This weekend I came across an interesting blog post that brought up an important issue. Should adoptive parents tell their children about the cost of their adoption? And how should parents explain it when it involved a discounted or special rate? As with most adoption related issues there is no right or wrong answer but as an adoptee I have strong feelings about this issue.
The heart of this issue is really the cost of adoption and that is a bigger topic than I can address in this blog post. There is plenty of info on this topic all over the web. However, I do want to talk about the practice of a single agency charging different fees for different categories of children. This typically happens with non-white and/or special needs children (and some agencies even classify non-white as special need). Fees can even break down based on the degree of “specialness” of the child. For instance, a biracial baby may cost more than a single race baby. I am very uncomfortable with this practice and am always surprised that so many people are willing to accept it.
Yes, there are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue. Intellectually I understand (although I do not necessarily accept) some of the reasons set forth to support this practice. However, every other part of my being says this is wrong. I believe that regardless of the intent of the adoptive parents this practice damages of the adoptee’s self esteem, self image and feeling of self worth. That damage can be mild or severe depending on the individual.
I think the only way this system of “discounting” certain babies will end is if adoptive parents stop participating in the system. There are agencies that have other fee structures that are not based on race or needs and, in my mind, are more ethical. The income based system assists lower income families to adopt, while taking in more money from those that can afford it. Any surplus can be redistributed within an agency’s budget to offset the lower cost some families will pay. Does this solve every problem? No. But explaining to a child that mommy and daddy (or any other variety of family) adopted you “based on our financial status” is a lot easier to explain than mommy and daddy adopted you because you were “cheaper than the other babies.”
And for parents that do adopt a child with a discounted fee, I think it is naive to think that this can be kept secret from the child. All adopted children grow up and as they do they will want more and more specific details about their story. If the adoptee does any reading or thinking about adoption (which is extremely likely) the issue of cost will come up. No, a 5 year old will probably not ask how much they “cost” but a 15 year old might. I think it is best to address this issue with the adopted child as they grow up – using age appropriate explanations. This can also be a perfect opportunity to discuss this issue in a way that can educate the child about inequality, discrimination and self-image, etc.
As I’ve written before about sharing a child’s adoption story, honesty and full-disclosure are essential. Most adopted children will eventually discover their full story. Isn’t it best to learn everything from the people that love them the most? That is definitely preferable to overhearing it during a discussion, finding about it on the internet or reading in some file years down the road.
How do others feel about this topic? I’d especially liked to hear from adoptees.