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Michael and Amber Baker added to their family by adopting two children, now 5, through the foster care system. Agency adoptions were too costly.

Tax credits pushed to aid adoptions

Steve and Joey DeHoff of Bluffton have been trying for months to adopt a child, and Joey DeHoff thinks Gov. Mike Pence’s initiative to make Indiana to become nation’s “most pro-adoption state” would help many potential parents.

The expense of adopting a child through a private agency is cost-prohibitive for many prospective parents, she said.

“I am simply amazed at the expense of adoption. We have been quoted up-front costs of $25,000 to $50,000,” she said.

Pence has called for Indiana to offer a tax credit to offset adoption expenses. The federal government offers a $12,650 income tax credit for adoption; Pence calls for an additional credit on state returns of up to 10 percent of the amount claimed on the federal credit. He also called for a study committee to find ways to make adoption easier and less expensive.

“I want Indiana to be the most pro-adoption state in the United States of America,” Pence said while in Fort Wayne earlier this month. Last week, he repeated the same pro-family agenda to The Evansville Courier & Press.

The DeHoffs signed up with a website earlier this year that allows them to pay smaller monthly amounts – rather than thousands of dollars up front – as their search for a child unfolds.

They must still pay for a home study – anywhere from $700 to $2,000 – and costly background checks, DeHoff said.

When she and her husband began to investigate the idea of adopting, they contacted a law firm in Indianapolis.

“They wanted $17,000 up front if I found the child,” DeHoff said, “and well over $30,000 if they found the child.”

DeHoff said she and her husband would not mind paying $30,000 up front if it went to an education fund for the child.

“We will never pay an agency for a child,” she said. “There are too many children out there who need a good home.”

Lutheran Social Services adoption agency charges a $12,000 placement fee, but there are other costs involved, Laura Hoffman, clinical director for the agency, said Monday.

Adoptive parents often pay for lodging costs during the birth, background checks, home study costs and up to $3,000 in extra expenses such as maternity clothing and housing for the birth mother, she said.

“A tax credit would help and benefit most adoptive families,” Hoffman said.

“We must do whatever possible to support and bring together those families who would like to adopt,” Hoffman said.

One Fort Wayne family knows firsthand how expensive adoption can be.

Michael and Amber Baker have three biological children – Caleb, 18, Emma, 16, and Noah, 13. In 2008, they decided to adopt Jacob, now 5. A year later, they adopted Grace, now 5.

Both have significant medical needs, Amber said.

Adopted children with special needs are eligible for Medicaid until age 18, but the family chose their private health insurance as a primary provider and Medicaid as a secondary provider, Amber said.

Initially, the couple looked at adopting through an agency, where they were told it would cost between $20,000 and $25,000.

“The impact of adoption is far-reaching; I just wish it was not so pricey,” Amber said.

Foster parents themselves, the Bakers decided to adopt through the foster care system. The couple do not plan to adopt any more children, but Amber notes that she never says never.

“If a child shows up on our doorstep, we will adopt,” she said.

The Fort Wayne law firm of Burt, Blee, Dixon, Sutton & Bloom, LLC, has become known for its work in the field of adoption, thanks largely to partner Dennis Sutton, said fellow attorney Lindsay Hurni, who also enjoys working on adoption cases.

“Denny adopted two boys, and that’s how our firm got involved in adoption services,” Hurni said.

Hurni said that while the tax credit is obviously a good thing, she wishes Indiana would offer more than a 10 percent credit.

“Other states are more generous,” she said.

The firm does work with local adoption agencies, but most of the adoptions it handles are private between the expectant mother and the adoptive parents, Hurni said.

It is expensive, but the state has laws in place to prevent anyone profiting from adoptions, she said.

Basically, the tax credit would be helpful to those in higher income brackets but not so much for those earning lower incomes, Hurni said.

“But something is better than nothing, and anything helps,” Hurni said.

Another credit that would be very helpful would be the federal refundable tax credit for adoption expenses that was available in 2010 and 2011, Hurni said. A refundable tax credit is treated as a payment and can be refunded to the taxpayer regardless of tax liability.

The credit applies to all kinds of adoptions and has made adoption a more viable option for many who might not have otherwise been able to afford to adopt, according to an online initiative called Save the Adoption Tax Credit, found at www.adoptiontaxcredit.org.

“I think more people would consider adoption with a refundable tax credit,” Hurni said.

vsade@jg.net

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