As my friends and I hover around our 40th birthdays, I hear a variety of reflections on starting a family — from those who did so years ago, from those who never intend to, and most poignantly from those who felt the opportunity had passed them by. For far too long, I assumed having a family was not in the cards. Perhaps growing up gay in a less-enlightened time helped install that assumption in me. But after more than a dozen years in a committed relationship, and a sea change in public perceptions and state laws, I realized such assumptions and limitations were of my own doing.
The second assumption, and one far more universal, took longer to dismiss. While it is true that private adoptions through reputable domestic and international agencies can easily run up to $50,000 per child, we completed our family for free. Those working in social service agencies are among the most caring and committed individuals I have ever had the pleasure to meet, but I have also found that they are not the most effective marketers at getting this message out to stable, caring individuals and couples considering the adoption option.
Rather than adopting a child from a foreign country, we felt there were plenty of wonderful children in our own backyard in need of a loving family. After taking an 8 week course (a couple hours each week) on the process, and going through a thorough background check and family history review, the matching process began. During this process, you have the opportunity to consider the attributes of the child you will adopt ‘” including gender, race, age, legal status, and health concerns you feel you can assume. About 9 months after our first inquiry, a beautiful, healthy, legally-free 3 year old boy was placed in our home. While we originally thought we wanted a newborn like so many other adoptive parents, our hearts melted the moment we met him and we knew he completed our family.
In Massachusetts (and other states, I’ve since learned), the state covers all legal fees associated with the adoption. Prior to finalization, the child must live in your home for at least 6 months to ensure a successful placement. During this time, pre-adoptive families receive subsidy financial support from the state to help with the child’s costs. For children with special needs, that subsidy continues after finalization.
Of greater surprise to us, children adopted in Massachusetts through the state receive full health insurance through adulthood. They also receive full tuition reimbursement for state colleges and universities. Health coverage and college tuition are two of the most feared expenses in raising a child ‘” but for those considering adoption, they need not be.
Adopting a child is the biggest decision we ever made as a couple or even as individuals. Knowing that many of the costs I feared were actually covered helped immensely. Adoption is an incredibly important decision that requires the deepest levels of soul searching. While nobody should adopt simply because the financial costs are not as high as they may have assumed ‘” it is so important that qualified, loving, caring families do not rule it out due to unfounded financial fears.