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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

Buying baby: Managing high costs of adoption and fertility treatmentsWith 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 adoption:

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 final bill. 
  • 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 treatment. 
  • 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



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