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Adoption Fundraising–Glossary Spotlight

by Laura on February 20th, 2013

I’ve avoided tackling this subject because I’ve been trying to develop a calm, logical reason as to why adoption fundraising is so “icky” … without playing the “you’re raising money to buy a child” card. So today, I will limit the snark in an effort to avoid alienating people who might be open to understanding my perspective.

Let’s all put on our thinking caps and our big-girl/big-boy underpants.

What is adoption fundraising?

It’s raising money (in increasingly creative ways) to afford the up-front costs of adopting a child, specifically an infant, domestically or internationally. Prospective adoptive parents are generally in need of $30,000-$50,000 in fees or travel costs. When adopting from the foster care system, fundraisers are often not needed because fees are nominal.

So what’s so icky about that?

Well, a clueless neighbor might later say to the adopted son, “Hey! I got a great record player at the garage sale for your adoption!” … Um? Ick.

Devil’s advocate …  Are people really that clueless? And if they are, does it actually scar the adoptee? What’s the big deal?

Blame the game, not the player

I want to remind my dear readers that I am an adoptee, in reunion and I love my adoptive family. I was adopted from a closed adoption system as an infant; and yes, my adoptive parents paid significant fees to get me. I don’t blame them, it was a different time, attitudes were different.

I blame the institution.

Because this is such a difficult subject, I also turned to the Lost Daughters bloggers, soliciting their opinions as adult adoptees. [Takes out magic wand, and waves dramatically.] I will now attempt to apply calm, rational arguments to a highly emotional subject.

Okay, okay, enough with the disclaimers get to the point already, Laura.

Adoption fundraising fuels a vicious cycle in a fraught institution.

Money should not be changing hands; because what happens is that the “best inventory” goes to the highest paying client. The moment you cap–or eliminate–fees, baby brokers and adoption agencies lose their financial incentive. Fewer adoptions happen, and fewer families are separated. I believe this is a good thing. I would like to see more families supported–emotionally and financially, and thereby preserved.

Fellow adoptee and adoptive parent, Rebecca Hawkes explains why those involved in adoption fundraising ought to rethink their stance

We recognize that, in domestic infant adoption, at least, there are already far more hopeful adoptive parents than there are infants who are truly in need of homes. I can’t separate my reaction to adoption fundraising from all of this.

I can’t view the fundraising as contributing to the common good because I know too much about the whole picture of adoption.

I’m also aware that many mothers who relinquish do so from lack of support and resources; it’s problematic to me to think of giving money to one set of people (however nice and likable they may be) so they can acquire the child of someone else, who might very well have kept the child if they had the financial resources to do so.

Adoption fundraising feeds the beast.

Even if an agency is nonprofit, money changing hands in adoption sustains an industry that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

LD blogger Jenn, who blogs at Insert Bad Movie Title Here passed along this article about the large salaries and sketchy spending habits of executives of non-profit adoption agencies.

Adoption fundraising is a matter of misplaced priorities.

Amanda Woolston at The Declassified Adoptee had this to say:

Some children do need a new home and adoptive parents do not set the fees. While adoptive parents do have influence and responsibilities to be ethical, the system structure is set by government and professionals who set these fees. We need to ask these entities, if a child truly needs a home, why set a catastrophic barrier to the tune of $50,000 in some cases for this to occur? Especially when we know from foster care adoptions that making it affordable to adopt increases the available homes for children.

To me, not only does fundraising show the misplaced priorities, it shows more people aren’t questioning the system. I’ve received feedback over the years from some adoptive parents who don’t mind the fees because having more money pushes them ahead in the waiting list. If you can pay the fee, you get to adopt. If you cannot pay the fee, you cannot adopt. It gives someone who has more money, or who could raise the money, an edge on an otherwise enormous waiting list.

The system needs to change.

Yes, Amanda! The system needs to change.

*  *  *  *  * 

I’ve updated the Adoption Glossary Page based on reader input, thanks to those who corrected terms or added them. Thanks, also, to LD contributor, Julie, who reminded me that I am not crazy when it comes to all this adoption stuff.

REMINDER! Submissions for the upcoming Adoption Reunion Conclusions are due Feb. 28th! More information here.

  1. Great blog post and made me laugh first thing this morning (not the subject matter, but you talking to yourself:)

    This really does explain why the whole business is so icky to me. It's really difficult to put it into words and you did the best job i've seen yet!

    • Laura permalink

      What me? Talk to myself? I'm completely sane, and that's something that crazy people do, right! :)

      I'm glad you were able to get a laugh. It is icky, but I've been trying to understand WHY. It is tough, I agree.

  2. it is difficult to put into words, but you all have done it. Thanks for this excellent resource!!

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks, Deanna — I'm glad you find it helpful! You're the best :)

  3. Jung Sun permalink

    Yes, it's icky business. You did a great job explaining without letting the yuck factor overtake you. Thanks for doing this. Great post. :)

    • Laura permalink

      Icky with a dash of "yuck," I agree. And now I will stop writing lest my snark returns :)

  4. Josh permalink

    As someone who is raising an adoptive girl in the shadow of all of that debt, I can say that removing financial barriers would increase financial stability of adoptive families.

    You've really got me thinking about something I haven't questioned since I got over the initial outrage of the staggering costs.

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks so much for commenting. I totally get your initial shock, and of course the joy of finalizing the adoption. But it's true, something has got to change when it comes to the financial barriers for adoption.

  5. I know this comment's bound to draw some ire, but it's the truth: if adoption were truly about finding homes for children who desperately need them, and not about finding children for homes that desperately want them, the money would disappear. It's simple supply and demand. And by the way, it doesn't cost $50,000 to give a home to one of the hundreds of thousands of kids in the US care system who very much need one. If only we would put the brakes on our Holy White American Savior mentality and consider what adoption should truly be about.

    • Laura permalink


      I agree–I think that we need to put a legal limit on what adoption agencies can charge. (Well, I would say no fee, but that's just me.)

      In fact, here in Serbia, there are no adoption agencies, and it is illegal for money to change hands when dealing adopting a child. If money changes hands, it is considered a bribe. (So, no surprise that adoption agencies aren't in business here, because there's no business to be done.)

      Thanks for commenting, I'm reading all about the Magdalene project now :)


  6. Renee Davies permalink

    Rebecca's comments really struck home for me.

    "…many mothers who relinquish do so from lack of support and resources; it’s problematic to me to think of giving money to one set of people (however nice and likable they may be) so they can acquire the child of someone else."

    Amen. If I surrendered my baby because I everyone told me I was too poor to care for him properly and then found out the agency had placed him with two bankless yahoos who had to go panhandling on freaking Facebook in order to adopt, nothing would contain my rage.

    That's so wrong we need a new word for it.

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