Lawmaker: Adoption Doesn't Have to Be This Expensive

Congressman Diane Black's experience and faith motivates her to advocate for change.
Lawmaker: Adoption Doesn't Have to Be This Expensive
Image: LEEROY.ca / Pexels

If your children grew up in the church, there is a good chance they knew the youth choir song “I’m Adopted.” The lyrics echo a promise found in Ephesians 1:5 and repeated throughout the Scriptures: “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.”

For my family, however, the title of that song rings doubly true.

I am one of many Christian women who have experienced the pain of divorce. My first husband grappled with alcoholism and left me when I was pregnant with our youngest daughter. The result was a season of life spent as a single parent, working the morning shift as a nurse at our local hospital and the night shift as a mother of three.

In the time that followed, I met the man who would become my husband: Dave Black. What began as a friendship (and a recurring babysitting role) grew into a romance. When he asked me to marry him, I knew that I had found the godly partner and role-model for my children that was missing from my first relationship.

Every blended family must decide how to navigate the challenges of their new life together in a way that works for them, but Dave and I felt strongly that we needed to draw a circle around our family by having him legally adopt my children as his own.

My three kids took his last name and, to this day, there has never been any doubt that he is their dad. What Dave and my children lack in shared genes, they more than make up for in shared love—the kind that can only exist between a parent and their child.

When we got the letter officially declaring us a family, I was reminded of Scripture’s teaching that we are adopted into the family of God.

Many adoptive parents’ journeys culminate in a courtroom moment, but Dave’s came in the form of a notice in the mail from the Department of Children’s Services. When we got the letter officially declaring us a family, I was reminded of Scripture’s teaching that we are adopted into the family of God. I was also reminded of the children who are still waiting on an earthly adoption of their own.

My kids faced some challenging years before Dave entered our lives, but their experience cannot truly compare to that of the more than 415,000 children in the foster care system today.

May is National Foster Care Month; a time that I hope will encourage the church to engage afresh and anew with the cause of adoption, remembering our gospel calling to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

Of course, not every family is called to adopt, but we can all intercede on behalf of these children.

For some, that may mean offering a gift of time or resources to a faith-based adoption organization. My family’s journey, for example, drew our hearts to the work of Decisions, Choices & Options, a nonprofit organization in the Nashville area that visits local schools to promote adoption for students who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy and might otherwise consider life-ending choices for their unborn baby.

In my current role as a member of Congress, I believe this calling to look after widows and orphans means using the platform that I have been given to ensure that adoption is attainable for every family who has room in their hearts—regardless of the room in their budget.

I am convinced that nothing could have stopped Dave from adopting my children. But the truth is, we were also fortunate that the costs our young family incurred were minimal. I wonder how long we would have been waiting for that letter in the mail had we needed to raise thousands of dollars just to call ourselves a family?

Of course, not every family is called to adopt, but we can all intercede on behalf of these children.

When God unites a parent and child together through the miracle of adoption, we cannot let barriers stand in the way. That is why I introduced the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a foster care adoption can cost up to $2,500, while adoptions through a private agency can cost upwards of $40,000. Those costs are staggering to just about anyone, but when you consider that almost half of all children adopted from foster care live in households with incomes of less than 200 percent of the poverty line (around $48,500/year for a family of 4), the financial toll becomes overwhelming.

We cannot change the high cost of adoption overnight, but we can ensure that our tax laws provide some help to offset that expense.

Currently, the adoption tax credit is not fully refundable. That means it offers no benefit to a family making less than $35,000 a year because they simply will not have enough income to generate sufficient tax liability. We all know that no family chooses to adopt for a tax credit, but I have personally met families who tell me in anguish that adoption is just beyond their financial reach and that this credit would bridge the difference—if only they were able to actually use it.

The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act would change the law to ensure that every adoptive family benefits from this vital tool.

We cannot change the high cost of adoption overnight, but we can ensure that our tax laws provide some help to offset that expense.

This legislation is as non-political as they come in Washington. I am grateful for the support it has received by champions for adoption like Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “ShowHope” and from members of Congress across the ideological spectrum. The bill’s cosponsors range from some of the most progressive Democrats to the most conservative Republicans—proof that, even today, some things still transcend partisan politics, family being first among them.

Not a lot of parents can say that their happiest moments came in the form of a written notice from Children’s Services, but mine sure did. The instant that “Dave” officially became “Dad” is a gift that I will hold in my memory for the rest of my life. I want more parents and children to be able to experience that same joy, and I have to believe that God, in his perfect love, desires this too.

During National Foster Care Month, and throughout the year, may we in the church rise up to lead this cause, knowing that as we do, we are modeling what Christ did for each of us by inviting us into the most glorious adoption of all.

Congresswoman Diane Black represents Tennessee’s 6th District and is a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

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Lawmaker: Adoption Doesn't Have to Be This Expensive