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Birthmother expenses - Pay or not?

I am wondering about paying the birthmother’s expenses. To me, it seems like the birthmother’s feelings of obligation would be too great, while also increasing the financial risk of the adoptive family. What are your experiences with this?


You’re going to get a lot of responses to this with differing opinions. In the end, you have to go with what you feel is best for your family.

The fact is, some women need financial support. People like to ask the question, “What would she do if she wasn’t planning on placing?” And that’s a good question.

Some people like to point out that there are WIC, Section 8 housing, and other services available to pregnant women. However, there really aren’t that many services available at all. There are waiting lists for Section 8 and WIC budgets are being slashed. Charities are closing their doors because donations are down, and the ones that are open often having waiting lists.

Some people also like to say that there’s no reason why a woman can’t work while she’s pregnant. However, I can tell you that neither of my children’s birthmothers had jobs. DS’s birthmom was 17 and had her GED. DD’s birthmom didn’t have a high school diploma, although she was considerably older. In today’s economy, even college graduates are having a hard enough time finding jobs. If you’re conspicuously pregnant, chances are you’re not going to get hired. Sure, it’s discrimination. But what boss wants to hire someone who’s just going to leave in a few months? My sister experienced this, and she does have a college degree. I have a number of friends who have told me similar stories as well.

DS’s birthmom initially didn’t want anything for expenses. She was living with her mom and had WIC. However, her mom lost her job, and they found themselves facing the prospect of being out on the street. She asked us for a month’s rent. We complied. DS was born in an “emergency” C-section, thanks to the hospital totally mismanaging S’s labor. Thus, she couldn’t work for 6 weeks after his birth, on dr’s orders. So, we ended up paying 2 more months of rent after placement. Of all of the fees we paid associated with DS’s adoption, these were the ones we minded least. It was less than $3K.

DD’s birthmom’s situation was different. Ultimately, we agreed to pay up to $2500 in expenses, and she received about $1000. Some of that was for maternity clothes, as she was wearing her dad’s clothes. Her state wasn’t as meticulous about wanting to know where the money was going, so I’m honestly not sure what it all went for. And yes, that bothers me. But that’s a whole other story.

Posted by rredhead on Jun 09, 2013 at 7:19am

I’m trying to think it through and figure out how you would pursue adoption and guarantee that you would not have to pay expenses.  Sort of ethics vs reality.  You make a good point about the money causing obligatory feelings and some people see it as coersive.  I know Nightlight Christian has hopeful adoptive parents pay 5000 into an expectant mother fund and then they pay expenses out of that fund.  You never have to pay into it again, even after a failed adoption, and the money an expectant mother received is not attributed directly to you but to the agency.  I do not think it the perfect solution but maybe a step in the right direction if you are worried about it.  I guess you could always go the independent route and let your attorney know you will not pay expenses.  Most states (not all) have caps usually around 5000.  So if you do pay make sure to check.  Lots of agencies give expectant mother gift cards for items needed or pay bills directly.  When we chose an agency we looked at that because we wanted them to handle it and us to not feel like we were directly handing her money.  As you can tell we did pay expenses.  Our son’s birth mom did have a job but obviously got to the point that she had to take time off.  I do not know where all the money went but I do know at one time she asked for her car to be fixed.  There’s all the adoption issues and then there’s the idea that a pregnant woman needs a way to get around and get to the hospital when in labor.  I would offer a word of caution.  Our son was born 3weeks late and we ended up paying more in expenses than estimated.

Posted by gqqfier15 on Jun 09, 2013 at 3:44pm

I guess I looked at expenses different. No I didn’t want to “buy” my son or pay his birthmom but I really did want her to be comfortable and less stressed during her pregnancy. She had been riding her bike to the OB!  We begged her to create a budget so my attorney could send her money. Also I never wanted my son to find out his birth mom was 8 mos pregnant and riding a bike to the dr! 
You should NEVER give a potential birthmother any money or pay any of her bills directly ALL money MUST go through your adoption professionals otherwise it can be considered coersion honestly I doubt you will find a situation where there will be no birth parent expenses. Honestly the expenses I paid on my son’s birthmom’s behalf were under $2,000 and were much less then what I paid my lawyer, her lawyer, or even for my home study. It is the only money I spent that was done with a full heart and no qualms. She truly needed it and certainly deserved it   We have an open adoption and she has had some financial difficulties. She has NEVER told me about it until after she had dealt with the problem.

Posted by singlewannaadopt on Jun 09, 2013 at 4:44pm

I think most people end up paying some expectant mom/birthmom expenses. I don’t have a big problem with it, but I do get nervous about the financial risk associated with pre-placement expenses. I think it’s important to find an agency that will limit the amount of your money that is “at risk” in the event of a failed match. Also, I think it’s important for an agency to be able to identify and appropriately address expectant moms who are obviously financially motivated and asking for all kinds of unreasonable stuff (or may be just scamming).

As for the coercion factor, I can see it, but I don’t know how to reasonably eliminate it while still making sure the expectant mom’s needs are provided for. We as potential adoptive parents often feel so responsible for the ethics of our adoption, and we should, but the agency has to step up and make sure everything is above board too, you know? I think agencies should discuss these issues with expectant parents up front, making sure they know what the ramifications will be for all parties if they accept a lot of pre-placement expenses and then decide to parent.

Posted by OurHappyLife on Jun 09, 2013 at 7:10pm

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I also don’t want the feeling of “buying” my child. You made some good points about a healthy and comfortable pregnancy creating a healthier child.

Right now, I’m leaning toward independent adoption because of the cost, so I wouldn’t be sending money through an agency. I suppose the attorney could forward it, but she would still know that I’m paying the bills.

I wouldn’t mind supporting her if the adoption were guaranteed, but she could change her mind at any point, and I’ve just lost thousands on top of the usual attorney fees and search expenses.

I’m in Michigan, if that makes a difference. But it would probably be an interstate adoption. I haven’t looked into the relevant laws yet.

Is it common to ask the birthmother to pursue other assistance first (WIC, etc.) before claiming expenses to the adoptive family? Can you specify the kinds of expenses or what she buys? For example, I’d pay for organic milk and vitamins but not junk food.

Posted by goodgraces on Jun 09, 2013 at 7:31pm

I think you need to discuss this with your atty. I also felt good paying expenses so she could be in a monthly rental apt not a weekly hotel, could take cabs to the hosp etc. she had WIC, food stamps and Medicaid, I have certainly heard of agencies helping the apply for Medicaid so I would imagine other services shod be applied for too, Also it was limited to 3 months of expenses at $1700 a month so not bad. More than 3 months and the courts would have considered it coercion I think, that was NY/ FL courts if d out how yours work.
My money went to the agency not directly to the eparents. So I did not stipulate the type of food but if I did as long as it was healthy, milk and not soda pop I wouldn’t care if it was organic. She may not have access to organic food. Once u get to know her a little u can talk about food in a friendly way. We were happy she liked to cook and loved salads but she also like Pringles or chocolate on occasion. So be it. Oh also the expenses went to her having a cell phone which benefited all of us

Posted by babydreams on Jun 09, 2013 at 8:37pm

Organic was just an example, but I want her and the baby to be healthy. smile I checked Michigan law. It allows medical and hospital costs, counseling, living expenses, legal fees, and travel expenses. All expenses must be approved by the court. “Living expenses” seems vague. I guess anything that you could convince a judge is necessary.

On the plus side, I can claim the adoption tax credit even if the adoption fails. So that reduces some risk.

Posted by goodgraces on Jun 09, 2013 at 9:03pm

I personally would not presume to try to control what kind of food emom is eating just because I gave her some money to buy it. Paying her expenses doesn’t give you ownership of her body, or her developing baby. You’re probably better off not paying expenses if you’re going to attach strings like that. You’ll end up disappointed and she’ll end up feeling resentful or guilty.

Posted by OurHappyLife on Jun 09, 2013 at 9:52pm

If you’re doing an independent adoption, there’s really no buffer between you and the expectant mom when it comes to money. The attorney will likely pay some expenses directly to the creditors - rent and utilities, for example. Other money will go directly to the emom, and she can use that as she sees fit.

Attorneys and agencies do generally try to sign emoms up for services, such as WIC, but it can take several months to be approved.

If there were a guarantee that an emom had to choose adoption if the PAPs paid expenses, that would be baby selling.

The ATC does cover failed matches, but you only get one credit per adoption attempt. We had two failed matches (one was actually a scam, but to the IRS, it doesn’t matter), and one successful adoption. All of it counted as one adoption attempt. You’re likely going to pay a lot more than the $13K or so that the ATC covers, and the ATC isn’t refundable, so it’s not like you automatically get $13K back on your taxes. You also can’t take the ATC until the year the adoption is finalized or 1 year after the expenses were paid. We just claimed our 2011 expenses on our 2012 taxes. Basically, don’t count on the tax credit to reimburse you for anything.

Interesting note: WIC does not cover organic food.

Posted by rredhead on Jun 10, 2013 at 12:12am

We adopted in Florida, and by law we were allowed to pay birth mother (not birth parent) expenses.  Of course, if you are paying for apartment, birth father may benefit, etc, but that is what the law says.  Our money went to the attorney, who then sent the money to emom.

I did not feel like this was coercion, but you are right, you may pay expenses and emom may change her mind.  (we did lose some money this way on two different failed matches).  In our three adoptions, our attorney often paid expenses directly (like rent), or gave out money each week, because, frankly, these are women in crisis who often have difficulty managing money.  I remember my husband having to talk our oldest’s birth mom through creating a grocery list and a food budget, she really had no idea how to do this, and we would get a call from her every Sat or Sunday that they had run out of money from the previous Monday.  She did have some public assistance, also, and would go to the foodbank each week, but ran out of money anyway.

There are all kinds of problems now with the adoption tax credit, not the least of which is that the IRS is reviewing every one who claims it, despite finding no problems.  (read the articles, more than 90% of tax payers who claim adoption credit are being reviewed, less than 2% of those reviews had any issues).

Posted by jszmom on Jun 11, 2013 at 6:34pm

“I wouldn’t mind supporting her if the adoption were guaranteed, but she could change her mind at any point, and I’ve just lost thousands on top of the usual attorney fees and search expenses.”

That is baby buying/coercion.

When deciding on how much money to spend on adoption, the golden rule is to never spend what one can’t afford to lose.  One should first of all try and find an agency that will either refund or not charge you the main fee if the adoption doesn’t go through (they do exist).  One will probably still lose some money on each adoption but one needs to work out an amount that they feel comfortable with.  It is a bit like when buying a house, one puts down a deposit but also spends money on other things like having the house inspected for problems - one can expect to get back the deposit but one realises that those other expenses are just part of buying a home and one budgets accordingly.

Also, I said the following on another thread but I do think it is important to keep in mind that when doing anything in adoption, whether before or after the adoption, is to think to oneself first before undertaking any action “Will I feel comfortable explaining this to my child?”. 

Personally, I would find it hard to pay expenses because I wouldn’t want the eparents to feel indebted to me.  I’m the sort of person who very rarely asks for help from others and when I do, I do sometimes feel indebted to that person and also, I can sometimes feel inadequate for having to accept help.  Now, no-one is saying that a emom should feel indebted enough to relinquish her baby but I tend to feel that a further point is that accepting help from HAPs can exacerbate an emom’s feelings of inadequacy compared with the HAPs.  This is why I do prefer adoption done as an auxillary service through human service agencies where the agency (in theory) tries to help the eparents as people first and tries to help the person to help themselves get them to a better place, i.e. think of the person as a person, not just a pregnant woman.

“frankly, these are women in crisis who often have difficulty managing money. I remember my husband having to talk our oldest’s birth mom through creating a grocery list and a food budget, she really had no idea how to do this” -

That’s very kind of your husband but I’m sure you will agree that it shouldn’t really be your job.  A good agency would provide help to emoms re managing money.  Again, this is where a good human service agency can come in, in that they have financial experts to help people budget better. 

As for housing, if an emom is young, homeless and/or without a job, there are mothers homes that will help them.  Unfortunately, many seem to be attached to agencies but there are some out there that are purely to help young mothers get on their feet (it is trying to find ones that do that that is the difficult thing).  I never realised that mother’s homes still existed but if one googles “mothers/maternity homes”, one can see that there are actually quite a few. 

Many of today’s emoms seem to be more what is called “the working poor” and they are often the ones that slip through the cracks - they get paid little but don’t get the benefits of the unemployed.  Perhaps governments and churches need to pick up their game and provide at least some of the stuff that other developed nations provide.  The US seems to be the only developed nation where both government and churches seem to treat the availability of adoption as a good reason not to provide further resources.

Posted by catherinenz on Jun 12, 2013 at 2:55am

Most “maternity homes” are attached to agencies or churches and are highly coercive. It’s very difficult to get into independent maternity homes, from what I understand.

Posted by rredhead on Jun 12, 2013 at 11:33am

I know they are pretty rare, but our agency was a single fee (fairly high), paid post-placement only.  We were not responsible for directly paying any expenses (I am not even sure if it is allowed in my state). 

I would try to find a similar agency in your state.  I do know some states (FL for example) where there seemingly is no “situation” without fees (not sure why…we were thinking of being presented on a situation where the bmom fees were 8K…and the baby had already been born and the bmom was in prison…um, no!). 

Good luck to you!

Posted by mamallama on Jun 12, 2013 at 7:00pm

Hands down, I believe in paying NO expenses ever.  It sets up a tit-for-tat situation:  we pay your bills, you give us a baby.  It puts too much pressure on the mom, and many unethical agencies will use expenses to lure a mom into placing.  It also is way to financially risky for the adoptive family.  We have had three adoptions, and have never paid expenses, nor will we.  It’s just too unethical in so many ways.

Posted by mamaof2browngirls on Jun 15, 2013 at 6:20am

“Most “maternity homes” are attached to agencies or churches and are highly coercive. It’s very difficult to get into independent maternity homes, from what I understand.”

I agree that most maternity homes are attached to agencies and in fact I think if adoption is mentioned in their ads then those homes should be avoided.  I would imagine that independant homes would only take the most desperate but they are still worth looking into. 
Personally, as I’ve said before, I think adoptions should be more an auxillary service provided by human service type agencies (whether gov or NGO) where ideally the pregnant woman is treated as a human aside from her pregnancy.  Often these agencies will provide housing as part of their general care of women, not just pregnant women.

One thing I’ve always found rather bizarre is how often a woman’s reason for considering adoption is treated more as something to be exploited rather than something to overcome.  An agency committed and dedicated to helping an expectant mother improve her situation so that she is able to make an as uncompromised decision as possible is the type of agency that I would be going for if I were an AP.

Posted by catherinenz on Jun 15, 2013 at 8:57am

I agree with rredhead that this is something that each prospective adoptive family has to decide for themselves about…if they are willing to pay expenses for an expectant mother that they match with, and how much are they willing to help with?  I understand how you feel about paying expenses for the expectant mother possibly making her feel obligated to place her child for adoption, and also not wanting to lose that money if the adoption doesn’t work out.  (I also felt that I would be more willing to help out if we were going to adopt the baby for sure and this was for our child’s birthmother, but not wanting to do so if it might not work out and since you can’t know that it is an additional financial risk that you are undertaking)  I think Catherine is right in saying that, “When deciding on how much money to spend on adoption, the golden rule is to never spend what one can’t afford to lose” and would add to that “what one is willing to lose,” but really dislike that adoptive parents are put in this situation and don’t think it’s fair to them, as well as potentially putting pressure on the expectant mother about placing with the hopeful parents who have helped her as mentioned before. 

If you do an independent adoption with an attorney you are going to be put in this position as someone mentioned above… the expectant mother will know that any support is coming from you and you can lose that money if the placement doesn’t work out. However, if you work with an agency you can try to find one that pays expectant mother support from their agency and does not ask you to do that - which I think is the best way.

Posted by twicethelove on Jun 15, 2013 at 5:35pm

I live in CA and know of places where women in need can stay who need shelter, and there also was a maternity home that was for pregnant women considering adoption.  I used to volunteer for a Christian crisis pregnancy center and we had a binder of resources to help women who wanted to parent or were thinking about adoption.  (During the time I volunteered I only knew of a couple of women who chose adoption, but because of the center’s high integrity policies regarding sharing information on the different options I feel comfortable in how adoption was discussed and would recommend it to women in crisis pregnancies) 

I strongly feel that all adoption agencies should help directly from their agency for expectant women who are considering adoption and match with one of their clients and not involve prospective adoptive parents in doing that… it removes any potential feelings of obligation that the expectant mother has toward the potential adoptive parents (as there shouldn’t be any involved in her decision to place her baby for adoption), it removes the adoptive parents having to decide on a potential match based on financial reasons related to that (it might be a good match but they can’t afford the extra expenses in providing expectant mother support, or the risk involved if it doesn’t work out), and it keeps adoptive parents from being hurt financially when a match doesn’t work out (which is hard enough emotionally). 

An agency can charge a little higher fees to all their families to cover expectant mother’s needed expenses, and one of the two agencies that we were considering did this and the other didn’t (which we did not realize at the time when we chose the “less expensive agency”).  For us, we didn’t lose any money in the match and almost match that didn’t work out, and our daughters’ birthmom only needed help with maternity clothes and food so expectant mother support did not really enter into our adoption experiences.  Bottom line, I think you need to do what you feel comfortable with for your family (people have shared different views and their personal experiences with this issue for you to consider), and of course follow what the laws in your state say.

Posted by twicethelove on Jun 15, 2013 at 9:15pm

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