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Navigating Adoption Financing Amid Growing Uncertainty

NCFA Note: Our thanks to America's Christian Credit Union for their sponsorship of the 2021 National Adoption Conference. We welcome their guest contribution to the blog.

As the number of private adoptions in the U.S. declines, uncertainty for adoptive parents grows. Agencies are reporting steady interest from would-be parents but a decrease in the number of calls from potential birth mothers and a slowdown in international placements. Some agencies have gone so far as to stop accepting new applications from adoptive parents until current wait lists become more manageable.

Covid-19 is an easy target to explain the recent drop in adoptions, but a fuller retrospective suggests that the pandemic is merely an accelerant to a multi-year trend. While the full picture of the decline in private adoption in the U.S. is complex, such a fact brings little comfort to those longing to welcome a baby into their home.

One of the most difficult aspects of private adoption for prospective adoptive parents - the waiting - has grown considerably. What once took up to a year can now stretch to two years or longer in some cases. Families on waiting lists may see little movement for months at a time. This waiting certainly takes an emotional toll, but it can also have practical consequences when it comes to finances.

Timeline uncertainties bring up additional questions to consider in regards to funding a private adoption:

  • At what point should prospective parents launch a fundraiser among family and friends?
  • When should grant applications be submitted to charitable foundations?
  • Will the money be ready as costs are incurred?
  • What should be done with leftover funds in the event that the adoption fails to finalize?

On top of gifts and savings, many adoptive parents will need to borrow at least part of the money required for a private adoption. Obtaining a loan early ensures the availability of funds but also starts the repayment clock sooner, meaning that interest may be owed on funds that haven’t been used yet—or potentially won’t be used at all. Waiting for certainty before applying for a loan could reduce the total interest owed, but this may lead to a process bottleneck if the funds aren’t received in time to meet expenses.

For those determined to pursue adoption in the face of this growing uncertainty, careful financial planning for the journey is more important than ever. At America’s Christian Credit Union (ACCU), we took a closer look at our 10+ years of adoption lending practices and re-tooled our guidance and offerings to better suit the shifting landscape of private adoption in the U.S.

Enhancements to our adoption financing include:

  • Starting families with an adoption-specific checking account for adoption savings, fundraiser proceeds and grants. This account keeps adoption funds separate, easy to analyze, and available for spending via debit card. Having all the incoming and outgoing transactions in one place also makes it easier to file for the Adoption Tax Credit the following year.
  • Encouraging families to consider a line of credit rather than a fixed-term loan. A line of credit only accrues interest on amounts used, providing a level of flexibility well-suited to the growing length of the adoption process. The line of credit can be used to overcome temporary cash crunches when the timing of expenses and grants or gifts don’t line up.
  • Refinancing adoption debt into a fixed-term loan once the process is complete. While fixed-term loans often carry a lower interest rate than lines of credit or credit cards, they aren’t flexible enough to keep up with the starts and stops of adoption today. We guide families through the process of consolidating any debt incurred during the adoption process into a single fixed-term loan that can be paid back in monthly installments.

Money may not guarantee a successful adoption, but unavailability of needed funds is sure to derail the process. As private adoption becomes less certain and the timeline more protracted, flexibility of finances plays a central role in helping families roll with the punches while they wait and hope for their little one.

It’s not clear if or when the decline in private adoptions will reverse in the U.S. But in the meantime, ACCU continues to stand with families who seek to provide a permanent, loving home for a child. We are thankful for the work NCFA is doing to remove unnecessary and costly barriers to adoption, and we strive to do our part to make sure that finances never separate adoptive parents from the children who need them.

We encourage you to visit us online at to learn more about how we help make adoption affordable. Our team of adoption financing specialists work with each family to develop a custom plan that will support them throughout this important journey.