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Apr 28, 2017

Q&A with Jamie Maatman, Foster Care Adoption Supervisor, Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Holland

Expense is often a barrier for families that want to adopt. While foster care adoption may be a “low-cost” option, Jamie Maatman encourages families to weigh other factors beyond cost.

Is it true that there’s NO cost to adopt from foster care?

In Michigan, families who wish to adopt through foster care must complete a home study, which is the same process for families becoming licensed to provide foster care. But for both foster care and foster care adoption, there is no charge for the home study. There are also tax credits for families that adopt (a financial planner can provide more specific information as these can change).

But aren’t there fees along the way?

The family would have to pay a court-filing fee ($186 per child) and a fee for a new birth certificate ($50 per child) to complete the adoption, but these fees can be reimbursed. Other common reimbursable expenses include out-of-pocket cost for the parents to take a physical, fees for a background check, and travel (up to $2,000 for mileage and lodging) for visitations if a family is adopting a child in another part of the state. Reimbursement for travel is not based on a family’s income but rather on the child’s eligibility (as determined by the Adoption and Guardianship Assistance Office, part of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services).

What about adopting a child in foster care who lives in another state?

This will add time and cost. Cost includes a home study and court fees, and it also includes supervision fees. Before a court will finalize an out-of-state adoption, they want to see six months of reports from the supervising agency. This includes an adoption specialist doing monthly visits with the child and family and all required reporting. Adopting out-of-state through foster care is about $10,000.

Is there help for expenses incurred after the adoption?

Most children adopted through foster care will qualify for ongoing Medicaid. If your child would benefit from counseling or therapy, they may also be eligible for a certain number of sessions per year. Some states—including Tennessee, Florida, and California—have programs to provide additional post-adoption support.

So, is it fair to say foster care adoption is “free”?

While there are certain financial benefits, there will be other costs to a family considering foster care adoption. These are primarily physical and emotional costs. Most children who have been separated from their families and spent time in foster care have experienced trauma. Plan to dedicate time and resources to getting your child the help they need to heal from the past and build a healthy future.

Plan to make sacrifices as a family as the dynamic will change for you and for other children in your home. You may need to access therapy or special education services, a consideration of time and cost if your insurance doesn’t cover it. 

So you’re saying it’s a commitment.

Definitely. I often encourage families to provide temporary foster care first so they can better understand children’s needs. They may also want to consider providing respite foster care to get some experience with the foster care system before jumping in.

Don’t choose foster care adoption because there are no fees. If money is an issue, there are other avenues to defray adoption costs. When we meet with families at informational meetings, we say, “Make sure you’re in the right program,” and we invite families to explore all of Bethany's adoption programs

On the surface, foster care adoption may look like an inexpensive choice, but our kids need and deserve families who are completely committed to them and to meeting their needs.

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