The dos and don’ts of discussing the topic.
Talking about the cost of adoption can be a hot-button issue within the community. In an instant, it reduces the process of adopting a baby to buying one. I agree that an overhaul of the industry is desperately needed, and that much of the language used by adoption professionals today is outdated and offensive, but as an adoptive parent, I’m not at all bothered when people ask me about the cost of my son’s adoption. Their curiosity opens a dialogue and allows me to share the ethical standards I believe are important for the industry to follow. It also allows me to introduce them to the amazing voices of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families in this community who have so much to offer.
Here’s how to ask and (how I respond) to questions about the cost of Levon’s adoption.
First, Ask Permission.
“Do you mind if I ask you how much the adoption process cost?” It gives the person you’re asking the chance to say no. Maybe they don’t want to share. But if they do:
Explain Why You’re Asking.
Is it just out of curiosity? If so, that’s okay, but you’ll get a standard answer from me like, “The cost can vary, depending on how your adoption is structured. Most people I know who adopted privately and domestically spent at least $25,000. Adopting internationally costs more. In domestic adoption… “and then I explain the different things you actually pay for — in our case, legal expenses, medical expenses, post-placement services for birth families, etc.
If the person is asking because they are genuinely interested in pursuing adoption, I get much more specific about our costs and the process at large.
Phrase Your Question Carefully.
Don’t ever ask the following: “How much did he cost?”
Don’t assign a monetary value to the adoptee. They are not property. If you are curious about the cost of the process, word it that way: “How much did the adoption cost?”
Do Not Ask In Front Of The Child.
Please, please don’t ask any question about a child’s adoption in front of the child. Ever.
We’d love to hear from adoptees on this topic. How does this question make you feel?
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.