An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Adoptions Cost Money. That Is Not a Scandal.

May 28, 2020
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Recently the New York Times published this article titled ‘ What I Spent to Adopt My Child: What 3 Couples Paid to Adopt.’ I thought the title about adoption fees was unnecessary.

Adoption, whether domestic or international requires money. Many adoptees are sensitive about discussing money and their adoption. The title seems inappropriate to me.

The main issues this article identifies could have easily been discussed with an alternative title.

I know some adoptees feel they were commodities in their adoptions. A title like this does not alleviate those concerns.

Personally, I know my parents paid to adopt me and my siblings as well. That does not bother me.

I do not feel like a good or supply, and I never have.

My hesitations around money and adoption arise when I sense a lack of transparency about the fees. It is important to know where the money is going and what a family’s paying for.

Creating a family, costs money, nearly everywhere. Whether the child is adopted or biological, starting a family is costly.

Some readers may push back, saying adopting a child is entering a marketplace where children are sold, like bread in a grocery store.

That is a cynical and negative view. Adoption fees are part of the legal structure enabling a child’s adoption.

Paying A Fee Decreases the Chances for Exploitation

Corruption and other illegal circumstances around baby-selling exist. People take children and sell them to agents. I am not naïve and know the stories and reality.

But that does not mean that adoptions should occur without fees.

I recently viewed paperwork about the fees that my parents paid for my adoption. Here are some items they paid for:

  • Home studies
  • Attorney and legal assistance
  • Foster care in the institution (food and formula)
  • Indian Social Service Fee
  • Airfare and fees for social workers to accompany me to the U.S.
  • I-600 (Petition to Classify an Orphan as Immediate Family Member)

My parent’s paid to ensure that laws and policies in India and the United States were followed.

They paid for peace of mind.

Because children are involved, in emerging countries, there is heightened sensitivity. A lot of people view money as inherently unclean. Therefore discussions about an adoption involving money are unsavory as well.

If adoptions were free, people would also freak out.

The idea that adoptive parents could get another mother’s children without cost is horrifying. Free in the realm of adoption sounds worse.

‘Free’ has negative connotations, especially if it involves transferring children. If I adopted a child from the DC foster care system without a single dollar being spent one would feel uneasy. It would be exponentially more questionable if I adopted a child from overseas without cost.

There must be expenses involved or the process feels cheap.

Adoption fees convey legitimacy.

I think adoption costs upset two separate groups. One, are those decrying its expense. This group is especially leery about international adoption, where the fees can reach $60,000 dollars. And they wonder where the money is going.

The other views foreign adoptions as purely transactional. To those holding that view, I wonder what is the alternative. They believe paying for adoption is wrong. They view all adoption as some type of child trafficking. If one’s upset about fees then even family preservation initiatives could be exploited.

Paying for adoption ultimately is about paying for a service.

Prospective parents hire agencies to navigate the legal and bureaucratic processes of multiple countries. They work with government entities, and jurisdictions to ensure laws are followed. The greater transparency in foreign adoption, including its costs, the less likelihood that perversions exist.

When people pay adoption fees, they are paying for the services surrounding the facilitation of the adoption itself. They are not paying for a child as a commodity in a marketplace.

2 Comments
June 1, 2020 at 8:31 pm

This is a really insightful and clear post and I agree with your points. Some people might point out that in the US, you can adopt from the public foster care system for “free” – but I believe that’s just because these services/procedures are paid for by the gov, not because these they don’t happen.

    A.J. Bryant
    June 3, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Hi Sarah. Thanks for reading and the comment. I’m glad the post was thought-provoking. I wrote it because I think the topic is not discussed enough in the adoption discourse and that has caused a lot of pain. Are you saying that the government essentially subsidizes foster care adoption, that’s why it’s ‘free’? Interesting, I did not know that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!