Managing the high costs of adoption and fertility treatments
Prospective parents tap savings, retirement and credit to fund their hopes for a child
By Karen Kroll
With the annual costs of
child rearing ranging from $8,000 to $23,000, according to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, it's clear that any bundle of joy is expensive. However,
parents who create their families through fertility treatments or adoption can
face staggering bills before their children even arrive.
"It's massive sticker
shock," says Barbara Collura, executive director with RESOLVE: The
National Infertility Association. It is not unusual for prospective parents to tap
savings, home equity lines of credit and credit cards to fund their quest to
expand their family. As a result, many are left deeply in debt.
In 2009, about 57 percent of
domestic newborn adoptions cost more than $20,000, reports The Adoption Guide.
The cost for fertility treatments will vary, depending on the procedures used.
For instance, one cycle of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) runs $12,400 on
average, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Costs rack up fast
What's more, the costs can
hit quickly, says Jo Trizilia, a Dallas-based adoptive mother of a 5-month
old daughter. While Trizilia was thrilled to be chosen by a birth mother just
eight weeks after sending information on herself, she had to move quickly to
come up with the money to cover the expenses, such as attorney and adoption
facilitator fees. She dipped into savings, borrowed from family members and put
about 10 percent of the costs on a credit card.
Smart financial moves to make before
you begin your journey
Before you get too far along
in either the adoption process or fertility treatments, it pays to do a little
research upfront. You want to make smart financial decisions from the outset
because you don't know what will lie ahead, Mendall says.
When starting fertility
treatment, "ask the difficult questions and believe the answers,"
Mendall says. While it may be disappointing to learn that a particular
procedure has only a remote chance of resulting in a pregnancy, you can more
intelligently decide whether it makes sense to move forward. That's
particularly key if it's expensive.
If you plan to try fertility
treatments and then move to adoption if the treatments aren't successful, keep in mind
the costs you might face at that point. "A lot of people come to adoption
after having spent $30,000 to $60,000 on infertility and then have nothing
left," says Mardie Caldwell, director of Lifetime Adoption Center in Rough and Ready, Calif.
Prospective parents who turn
to fertility treatments also face eye-popping price tags. Jenny and Paul
Wakulat of Austin, Texas, are parents to 10-month old Madden. Jenny went
through several rounds of intra-uterine insemination (IUI) and one round of IVF
before becoming pregnant. Just the medication to prep one's body for an IVF
treatment can run about $4,000, and payment is due upfront, Jenny says. That's
along with the cost of the treatment itself.
The role of credit cards
While it's unclear just what
percentage of couples use credit cards to cover adoption or fertility
treatments, anecdotal evidence suggests that many do. Collura says she
frequently hears the topic come up among prospective parents, along with home
equity loans and personal loans from a bank. However, these last two options
have become harder to get, she adds.
That's not to suggest that
prospective parents who turn to credit cards take lightly the financial
obligations they're assuming. In fact, most say they are acutely aware of the
importance of not getting in over their heads.
Several credit cards are
geared to adoption and fertility treatments. The National Adoption
Foundation Credit Card works similarly to other credit cards, except that a percentage of each purchase goes back
to the foundation. According to the online application, the initial rate is 0
percent for six billing cycles, and then the rate rises to between 12 percent and 20 percent.
CareCredit is a credit card
made exclusively for health care services, including fertility treatments. Some
payment plans offer no interest for up to 24 months. CareCredit is a division
of GE Money.
The overall price tag for the
Wakulats' fertility treatments hit about $30,000, almost all of which went onto
the couple's credit cards. However, the couple has diligently whittled the
balance down to $9,500, and they plan to pay that off within the year. "I'm a
CPA and very in tune to our financial situation," Jenny says.
Prospective parents can take
several steps to manage the financial costs of fertility treatments and
Fertility treatment cost savings suggestions
Head abroad. Prospective parents can look
outside the United States for fertility treatments. Wendy and Max Lieberman were living in Argentina
when Wendy first turned to fertility treatments to help her conceive her son,
now 20 months old. About a year later, after having moved to Phoenix to be near
family and again having trouble conceiving, Wendy returned to her doctor in
Argentina. Even with travel costs, the expense totaled about $7,000, or about
half what it would have been here, Lieberman says.
Check your benefits. If you or your partner are
employed, check your insurance coverage, says Patricia Mendell, a New
York-based licensed clinical social worker who works with prospective parents.
Even if just some treatments are covered, that can mean thousands off your
Be a wise consumer. The costs for procedures can
vary widely. Wakulat found that an IUI was $300 at one doctor and $600 at
another. When working with a doctor, ask what each procedure is for and if all
are necessary, Collura advises. Be vigilant about getting second opinions and
don't hesitate to ask about and compare treatment pricing.
Participate in studies. Some fertility specialists
conduct studies of different treatments and will offer a price break if you
participate. Wakulat did this and was able to shave about $8,000 off the total cost of an IVF
Grants. Several organizations provide
grants to help families pay for fertility treatments, including The
International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, and Fertile Dreams.
Adoption cost savings suggestions
Adoption tax credit. Depending on your income
level, you may qualify for a federal tax credit for adoption expenses of up to
$12,170 in 2010. This credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2011,
although it may be extended, says Rita Soronen of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Adopting through foster care. Completing an adoption
through the foster care system can be much more affordable than other avenues,
says Soronen. In 2007, 56 percent of foster care adoptions imposed no cost on
the parents, according to Adoption USA, a publication of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. That said, prospective
parents should be aware of the challenges that can accompany foster care system
adoptions. Many of the children are older, and some have special needs that can
require ongoing care, Soronen says. Some may be part of a sibling
group that the government agency prefers not to break up. To help parents cover
these costs, many government agencies offer ongoing subsidies. The North
American Council on Adoptable Children provides a state-by-state guide to the
adoption assistance available.
Adoption grants. A number of organizations
offer grants to prospective adoptive parents. Among these are showhope.org. and brittanyshope.org.
Employer benefits. Check whether your employer offers adoption benefits. The Dave Thomas
Foundation has compiled a list of the most adoption-friendly workplaces.
See related: Teaching kids good money habits by example, Personal finance predictions for 2010: Your kids, Teaching kids good money habits by example, Protecting your children from identity theft
Updated: May 27, 2010