domestic adoption

How American Families Can Afford Adoption

June 17, 2015 in News by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

How American Families Can Afford Adoption

Domestic and international adoption can cost thousands of dollars, but grants, tax credits and fundraising can offset costs.


Each year, U.S. citizens adopt over 100,000 children, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Costs can range from very little for adopting a child from foster care to $40,000 or more for a private domestic adoption, says Nicole Witt, executive director of The Adoption Consultancy in Florida.


For families having difficulty conceiving, the cost of infertility treatments can also run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more, but adoption offers a key benefit that medicine doesn’t. “[Adoption is] always a roller coaster of ups and downs, but at the end of it you have a healthy baby,” says Lynne Fingerman, an adoptive mother and social worker who founded the San Francisco-based nonprofit Adoption Connection in 1985. “The infertility route doesn’t have that guarantee.”


Here’s a look at strategies that adoptive families use to cover costs.


Adoption tax credit. For 2014, the IRS gives adoptive parents a maximum adoption tax credit (to offset qualified adoption expenses such as legal fees and travel costs) of $13,190 per child, which phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes between $197,880 and $237,880. “If you adopt twins, then you can claim double the tax credit,” Witt says. “Or even if you have a [domestic adoption] situation that falls through, you can claim it towards the expenses that you’ve lost.” The credit cannot exceed your tax liability, but you can carry any excess credits into the following year. Consult your tax preparer if you’re unsure of how this applies to you.


Adoption grants. Jeremy Resmer and his wife raised over $47,000 so they can adopt twin girls from Congo debt-free, and about two-thirds of that money came from grants. (The Congolese government has put all adoptions on hold, so Resmer, his wife and their 3-year-old son are currently living in the Congo bonding with the girls and waiting for the adoption to finalize.) The pair did exhaustive research on adoption grants, and Resmer wrote and published an e-book called “Fund Your Adoption: A Step-By-Step Guide To Adopt Debt-Free.” “We had to look in a million different places to find all the grants,” he says. “Certain organizations … will only grant to you if you’re Christian or married, and sometimes income eligibility requirements will come in. Some organizations will only provide grants for domestic adoptions.” Because the application process can be time-intensive (collecting letters of recommendation or meeting with a pastor, for instance), the couple applied for 10 grants that they felt they most closely fit the award criteria, and also looked at grants with the highest award ranges. They were awarded six of them.


Not everyone will qualify for grants because some are income-based. However, a growing number of employers now offer adoption assistance. In fact, a 2012 Aon Hewitt survey of 1,000 major U.S. employers found that over half offered this benefit, compared to 12 percent in 1990. Fingerman says these benefits can range between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the employer.


Loans. Sometimes people take a short-term loan to cover adoption costs and use their tax return (with the adoption tax credit) to repay the loan. “There are adoption loans out there, but I always tell my clients just because a loan has the word ‘adoption’ in front of it doesn’t mean it has most favorable terms,” Witt says. “Explore a general loan, home equity loan and see what the best terms are.” Not everyone has home equity they can borrow from, but Witt says having a line of credit ready to cover adoption expenses can be smart (so long as you’re realistic about what you can afford). “You don’t know exactly how much you’re going to need and when you’re going to need it,” she explains.


Some people also get a gift or interest-free loan from parents who want to be grandparents. “People sometimes have to travel to other parts of the country where the birth mother lives, so families have given them frequent flier miles or points to the Marriott,” Fingerman says.


Fundraising. Many people saving up for adoption take on a second job or plan fundraising events – Resmer did both. Friends, family and members of a religious community have long been a source of financial help for adoptive families, but online crowdfunding for adoption costs puts a 21st century twist on this tradition, which Witt says can be controversial. “On the one hand, it can be great because people love to help,” she says. On the other hand, some parents worry contributors could “say something inappropriate in front of the child about how they helped pay for them,” she says.


Witt has seen other families sell adoption T-shirts to friends and family members or temporarily rent out the room intended as a nursery for extra cash. Resmer’s family raised several thousand dollars through an adoption carnival hosted by a local church. “They had dunk tanks, carnival rides, all sorts of food and a bake sale,” he says. They also solicited donations from local businesses and held a silent auction at the carnival.


By tapping into all available resources, even moderate-income families have been able to make adoption a reality. “Most people who adopt don’t have $40,000 sitting in their bank account,” Witt says. “Most people I work with are typically middle-income families, and they find ways to make it happen.”


See more at:

Domestic adoption: Myths and reality

August 18, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Domestic adoption in the United States has undergone a seismic shift in the last 30 years. How long will it take for popular perceptions to catch up with the new, healthier reality?

When Katie and Jeffrey Davis set out to adopt a baby domestically, everyone close to the couple assumed they were in for an excruciatingly long wait. As it turned out, the Davises, who live in Baltimore, Maryland, were matched with a birth mother less than a month after their adoption agency started presenting their paperwork. Their daughter, now 5, was placed in their arms just seven months after they started the adoption process.

“People think that adoption takes five years, just forever and ever,” says Katie. “They were shocked that we adopted a baby in the U.S., and that the process went so smoothly.”

Domestic adoption reinvented

The Davis family’s story is not particularly unusual. While international adoption has commanded the limelight for the last two decades, domestic adoption has remained an untold story. Despite persistently negative and sensational media coverage, domestic adoption today is more transparent than ever before, and increasingly defined by healthier choices for birth families and adoptive families alike.

The fact that more than 18,000 American families successfully adopt newborn babies in the United States every year belies the widespread misperception that domestic adoption is a difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and risky process. The truth is that most families successfully adopt within two years of beginning the process. The cost of a domestic adoption varies widely, from under $10,000 to more than $40,000. According to surveys conducted annually by Adoptive Families, the median total cost of a domestic adoption is $25,000 to $35,000, which tends to be considerably less than that of a typical international adoption.

The most damaging, and most deeply entrenched, conviction – that birth parents return after relinquishing parental rights to try to reclaim the baby – virtually never comes to pass. “People watch TV and read the newspapers, and they are scared to death,” says Mark T. McDermott, an adoption attorney in Washington, D.C.


Domestic adoptions outpace international

Although fewer adoptions currently take place each year within the U.S. compared to 35 years ago, domestic adoption is far from dying out. In fact, more U.S. families adopt domestically than internationally each year.

To be sure, the number of infant placements in the U.S. has dropped in recent decades. In the mid-1970s, as many as 49,000 American infants were placed for adoption each year. In 2007, the most recent year for which accurate numbers exist, there were an estimated 18,078 domestic newborn, non-relative adoptions.

The drop in the number of newborn adoptions since the 1970s coincides with a decline in the percentage of single mothers placing children for adoption, down from nine percent in the 1970s to 1.4 percent in 2002, according to the National Survey of Family Growth. As the stigma against single parenthood has diminished over the last 35 years, so has the number of children placed for adoption.

Despite the tenacity of myths and stereotypes, domestic adoption has quietly redefined itself over a generation. Adopting parents, once resigned to a lengthy wait at their local adoption agency, now have more options and more information. Birth parents, once shamed and almost completely shut out of adoption decisions, are now involved in the process. <>Independent adoptions<> have increased in number and, by some accounts, now represent the majority of domestic adoptions. The Internet has made it easier for like-minded birth parents and adopting families to find one another over geographic distances.

From secrecy to transparency

While almost every aspect of adoption is different than it was in the past, it is within the family matching process that the most change has occurred. In private and agency adoptions, rather than merely being assigned a baby to adopt without any background information to share with the child as he or she grows, adopting parents now usually meet or talk with the birth family. Birth parents, by the same token, are empowered to choose which family will adopt their child. Birth families are more likely to have access to counseling and independent legal representation, and, together with the adopting family, determine the nature of contact after the adoption.

Almost everyone involved in adoption today – adopting parents, birth parents, and adoption professionals – embraces this new transparency as an antidote to the confidentiality of the past. Birth families are reassured that their child will be well cared for; adopted children have the answers to questions that arise over the years.

Today, families who’ve adopted domestically often say that any initial concern about the role of birth parents has been replaced by gratitude for the opportunity to know their child’s family of origin. They note the positive aspects of adopting domestically: the opportunity to parent a newborn, and the medical and social history they have for their child.



Read full article at:

Join us at Fertility Planit Event

September 13, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

I’ll be moderating the adoption panel at a major meeting in New York this weekend, Fertility Planit ( talking to people considering adoption. I often get asked about where and how to start the adoption process. Here are some of the basics that everyone should know.

Did you know that thirty percent of Americans consider adopting a child? That’s millions and millions of hopeful parents each year considering adoption as their path for creating a family. Despite all the interest, it remains an area of fragmented information, confusing choices, high costs and even higher anxiety and emotion.

What do people considering this path to parenthood need to know this year?

  • Interest in domestic adoption is rising. International adoptions have fallen dramatically over the past decade, but the number of people considering adoption has not. The good news for domestic adoption is that online technologies are actually helping speed and improve the process so that the years-long wait times are coming down. In addition, international adoption is still a strong option for many, as long as you carefully consider how to pursue it.


  • Most U.S. adoptions are open. In the U.S., open adoption is now the norm and research shows open adoptions are healthier for everyone involved, especially the adopted child. But many adopting parents worry over what open adoption really means – misperceptions and anxieties abound.


  • Online and social media has completely altered the process. Social media has altered the path to parenthood for many adoptive parents and opened up new resources for both adoptive and expectant parents.


  • Scams are a serious risk – choosing the right agency or attorney is a must. The explosion of online resources has created many more opportunities for scam artists. People who are adopting need to know who to trust and how to protect themselves.


  • Adoption costs are high, but the tax credit can help. The costs for adopting in the U.S. can average $25,000-$35,000 but vary widely. Just this year Congress made the adoption tax credit permanent – which could mean a credit back of more than $12,000 to people who adopt.

If you are in the New York City area this weekend and want to join me, along with Marni Denenberg (Director of Domestic Adoption Programs, Alliance for Children and adoptee), Gabriel Blau (Director, Family Equality Council and adoptive dad) and Jacqui Stafford (Fashion Editor, Style Expert and adoptive mom), email me for free tickets! [email protected], only a few left!



What’s the big idea?

May 7, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

What’s the big idea?

I have a lot of people question what we do here at Parent Match- how could we possibly match infants, children, teens with adoptive families across agencies?

Doesn’t every agency have a plethora of waiting families?

Doesn’t every infant get a family even before they are born?


And no.

There are so many misconceptions about what happens in the world of domestic adoption today in the United States.  Agencies have decided that now is the time to work together, to match families faster, to give expectant moms exactly the families they are looking for.

Every agency does not have a plethora of families waiting. An agency in a state with a low population may also have very few potential adoptive parents. An agency in a very populous place may have an expectant mom who wants her child to grow up in a rural area- far away from the population of adoptive parents in their mix. In the past seven days Parent Match has helped to place five infants. That meant 6 agencies who had never worked with each other before came together and worked for the good of two families.

Bringing people together for the good of families is what we do. Behind the scenes at Parent Match the computer system does the work. Agencies have already put information about their clients (adoptive and expectant parents) into our system and it then automatically generates specific potential matches based on everyone’s preferences.

So, why the big idea? There are babies to adopt! It doesn’t have to take years! Just ask the families who had the best Mother’s day week ever.


Intervention: An Improved Model for Foster Children

April 8, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Intervention: An Improved Model for Foster Children

We celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month in November.  It is a time for adoption celebrations gargantuan and intimate, private and public.  We celebrate the creation, or in many instances, the expansion of forever families through adoption.  However, as a Florida-licensed attorney and champion of adoption for over thirty years, I submit that there should be a calendar-long “all hands on deck” effort to grow adoption, especially in the public sector where there are over 400,000 children in foster care.  While November may get the publicity, the work to grow adoption needs to endure each day of every month.

The traditional method by which many children are placed for adoption relies on a birth parent’s selfless decision.  Yet, for a parent whose child has been removed by the state and placed into protective custody or foster care, that parent often no longer enjoys the right to make a private adoption plan for her child or foster children.  It is as if that parent is labeled not worthy and stripped of the constitutionally protected right to determine her child’s future.  Regrettably, it is a scenario that has played out countless times in the juvenile courts across the United States, and one that prolongs permanency for children.

A positive and emerging change has begun to take root, albeit slowly and unevenly.  In Florida, through a statutory mechanism known as intervention, a parent whose child has been removed by the state retains the right to make a private adoption plan, provided that parent’s parental rights remain intact.  This option allows a parent to consent to a voluntary adoption, select adoptive parents, and receive information about the child in the future.  Contrast this with the inexorably lengthy and expensive process associated with having parental rights involuntarily terminated by a judge, and the parent’s exclusion from any permanent decision-making for the child.

Intervention also accomplishes the laudable goal of removing a child from the state system.  It frees up the juvenile court’s resources to address those cases that desperately need attention. It dramatically decreases and virtually eliminates the substantial public cost attendant to having a child remaining foster care. Most importantly, intervention quickly creates a “forever family” by obtaining the approval of the birth parent. With nearly 50,000 children  remaining in foster care five years or more, there can be no doubt about the benefits for both the children who await adoption and for society as a whole if adoption of children in foster care was made easier, faster, and more frequent.

In working with a legion of dedicated child welfare professionals, I have come to understand one universal truth:  the state does not make a good parent. Developmentally speaking, remaining in state care disadvantages a child, whereas adoption into a “forever family” yields the most positive outcomes and is the place where a child thrives. Moreover, nearly 30,000 children in foster care age out of the system annually with no hope of a permanent family. These children struggle in inordinate numbers with homelessness, lack of education, unemployment, poverty, unwed pregnancy and criminality. These children are our responsibility.

November sees the dawn of new families sewn and grown together by adoption. That effort needs to continue throughout the year, and if a birth parent elects to make the difficult decision to place a child for adoption, the Department of Children and Families and the courts should applaud and honor this choice, and move the child out of state custody to the safe, loving environment of a “forever family.”


Submitted by Guest Blogger,

Jeanne T. Tate,

[email protected]                                 

Are you about to be victim of an adoption scam?

March 11, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  1 Comments

Recent media surrounding adoption has not been good- most of it focusing on countries closing ( to the death of an adoption child ( Unfortunately the most likely bad news adoption scenario is the adoption scam, and it’s also the most common.

What is an adoption scam? Well, it can look like a lot of things. An adoption scam can be an agency, facilitator or attorney who promises you a child and has no intention of giving you one. An adoption scam can be an adoption professional who has great reviews but continues to take your money even though no services have been provided. It might also look like a woman who you’ve met (probably online) who says she’s pregnant (who may not be) who says she wants to relinquish her child to you (and she has no intention of doing so) or who doesn’t exist at all. Usually all of this takes place after a lot of  money has changed hands (thus the scam).

How do you know it’s a scam? You’ve heard the saying, “If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck….” Yes, the same applies here. Keep your eyes WIDE open. If something doesn’t feel right- DON’T DO IT. This is particularly difficult when adoption is involved. Your heart is on the line and no matter what your head might be thinking, your heart likely doesn’t care and is ready to take the risk even though it is a huge risk. Someone needs to be level-headed. If you are adopting as a single person, make sure you have someone trusted to bounce things off of and be a source of logical reasoning. If your adoption professional is asking for loads of money upfront, be wary. If your adoption professional charges you to keep you waiting (yes, to keep you waiting), be wary.  If you meet a woman online but have never spoken to her on the phone, have difficulty getting in touch with her or she has asked for money right away, be careful!

All of these warnings are not to scare you, but to safeguard you as the prospective adoptive parent. We can all learn something when we open our eyes (not just our hearts!). We will have much more information on adoption scams next Monday, March 18th at 9pm EST on twitter.

Join me and other member of the adoption community including adoption attorneys, birth mothers, and other adoptive parents who have been through a scam to learn from them. Follow the chat (and join in!) on twitter at #adoptionislove

What happens when an expectant mom changes her mind

March 4, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

I know you don’t want to talk about it- actually you don’t even want to think about it but you need to. Sometimes adoptions don’t go through. Usually adoptions don’t happen because the expectant mom has changed her mind about her adoption plan.  Generally adoption plans are made while she is pregnant and there is a significant amount of time to really think about all of her options. After the initial shock, perhaps, of her pregnancy it is often possible that a partner may come into the picture to help care for the baby, a parent is willing to step up or the expectant mom herself has figured out a way to make it work despite her initial thoughts she couldn’t. It is impossible to know the bond between mother and child and impossible to know how someone is feeling after just having given birth- there is always the potential that the expectant mom will change her mind until the waiting period is over after she signs the relinquishment papers.

It is normal to question yourself about your understanding of adoption, perhaps of the relationship you had built with this person. The reality is that it isn’t about you- it’s about a baby and their mother and that mother can change her mind so you should prepare yourself (another post on that!) and be ready to move ahead if it does happen.

There are so many reasons an expectant mom may change her mind. It is hard at the time to put yourself in her shoes. There is no one reason why adoptions don’t work out. In open adoption, prospective birth mothers not only have the ability to change their mind—it’s their right. That doesn’t change things or make them easier for you. This is always something to think about as you go through the process. Knowing that a failed adoption could happen is one thing. Having it happen to you is something else. A disrupted adoption is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to deal with, especially if you brought the baby home with you and starting the bonding process.

Recovering from a failed adoption will take time, here are some things to remember as you journey through this difficult time:

Grieve together.  Acknowledge your pain and your loss and discuss your feelings with your partner. Remember, he or she is going through this with you. Together, you’ll emerge from your crisis even more united.

Search out and join support group.  Get in touch with other adoptive parents who have been in your shoes. Most people won’t understand what you’re going through, those who have been through similar situations are most likely to be your best support.

Don’t give up hope!  There will be other opportunities. You have to allow yourself to pursue them. Take a short break, be good to yourself and to your partner and don’t make any big decisions until you’re ready. Each failed adoption fails for its own reasons. Understand that just because one situation didn’t work out doesn’t mean the next one will be the same.

Patience and time will produce the right family situation for you!

What to Expect From the Changes to Adoption Tax Credit in 2013

January 9, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

What to Expect From the Changes to Adoption Tax Credit in 2013

“The adoption tax credit, which can be claimed for eligible adoption-related expenses, has helped thousands of American families offset the high cost of adoption since the credit was established in 1997. Since 2003, families that adopted children with special needs could claim the full credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses. The credit has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families. With more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care available for adoption, and countless millions of orphaned and abandoned children around the world, the continuation of the adoption tax credit is vital to providing love, safety, and permanency to as many children as possible.” Source

The adoption tax credit has a history of being one of the most confusing credits.  In 2011, the credit was a refundable credit of $13,360 per child.  In 2012, it decreased to $12,650 and became non-refundable—meaning that if the adopting family doesn’t have $12,650 in federal tax liability in 2012, they will not receive a refund for the unused balance of the credit, but they will be able to carry the unused balance over and apply it to tax liability for the next five years. Confusing enough for you?

In 2012 and previous years, the credit was available for most adoptions except stepparent adoptions.  Families that adopt special-needs children have also been allowed to take advantage of the full amount of the credit, whether or not they actually have that much for upfront adoption expenses.

The bill to avert the fiscal cliff, which was signed on January 2, made this tax credit PERMANENT. This bill permanently extended the credit and income exclusion for employer paid or reimbursed expenses. The projected maximum amount of the credit for the year 2013 looks to be $12,720 –  $12,770. The credit will remain flat for special needs adoptions regardless of the total expenses.

If you adopted a child in the past few years and didn’t claim the credit, there may still be time to file an amended return.  The IRS is notorious for auditing returns claiming the adoption credit, so it’s a good idea to consult your accountant and attorney to make sure you have the right documentation to back up your return. For forms and more information on Adoption Tax Credit visit the IRS website