USA Adoption Information Overload

Recently, one of my fellow bloggers gave me an amazing opportunity – she put me in touch with one of her family members who happens to live in the same city as me and has adopted from the USA twice and is in the process for a third time right now. And, to make this even better, they have used the Florida agency we are considering twice and are currently starting the process with the California agency we are considering!  This means she has first hand experience with our top two agencies.

While I have not actually met this blogger in person, her family sure is amazing!  (I am not linking to her blog as I want to respect her and her families privacy).

Mr. MPB could not make our meeting, so I went solo.   And as it turned out her husband was also unavailable, so it was just the two of us and her two adorable children (her youngest, and evidently normally shy child, took an instant liking to me and we had a great time playing). We chatted for a full two hours – I felt bad for taking up so much of her time, but I am so thankful she opened her home and offered me so much insight!  (And I should add, she has a beautiful home!)

She confirmed a lot of things I already knew, and she added a few really important pieces to the puzzle of being a Canadian adopting from the USA.

So, here’s what I know from her experience of adopting from Florida with the agency available to us:

  1. In Florida, you choose a race (African America; Mixed Caucasian/African America, Mixes Caucasian/Hispanic; Caucasian, etc.) and you pay more or less depending on the category you choose! I was shocked by this and completely disheartened by the idea that there is a difference depending on skin colour. But, as much as it kills me to say it, practically it makes sense when you consider the historical racist culture in the Southern USA and the availability of adoptive children from different races is related to poverty, and poverty is related to race.  Ultimately, the costs are based on supply and demand.
  2. The cost of adoption in the USA will be more like $40,000. To think it will be less is unrealistic. And our local tax credit of about $11,000 is a one time deal in the year the adoption is finalized. So, spreading out the costs over multiple years will not help us on our tax returns. And, given the overall cost of the adoption, she suggested that I not worry about keeping receipts for the little things. (This might sound like a small details, but we/our accountant will be maximizing our tax credits to the best of our ability).
  3. Be very lenient with the Canadian Paperwork – say yes to every possible option – drugs, alcohol, races, etc. Again, this surprised me, but makes perfect sense once you hear the explanation. The Canadian paperwork is required before we can adopt anywhere, and it sets the stage for what we will be allowed to adopt. Once we are approved here, we will then do all the paperwork over with the specific agency in the USA. The reason for wanting to keep your options open on the Canadian paperwork is that you are legally required to stay within your selection.  So, if you change your mind in the future to expand or alter your selection, you are required to completely re-do your entire Canadian application to make even the smallest of alterations which takes both time and money (i.e. if we select Caucasian and African American on the Canadian paperwork, we cannot change to add Mixed race at a later date). So, be open to anything on the Canadian paperwork, so that you can make changes if you choose to on the USA application that will actually determine who you adopt. It’s all about giving ourselves flexibility to modify our USA application in the long run if we want to.
  4. Once the Canadian paperwork is done, we will do very little with our local agency until the post adoption home studies are completed. The main purpose of the local agency is simply to do the home studies. This means, we need to be very confident with our choice of USA agency, as they organize the actual match.
  5. In Florida, if you are matched prior to the arrival of the child, you can ask for the birth mother can undergo drug and alcohol testing while pregnant, and you can have the results! This would never be allowed locally.
  6. The agencies will try to get you to be open to drugs and alcohol, but she recommended being as selective as you want. They were very restrictive with their selections, and there wait was less than a year for one of their children and a bit more for the other.
  7. They have had no problems as an interracial family in our predominantly Caucasian city. She does get questions, but they don’t bother her in the least.
  8. You set the limit on how much you are willing to spend on the birth mother’s care during pregnancy (i.e. $3000, $5000, $7000, $10000), and the agency handles all of it. So there are no direct requests for money between the birth mother and the adoptive family. And all items requested by the birth mother are scrutinized.
  9. If you experience a change of heart, you will have some additional charges to the entire process as you will lose whatever money has been spent on the birth mother and some birth mother counselling fees.  But, you are placed at the top of the list for all upcoming birth parents. This means, you are typically re-placed pretty quickly with a new baby.
  10. Open infant adoptions in the USA are very different then here. We have already been told this, and it was nice to have it reaffirmed. In fact, they are much closer to closed then what is typical where we live. Unlike here, the birth mother/father will never know our last name or our address. In fact, they will never know our province, they will only know that we are from Canada. You can choose to have direct contact with the birth mother possibly through a unique email address or a private blog specifically for that communication, or you can choose to have your contact go through the agency.
  11. She has observed that African American birth mothers are most likely to change their minds about placing their child up for adoption. Evidently the African American culture is much more opposed to adoption then the Caucasian culture. I had no idea, but find this fascinating nonetheless.
  12. In our province in Canada you do not make an adoption book, instead you provide a few pages of photos and a letter from each adoptive parent. In the US, you make an actual album. There are companies that can do it for you (this one has been recommended to us already), or you can do it yourself. Evidently Shutterfly is an awesome option as they give a 30% discount on adoption books, and free shipping directly to the agency in the US if you phone and talk to them (I have no idea if this is still true, but it sounds pretty great). She gave me a few suggestions for the book and offered to share their book with me as we get closer to creating ours. Her book suggestions include:
    • Start collecting photos ASAP.
    • Do not include photos that make it obvious where you live (i.e. no shirts with university logos, no city signage, etc.).
    • Include a photo in the kitchen (apparently birth mothers like to see the adoptive parents cooking?).
    • Do not focus on the birth mother’s heartbreak of choosing adoption in the book, they are generally over that by the time they get to reviewing books.
  13. They liked the first agency they used, so much so that they adopted both their children through this agency. However, they have chosen to change agencies for their third adoption. The change was the result of two factors. First, a shorter wait time with the new agency. Second, there were some issues with their second adoption which resulted in the agency demanding additional money before they could finalize their adoption of their second child. This was unexpected, and literally occurred while they were meeting their child for the first time. This was enough to motivate them to try a new agency.
  14. The USA does not require an Interpol Criminal Record Check for Canadians. This is awesome, only because we just had our Criminal Record Check done last week and we forgot to request this additional element.
  15. She anticipates it will take 6 months to get our paperwork done and then about a year to get matched.

So, our next steps are pretty straight forward:

  • finalize our USA Agency selection – this has to be finalized so that we can submit paperwork to our provincial government which is required to initiate the home study process.  I will be making phone calls today and tomorrow to enable us to make a final decision.
  • Attend mandatory international adoption seminar (as an added bonus, the adoptive parents who will be at the seminar to answer questions adopted from the USA – we can get direct information from them).
  • Complete the initial paperwork – 59 pages of questions.  (Apparently this is the easiest of all the paperwork).  It’s going to be an intense and fun week in the MPB household.

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38 Comments on “USA Adoption Information Overload

  1. I find it fascinating how different US adoptions are for international adoptee’s. It’s also funny that Florida as a US citizen is known as a horrific state to adopt from, where as internationally it is great. So many differences, it’s odd. It’s also odd to me the difference in cost is racially based. Here there is no cost difference based on race, just in placement time. If you are open to race and drug exposure, you will place much faster then if you restrict either of those, especially drug exposure.

    Open adoptions also work differently here. Here it is as limited or as open as you want it to be. Including them knowing who you are, where you live, etc.


    • Wow, that’s so interesting. I had not heard that Florida is considered a horrific state for US citizens to adopt from! That’s good information to have!
      As for the cost difference of race, I have now learned that in other states that is uncommon. The other agencies I’ve been speaking with this morning do not charge based on rates, just your wait time will change.
      And, open adoptions in other states also work differently. It really seems to be about finding the right level of “openness” for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. Knowing what you want, and what you are prepared to commit to long term, so that all parties are happy in the end.


      • I think part of the difference too is each state has different limits on mothers expenditure. I know my state is a preferred state to adopt from, as our max amount to give the mother is only 3000, not a penny more.

        The openness does depend on the state to an extent, but overall it isn’t enforceable in any state either way. It really comes down to basically a handshake agreement on what you will or won’t share over the coming years.

        I’m guessing the race cost difference must be an agency specific thing then, which is good. It’s kind of concerning they would charge different rates based on race, especially given the wait time difference already built in.


      • If you don’t mind me asking, what state are you in?
        And you are right about openness in the long run, because it honestly comes down to the adoptive parents choice – like all parents, if they don’t want there children to spend time with someone they can prevent it. Now, that said, most adoptive parents don’t choose that route, but it is an option if needed. As someone once said to me, there may be a need to cut off communication/visits in extreme circumstances, and that will be our right as parents.
        As for race effecting the cost, we are really struggling with it – I just cannot stand the idea of cost/worth being dependent on race. So much so that we are leaning towards using the California agency where this does not occur.


      • Oh no, I am very open about who I am, etc. I live in Ohio =).

        And yes, there are definitely circumstances where communication has to be stopped, but in the vast majority of cases it works out totally okay!

        I think I too would be very bothered by the cost being affected by race. It seems very wrong =(.


      • Unfortunately Ohio is not one of my options, unless I want to go through additional months of paperwork to get an agency approved in my province (which I do not).


  2. Wow, this is all fascinating. It’s great that you got to meet with someone who went through the exact same thing so you could get all of these tips! Like taking a picture in the kitchen? I never would’ve thought of that in a million years. So how does one decide how much to spend on the birth mother’s medical care? Is there a suggested amount or is it just whatever the couple can afford? Also, that is crazy that different races have different fees. And $40,000 total, holy moly. I mean, I figured it would be around that much, but man, it’s still kind of shocking. It’s great that there’s a tax credit to ease it a little bit, though. I’m so glad you are sharing all of this information–it’s very helpful (and interesting)!


    • Ya, we cook all the time, we love to cook. But I only ever take photos of the final product, not the actual cooking process. But, at least now we can make sure to get photos while we bake Christmas cookies. 🙂
      As for the costs of the mother’s medical care, they provide suggested amounts for how much to spend on the birth mother’s care. We get to check a box for what our maximum is.
      Ya, the cost isn’t cheap – it would actually be pretty close to the same cost for tuition for a 4 year university degree at home! And its much more expensive then a local open adoption, but there are so many reasons why we prefer the USA route that it just makes sense for us and we are fortunate that we can make this work.
      Anyways, thanks again for reading and all your support! So, so much appreciated!


  3. Wow this is really interesting…and I’m SUPER excited for you!! So does the amount that you decide to spend on the birth mothers medical fees, is that part of the estimated $40k or is that on top? I’m also surprised (but not entirely shocked) that there are cost differences for adopting depending on race. Is it significant or minor the cost differences? That’s also really interesting about the cultural link with African American birth mothers. That’s a good tidbit to know. What a great meeting! One more question (you may have posted about this so sorry!) but you can apply for adoption in multiple states with multiple agencies at the same time? Hoping you’re feeling good about this…I’m really pumped for you 🙂


    • The birth mother’s care is part of the $40K. That’s why agencies always give a range of $25,000 – $40,000.
      As for the different costs based on race, I have now learned that it is unique to that agency. All the other agencies I have spoken with do not charge different rates based on your desired race. That said, birth mother costs are usually correlated to the race, and in fact, often the poor individuals (ie. African American) usually end up costing more because they require more care from the adoptive family. So, outside of Florida and that specific agency, the cost of race is often reversed. (I hope that made some sense).
      As for multiple states at a time, if both agencies agree to having us work with more then one agency, then yes we can. But, we have to pay even more to do that, and not all agencies allow it.
      Thanks so much for all your encouragement!! 🙂


  4. A friend of mine is an attorney and GC (we also both live in Florida) and she used to work with many adoption agencies. She said if I ever decided to pursue adoption to reach out and she would tell me who to avoid and who to trust. If you’d like, I can ask her for those recommendations since you’re looking into Florida adoption.


    • Oh wow, your friend is a great contact to have!
      While, I love your offer, we are only able to use 3 agencies that work cross border (without doing a tonne more paper work to get them approved, and I’m just not interested in that. Maybe I could send you an email about the three agencies and you could get her opinion? If you don’t mind, what is your email address?
      THANK YOU! 🙂


  5. Wow, that is soo much information to process! I am so glad that you were able to meet up with her and have such a great conversation. It probably helps to have a contact/person you know IRL to share their experiences! That is SO encouraging! $40k is a lot, but I feel like that could be relatively common? At least from the minimal amount of research I have done for the US (unless it’s foster to adopt). This is so exciting and I love that you are sharing your wealth of information with us, thank you! XO


    • We’ve come to understand that the cost of Canadian’s adopting in the US, from virtually any state is going to be about $40K, and in some situations even more. By no means is it cheap, but it is within our means and we really like the processes of the USA, it seems to be a really good fit for us. And, if there is one thing we’ve learned in the last 6 months about adoption is that we have to be comfortable with every single decision we make. 🙂
      My minimal research into fostering to adopt is that it is much more affordable both in the US and Canada. But, as a Canadian, we cannot foster to adopt a US child to my knowledge. And, honestly, it’s just not the route for Mr. MPB and I, so I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into it.
      Not to worry, I will keep sharing. Hopefully it will help someone else.


  6. As a lifetime U.S. resident, I have to say that the picture in the kitchen thing is completely understandable to me. I know for my area that it is very important that families eat dinner together at the table several nights a week if not every night. It’s a sign of family togetherness and communication and love. I’m assuming it’s somewhat similar in the U.S.? Also, those in the African-American community that I know personally really don’t believe in adoption. Each person I know was raised by an auntie or grandma or both. That’s just my personal experiences though.


    • Thanks so much for sharing!
      My husband and i both love to cook, and do so all the time, I have just never thought to photograph it. Maybe us actually cooking is also a good idea for a happy day photo as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Regarding open adoption, don’t you think it’s a little strange that you want a stranger to trust you with her child’s life, but you won’t trust her with your names? I understand the fear associated with openness, but I urge you to read this book ( by Lori Holden (she also blogs at You can’t possibly honor your child’s whole identity and heritage if you are so fearful of his or her first parents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should be more clear, it’s not our names we are worried about.
      Our fear is actually the birth mothers locally who do not choose us knowing our exact income and address, etc. And, where we live this is shown to multiple perspective birth mothers, not just the one who chooses us. So, it’s a matter of concern regarding having multiple people, who live in our city, who we may not ever know, knowing the intimate details of our personal lives.
      That said, with all open adoptions we believe it is finding the right balance of “openness” between the birth family and the adoptive family. We have to be realistic in what we are prepared to accept, just as the birth mother/father does. And, we know, while we want an open adoption, we also do not want unexpected visits, which although rare is known to happen with local open adoptions. To be quite frank, that level of open still scares us. From our months of research, openness is very different in the USA verses Canada, and we know we are more comfortable with the USA version of openness, at least right now.
      Also, thank you for pointing this out, as I clearly did not articulate this well in this post. And, thank you for the book and blog recommendation – I already have the book amongst my collection of adoption books, and follow her blog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good point I hadn’t considered– that your private information would be potentially viewed by many people, including those who you do not go on to have a relationship with!

        I sense from what I’ve read here that you are the type that will go into this process well informed and thoughtful. I hope your research leads you to those who can enlighten you to the beauty of truly open adoption– which, as Lori’s book explains, is far more about the spirit which you approach it than the level of contact. As a first mom in a very open adoption (domestic US) I’d be happy to share my experience with you. I have a lot of contact with my daughter’s family, consider her mom one of my closest friends, and like with any other friend/family member, would never dream of being so rude as to show up uninvited. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad you were able to talk to someone who’s been through all of this already!! Hope everything goes smoothly for you guys in this new adventure!


  9. This was really interesting. I’ve also heard bad things about Florida (and my own home state), though my sample size is only one couple who has adopted recently. I think the gist is that mothers sign up to do the adoption, knowing they won’t go through with it, so they can take the money and run. This is based on state law that allows you to change your mind, and some other variations in state laws. IIRC, Florida has very restrictive rights on birth fathers though, which would be good for your situation.

    I’m so impressed with all your research and your dedication to this process.

    Now that I think about it, I had these conversations long before I thought about having a baby with some friends. I guess being open about adoption and its struggle is AOK, it’s infertility that is always the elephant in the room all the time that walks in silence.


    • Our research also indicates that some birth mothers will sign up to do the adoption just to get the money. My understanding is that agencies really help with that by working with the birth mothers to make sure they really understand adoption and all of there options. But, that’s said, it is one the risks that adoptive families have to be willing to take. And for us, this is one of the scariest parts of adoption, but we know we have to be prepared to face it.


  10. Thank you for sharing all of this. I know so little about how adoption works that I am glad to have some insight into it through your posts. I’m excited for you and this new phase of your journey. You could be cuddling your child in less than two years!


  11. I’m excited for you and Mr. MPB. It sounds as though this is moving right along. I have no doubt you will complete the paperwork in no time and be posting family photos before we know it.


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