I'm getting a jump start on my taxes this year, since The Wilsons had a few odd changes in 2007 that will make our tax calculations trickier than usual. One of those changes: we finalized our adoption of Robbie. Fortunately, the feds offer some nice tax breaks to folks who adopt, and we're more than happy to take advantage of those. In fact, my early calculations show that we'll get a very nice return this year -- big enough to pay off almost all of our last two remaining debts (other than the house). If the Senate comes through, we'll wipe out our small debts completely. That's not what the feds wish we would spend the money on, but hey, I'll sleep much better with those debts off my shoulders than I will with a new 40" television in the living room.
I'm getting sidetracked. My actual point is that adopting Robbie wasn't cheap. In fact, The Missus gathered up all our receipts and put an itemized list of expenses on my desk. The number at the bottom is ... well, it's huge. Why am I bothering to tell you that? A couple reasons, actually.
First, I want people who plan to adopt to know that it's not a cheap process. The costs vary dramatically, from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. (I'm talking about domestic adoptions here.) But if I can generalize, I'd say that most people are going to pay about the same amount they would for a nice, used car. Depending on the agency (or agencies) you work through, you may have to pay most of that all at once. Most Americans aren't used to paying large amounts in a single chunk, but be prepared to do so.
Second, when I look at this total, I think about all of the things we could have spent it on. I don't mean that in a callous, materialistic way. Rather, I think about how we could have spent that amount (and then some) on, for example, fertility treatments. In our case, we didn't travel far down the fertility treatment road before we got off and chose adoption. But I can really understand why some couples, having invested so much money on fertility stuff, refuse to stop trying. I'm sure it feels to them that, by stopping, they are admitting that they wasted those thousands of dollars. Plus, now they have to start over with adoption. I'm sure that's extremely difficult for couples.
If you're thinking about adopting, don't let a discussion about money scare you away. Like I said, there is a wide range of costs, and every family can handle the costs differently. Plus, there are lots of support programs out there; we relied on a, ahem, "family bank" for a loan, but there are also foundations and even employers who can help with the costs. I'm talking about the costs, not to scare anybody away or to imply that I see my son as a walking dollar sign, but to inform. This stuff is important.
Oddly enough, when I look at this itemized list, I can't help but smile. I see the $20 we spent for criminal background checks, where the poor women tried in vain to try to find a fingerprint on even one of my fingers. The $10 we spent to park a couple blocks from the agency in Boston, and the $24.61 we spent at a Pizzeria Uno across the street before we went in. (Neither of us could eat more than a nibble.) I see the $26.26 we spent at a CVS pharmacy in Boston, where Robert did his best Mount Vesuvius impression all over me, and where I had to clean both of us up in a cramped, 85 degree bathroom with no changing table. There's the $200 we paid to change our flight after we found out we could leave for home earlier than expected. And I see the $54.28 we spent on groceries right before we found out we could go home; I hope the hotel's maids were able to take all the food we left behind.
Long story short, the whole process was worth every penny. Sure there were some things we would do differently, and next time, we will. But the outcome was darn near perfect.
I also want to take this opportunity to remind people that The Missus and I are more than happy to talk about our adoption experiences with any of you who are adopting or thinking about adopting. In fact, we received a phone call on this topic just last week. Drop us a note any time.