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Should I Get My Money Back If My Adoption Falls Through?

Hard Questions: In this blog series, Show Hope staff members do their best to help shed light on some of the hardest questions we are asked here at Show Hope. We will strive to foster a healthy dialogue, but we acknowledge that we do not have all the answers! If you have a hard question you’d like us to tackle, please let us know in the comments below.

For our second installment of this series, we will address the question: “Should I get my money back if my adoption falls through?” Nick Lyndon, Director of Communications and Advancement, answers below:

At Show Hope, we spend a lot of time in the space of adoption financing, and we are so encouraged by each person who has the willingness and heart to step into the significant commitment of the adoption journey. For this reason, it is very hard when an adoption falls through due to circumstances beyond the control of the adoptive family. In many of these instances, the adoptive family is left to absorb the cost of the adoption to that point even though a successful placement was not possible in the end. For these families, one of the hard questions we hear is, “Should I get my money back?”

I have seen families ask this question in many different ways. Sometimes it is with grace and understanding, and other times it is with anger and desperation. The financial costs involved in adoption can be very significant, and to be left with that burden without welcoming a child into your family can not only be very difficult financially but also very, very discouraging.

The best way I can answer this question is to highlight the fact that the funds received by the adoption agency are not “costs for goods” (which would in essence be purchasing children as in child trafficking) but are “fees for services.”

We are so used to getting our money back whenever something we buy (it still feels like this gives a nod to “buying” being tied to adoption although I know that’s not the intent at all. Since this is such a sensitive topic on so many levels/directions, I’ve added a possible scaled back option below of this paragraph)* doesn’t work out, but that is when we exchange costs for goods. When we sign a working agreement with a specific adoption agency, that agency is promising to walk alongside us in our journey, help us fill out the correct forms, and ensure that everything is done correctly and in full compliance with US law as well as the laws and regulations of our chosen country of placement. Adoption costs can be part of a healthy process intended to protect children and families in the transition of parental care.

So what we are paying for as we move through the adoption process? The money we pay to the agency goes to all the costs involved with completing the process correctly, in part to ensure child trafficking doesn’t happen! Sometimes when an adoption falls through, an agency is able to make a partial refund or help alleviate the costs in some way. Although this is not always possible, most agencies will work toward at least some element of this if it is within their power to do so. The reality for many agencies is that the time and energy we pay for in the process has already been spent even when the adoption is disrupted. Due to a reduction in overall adoptive placements internationally, many agencies are very tight financially while others have been forced to close their doors. I think it is important to celebrate the significant contribution that reputable adoption agencies have made on behalf of the lives of waiting children. Our expectations must be weighed to ensure we are not asking more of them than can or should be expected.

Another financial element that can make an unsuccessful placement hard for a family is in the instance of grants or gifts that are tied to the successful outcome of an adoption journey. In these cases, funds or grants are tied to the placement of a child specifically and not to the adoption process itself. In those instances, if no child has been placed, the funds cannot be remitted to alleviate the family’s expense to this end.

This can leave the adoptive family in a very hard situation. My prayer for each of us is that God will show up and provide, though it might not be in the way we expected. I completely understand that funds tied to helping children cannot be appropriately remitted to me if my adoption falls through, but that doesn’t make it any easier to pay for the adoption costs. However, we have seen time and time again that God does provide for families who take steps in faith to adopt, often in miraculous ways.

If you or someone you know has an adoption that has fallen through, it must be properly grieved. When the issue of funding the adoption comes up, I believe it is appropriate to ask an agency what they can do to help alleviate the burden, understanding it may not be possible to cancel or reduce any portion of what has previously been paid for their services. If it is a reputable agency, regardless of the outcome you can rest in the assurance that they have worked to perform their service well and that some things fall beyond anyone’s control. This realization does not make the financial impact go away but can be an encouragement in understanding that each has done all in their power to make it work. In times like this, it is especially helpful to have a community of support around that can not only walk with us through the emotional loss but also help us carry the financial burden.

With all of this in mind, it is important to make sure the agency you hope to work with has a strong reputation in ethics and integrity before moving forward in a working relationship. Agencies should be willing to be transparent with expectations and make sure each family understands the costs incurred are a “fee for service” agreement. In addition, it is important to surround yourself with a supportive community that will walk with you in and through the journey regardless of its end. Ultimately, no one can promise that at the end of the road a child will be in our home, but with appropriate expectations, even the hard parts of the journey can seem a little easier.

*We are so used to getting our money back whenever a product or service doesn’t work or perform as we expected, but when we sign a working agreement with a specific adoption agency, that agency is promising to walk alongside us in our journey, help us fill out the correct forms, and ensure that everything is done correctly and in full compliance with U.S. law as well as the laws and regulations of our chosen country of placement. Adoption costs can be part of a healthy process intended to protect children and families in the transition of parental care.

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