“It depends”…is probably the most common answer to many questions people ask me regarding adoption. There is no one set way that all adoption entities operate their business. Below are a few examples of questions I get asked and why I usually say, “It depends,” followed by an explanation. Please note that these are things that I have seen both professionally as an adoption consultant and/or personally as an adoptive mom. While there can be many answers to questions asked, I will enlighten you with a few answers I give to those families seeking adoption. Example 1: What is the “at risk” money for an adoption? Well, it depends (I just had to write that!). There is not a cut and dry answer to this question. First and foremost, any birth mother expenses paid out are non-refundable since the birth mother has used these fees. Any of her expenses not paid out should be and are typically returned back to the adoptive family. Also, any legal fees paid out are non-refundable. As for the other fees, it depends on who the entity is, whether it is an adoption advertiser, agency, or attorney. Most adoption advertisers (aka facilitators) do not refund their fee; rather, they put you on a “priority” list of birth mother situations. Any fees paid out (other than birth mother expenses mentioned above) to the legal adoption entity carrying out the adoption should be disclosed to the adoptive family. Adoption agency “risk money” varies. For example, when my husband and I had a failed adoption (through an agency) we knew, from the contract we signed at match, that if there was a disruption, we have the following choices: 1) the agency will retain their agency fee and try to rematch you as soon as possible or 2) if we were re-matched elsewhere, the agency would retain half of their agency fee. However, there are other agencies that do not refund their agency fee, but they will either 1) put you on a “priority” list to rematch you or 2) roll over a portion of the agency fee as well as other fees to another situation.
Adoption attorney fees also vary. For example, one attorney may have a set amount that they consider “at risk,” which may only include birth mother fees and are non-refundable. Other attorneys may have only a portion of their fees non-refundable as they do need to get paid for the services they do provide while other attorneys refund any remaining monies. Lastly, some attorneys may only roll over their fees for another situation.
Example 2: How quickly do your clients get matched with a birth mother through an adoption entity? Now this is a loaded question! When I first answer this question, I do give statistics relating to this question as I keep track of each client, from their start date, to the date they get matched, and to the date when their baby is born. However, it is important to note that every family has their “hot buttons” on what they are looking for in adoption, just as birth mothers have their preferences of what they are looking for in an adoptive family. So I usually continue with “it depends though.” Families who don’t limit their preferences may get matched quicker or sometimes is it just the timing. For instance, I have a family with four biological children. They wanted to adopt number five and they preferred a boy. The family submitted their profile to an agency whose birth mother preferred a family who already had children. The family got picked! From the start of services to the day they got matched was thirty-seven days plus their birth mother is due 4 weeks from their match date! I would say that was great timing and one lucky family. Example 3: Are birth mothers drug tested? You know the answer by now, “it depends.” It depends on the adoption entity and how they operate their business. Adoption advertisers do not drug test. Because they are not licensed to do adoptions, the work they do is fairly minimal compared to that of a licensed adoption entity. They can speak to the birth parent(s), gather the intake (medical and social background), get an estimate on what they expenses will be over the course of pregnancy, and locate a waiting adoptive parent(s) for the birth parent(s). Once matched, the facilitator will connect the adoptive parent(s) with a licensed or approved adoption entity to carry the adoption through to fruition. At that point, the facilitator removes themselves from the rest of the adoption process. As for adoption agencies and attorneys, drug testing varies. I have seen some of both types of entities drug test and then others who do not. This is probably not the answer most people want to hear, but that is the realty of adoption. The examples can go on and on, but by now, you probably have the idea of why the answer to an adoption question can be “it depends.”