Adopting overseas full of hope, but it comes with a cost
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Bishop and his wife, Jeanette Falu-Bishop, have two children but have always wanted to adopt a child.
Earlier this year, they decided it was time.
They saw on TV how AIDS and violence in the African nation of Liberia had left thousands of children homeless and figured they could help provide a home for at least one of them.
They contacted an agency to adopt a child from the war-torn nation, and a company in Oregon found a brother and sister. The agency sent pictures and went as far as telling the children that the Bishops wanted to be their parents — even though the couple had not signed any paperwork.
“We saw an opportunity for us,” said Jeanette Falu-Bishop, whose husband is assigned to the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron at Ramstein Air Base. “We kind of felt like we have so much more. We can at least support two more children.”
But they found out adopting the children from the impoverished country will cost more than $24,000, an amount the Bishops do not have. Now, the couple is worried they may never be able to adopt the children.
Celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie have made adopting children overseas look easy. But for most couples like the Bishops, adopting a child abroad is a costly and time-consuming process.
Prospective parents must go through a stringent background investigation that includes a home visit paid for by the family wishing to adopt. Then there are various application fees, travel expenses and legal costs. Most countries also charge adoption program fees that can cost between $6,000 and $9,000 per child. Plus, parents must purchase visas and passports.
Carol Albers, founder and director of Adopt Abroad Inc., said the costs of adopting a child overseas can exceed $30,000. Adopt Abroad Inc. is a nonprofit organization that helps mostly Americans adopt children from the United States and overseas.
Albers, who lives in Berlin, said some people have the misconception it is cheaper to adopt a child overseas. But adopting a foster child in the United States often is less expensive than adopting a child from a Third World country because of such things as government fees, translation services and other paperwork.
She said some people who want to adopt a child from another country experience “sticker shock.”
“It really does add up,” she said. “You have to factor everything in.”
The Bishops knew adopting the children would come with a cost. But they said they had no idea it would be so much.
They asked the Air Force if they could raise money to pay for the expenses but were told fundraising for “personal gain” is prohibited on base.
Mike Bishop, who was adopted at a young age, said they just want to help a pair of children grow up in a better environment. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. The children they wish to adopt are 5 and 8 years old.
“I have a real place in my heart for it,” he said. “All of us, me and my brothers, benefited from adoption.”
Coming up with the money is a challenge for many military families living overseas, but there are some options, Albers said. Parents can take out a loan, raise money off-base through their churches or apply for adoption grant money.
Also, the military will reimburse active-duty members $2,000 per child — not exceeding $5,000 — as long as the adoption is done through a nonprofit organization.
The Bishops said they have about six months to raise the money or the agency will terminate their adoption application. They don’t want to get a loan because they don’t want to be burdened with the debt.
“We want to be able to raise the children,” Mike Bishop said. “Just to pay for the fee is difficult, though.”
The price of adoption
Each adoption is different, but below is an estimate on how much it can cost to adopt a child from overseas. Some factors that can influence the cost:
State Department and immigration fees.Home study by a certified social worker.Physical examination.Psychological evaluation, if required.Post-placement supervision, if required.Translation services.Agency placement fees.Travel expenses, including transportation, hotel and meals.Foreign agency placement fees.Attorney and legal fees.Foreign document fees.Foster and medical care for the child.Required donation to orphanage or agency.Passport office fees.Total: $10,000 to $30,000
Adopting a child from the United States can cost between $2,500 and $30,000, according to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.
Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse