes, adoption can be very expensive. So expensive that many people who wish they could adopt can’t. Some adoptive parents are fortunate enough to have some expenses reimbursed by employers, the military, or qualify for adoption tax credit. Some are not. Many adoptive parents have sacrificed to save, borrow, and fund-raise money to cover adoption expenses. And often the sacrifice and accumulation follows uncovered, unsuccessful and deeply heart-wrenching infertility experiences.

In answer to my kids’ questions I have responded honestly: We did not buy any of you. Regardless of whether I carried you inside of me or we adopted you, all four of you had expenses relating to your care, before and after you were born. We had expenses to visit you and to bring you home. We had expenses to legalize our relationships. We also had similar expenses with your brother who was born to us. Many of his expenses, because he was born to us, were covered by insurance. We have ongoing expenses of feeding, clothing, educating, and providing the care you need, for all of you. We willingly do what we can to provide these things for all of you because we love you.

Parents: How do you address the question of adoption expenses with your child? How do you handle the question when you are asked by someone other than your child?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick June 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Your statement is very misleading, adopting does not have to be expensive. In some cases adoption can be free or under $2500 if you are adopting from a domestic fostering system, and when you do so, all of that can be written off on taxes. I know you’re trying to help people, but you are misleading people who think they can’t afford to adopt when they can.


Judy June 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Hi Nick,

And thanks for responding. My intention wasn’t to mislead, but to frame the questions of adoption related expenses from a conversation that I had with one of my daughters, which then expanded into a family conference. And you’re absolutely wonderful to add, as Michelle did, insight about foster care adoption.


Michelle June 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Judy, just to clarify, anyone can adopt if they adopt a child from the foster care system. There are many children here who need a family. There are no expenses associated with adopting from the foster care system. Indeed, the government includes a monthly stipend to go with a child, to get them out of the system and to insure that parents who might not otherwise be able to afford it can adopt. We adopted our daughter from foster care. We did not accept the subsidy for various reasons. One is that I thought about my daughter coming to me in the future and asking, “So you only adopted me because of the money?” I didn’t want there to be any ambiguity. My fear is that she will come to me and ask, “You mean you could have been putting away thousands of dollars a year for me and you turned it down?”

More importantly, I wanted to add that it is equally annoying when people ask, “So your daughter was free?” As though she were less valuable than the children adopted from agencies.

There is probably no winning answer to people who look at life that way.


Judy June 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Hi Michelle,

Thanks so much for responding and bringing up a great point, something I didn’t touch on, foster adoption. I can see how comments and questions pertaining to adoption expenses create more comments and questions. I’m sorry to hear that people have made insensitive comments to you. I know personally how such insensitive comments can sting. All children are precious and priceless. I feel that so much good can be accomplished if adoptive parents continue to be positive advocates for their children who have been adopted, families who have adopted, and for adoption itself.


LeMira June 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Thank you. This is a great response – one that I’m sure I will need.


Judy June 9, 2010 at 9:20 am

I’m glad you find the response helpful, LeMira.


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