The low cost of adopting a child

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Friday, May 27, 2016, at 4:40 pm

There is a prevailing myth out there that process of adoption costs thousands upon thousands of dollars, but that isn’t true. Not only is adopting a child in foster care essentially free in many states, adoptive parents can receive a stipend if a child has special needs. In fact, the only instances where adoption costs thousands of dollars are when couples seek to adopt infants from the United States or from around the world through a private agency. Otherwise, adopting an orphan from the United States cost little to nothing.

Taxpayer money supports foster care–to-adoption programs that place available children into loving homes, especially children whose biological parents no longer have custody rights. According to the most recent federal government data, there are approximately 107,918 such children available for adoption today. Approximately 42 percent of them are white, 23 percent are black, and 23 percent are Hispanic. These kids need homes.

Granted, adopting a child is challenging, and it may not be right for every family. Moreover, the assessment and home-study process can be long and arduous. Given the number of cases of abused children in the foster care system, state agencies have an incentive to do whatever they can to protect these children. At times, these added layers of bureaucracy become extremely frustrating and discouraging. Nevertheless, prospective parents should not base their decision on whether to adopt or not on the pernicious myth that the process is expensive.

Adopting children historically has been one of the ways pro-life Christians have made a contribution to the common good of a society. One of the reasons Christianity spread during its first few centuries was because of the way believing communities cared for orphans. Those outside the church wanted to know what motivated Christians to care for children the larger society discarded. It was through this ancient practice of James 1:26-27 that many people came to hear and understand the gospel.

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary professor John Aloisi provides a wonderful overview of this aspect of Christianity’s history in his “Orphan Care, Adoption, and the Church: Historical Reflections and Contemporary Challenges,” where he shares this gem from Gerhard Uhlhorn’s Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, published in 1883:

“When we first meet the mention of the adoption and bringing up of foundlings, this work appears not as a novelty, but as one long practiced. It is true that the heathen also used to take care of exposed children, but for the purposes of bringing them up as gladiators or prostitutes, or to use them in their own service. … Christians brought up the children whom they took charge of for the Lord, and for a respectable and industrious life.”

While people from various religions and lifestyles are eligible to adopt in America, there is something special about adopting orphans into Christian homes deeply immersed in the life of the church. There is nothing more life-giving and life-sustaining for a child severed from his or her birth parents than the opportunity to be part of a new family, especially one in communion with the Triune God and His body of believers.                

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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  • Greg Burtnett
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    We tried adopting through the CA foster system. For two years. Alas, the Lord did not intend that method of adoption.Now, nearing the first 'Gotcha Day' for our little Chinese American treasure, we are 'in the hole' a lot of money. But we are blessed beyond measure and praising Jesus.You spoke truth: this battle is not for everyone; and the sleepless nights, extra colds, are so much more than recompensed with the 'I love you Babas' and the golden smiles of my favorite little girl in the world.Praise Jesus!

  • homeskoolmom's picture
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    As a 4 time adoptive parent, of 4 amazing kids, you are correct, the cost can be very little, and there are stipends available.  However, I have found the state to be less than honest with some of the struggles these children have.  Often they either sugar coat the problems, or outright lie about some of the problems these kids have, just to get them into a home.  Additionally, many social workers are VERY ignorant of things such as attachment issues that these children may be dealing with, and getting help can be very hard.  Finally, one must consider the ramifications of allowing the state into your home to critique, and analyze your family and parenting.  A family must be prepared to answer the question as to what compromises they will be willing to make.  I say this, not to discourage adoptions from the state, but I have seen too many families who adopted without being fully prepared, or knowing what they were dealing with and it was disastrous!!!  Be informed and educated before you go into this process!!! 

  • matt12
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    Great article, thank you.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    As a brother of five adopted siblings, and a former foster care social worker, I can attest to the truth of this column.  The process may be frustrating, but I believe that the effort is worthwhile, and fits the Christian worldview well.