As Bill and I are reflecting on where we are and what comes next, we are running into what I am calling "the dirty little secret" of adoption.
Let's start off being clear: in adoption, the adoptive parents aren't "buying" a baby. Yes, fees are paid, but those fees cover the many expenses of an adoption. A myriad of legal fees, services provided to the birth mom and all prospective birth families that the agency supports, services provided to us and other adoptive parents, fees to pay for home studies. It's expensive. I've had a few people ask me recently if the birth mom receives compensation -- absolutely not. In fact, international adoptions must meet conditions set by the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children, which ensures that there is no child-trafficking going on in an adoption situation. In recent years, the US has ceased to have adoption programs with Vietnam, Guatemala and other countries because there is concern that birth parents are being coerced into giving up their children for adoption for compensation. Unethical, wrong and horrible.
But while the fees paid for an adoption don't "pay" for a baby, that doesn't mean that the cost to adopt some children is more expensive than it is to adopt others. Internationally, the costs are highest to adopt children from Russia, followed by China and Korea. It is generally less expensive to adopt from Ethiopia. I would really like to think that this has something to do with government fees specific to each country and not that it is related to the race of those children. But I'm not naive.
In light of our failed adoption, Bill and I have been thinking about whether we should explore adopting through a different agency. We chose our agency because it was highly-recommended, extremely ethical, reputed to provide excellent support to birth parents and local. The fees we pay our agency for the adoption are on a sliding scale, based on income. Those of us fortunate to be on the higher end of the scale pay more, which I assume helps to offset the expenses for other adoptive parents with smaller household incomes, or from single-parent households. This makes complete sense to us.
There are two agencies out of the area that have also been highly recommended. One, based in New York, cites having closed more than 28,000 adoptions in its 120-year history. The other, based in Texas, provides truly exceptional services, grouping adoptive families into cohorts to support one another and holding annual events to connect adoptive families and their children's birth families. But we just can't see ourselves adopting from either agency for one big reason:
The fees to adopt children are different based on the race of the child.
Yes, go back and read that again. At both agencies, there is one fee to adopt a caucasian, asian, latino or bi-racial baby and a different, lower, fee to adopt an african-american baby. This makes me sick to my stomach.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that these agencies do so because they feel that african-american babies harder to place. There may be fewer african-american parents adopting, or fewer non-black families willing to adopt an african-american baby. We still live in a racist society, after all.
But incentivizing adoptive parents with a different fee structure is wrong on so many levels, I struggle with words to express myself. Quite frankly, if adoptive parents aren't open to adopting an african-american baby, they shouldn't. Cost shouldn't cause them to consider it. You're either open on race or you aren't and if you aren't, you shouldn't raise a child of color.
The whole thing makes us disgusted. I will admit with much guilt that I considered the Texas agency pretty long and hard. And to be honest, after this experience, thought that maybe the fact that we're open on race would mean we wouldn't wait long for a baby if we went with them. But Bill posed the question that pushed any thoughts of using this agency out of my mind -- what do we tell our child when s/he finds out and wants to know why the fees are different. We can't be naive enough to think that someday our child won't want to know more about their adoption and the agency we used. And how horrific would it be, should we have had an african-american baby placed with us through such an agency, for our beloved child to find out that we paid less to adopt him/her than we would have if we had adopted a white baby, or a latino baby, or an asian baby.
We cannot endorse this practice that so clearly ties a value to the race of a person. So we stay put at our agency, where may wait longer, but we'll know that the fees we pay are linked to services provided and not to color.