Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How much does it cost to adopt from DRC? (part 2)


While working on the post about finances in DRC adoptions, I began to wonder about the foreign fees breakdown (or lack of breakdown) with different agencies.  As we lived in the DRC while we were adopting, we paid everything personally and we knew exactly how much every document cost, how much every process cost, and how much every step cost.  I knew it was possible to know this information since we found it out from our lawyer fairly easily.  I decided to interview the two agencies/organizations (DRCAS and OFA) that gave breakdowns of fees to their adoptive parents, I hope in doing this it will contribute to greater transparency of fees in adoption in DRC.  


The first interview is with DRCAS.

1.  Can you describe your agency/organization?
 DRC Adoption Services is a licensed child placement agency.  We work with families adopting from DRC.  We only place children who are legally free for adoption that have two deceased parents or are considered legally abandoned prior to referral.  We do not work with any relinquishment cases.  Our desire is to provide an ethical and transparent process. 

2.  Can you please give a detailed breakdown of your foreign fees (as they relate to the direct court processes and documentation, passport, DGM, social/family affairs)?  DRC Adoption Services charges a foreign service fee of $15,180 which includes private foster care.

 FOREIGN SERVICE FEE                            $15,180.00                 
            I.  LOCATION OF CHILD    
            Search Child: $1500                                                  
            Gift to the orphanage: $500                                       
            Preparation of Documents: $1000                            

            II. JUDICIAL PROCEDURE
            Judgment of adoption: $300                                      
            Supplemental Birth Certificate Judgment: $250                   
            Act of adoption: $100                                                
            Birth Certificate: $100
            Costs and expenses: $1000

            III. FOSTER AND GUARDING
            Salary for foster mom: $1600
            Living expenses of the child (Pampers, milk, food, and medical):  $2400

            IV. OBTAINING PASSPORT AND OUT PERMISSION.
            Legalization documents at City Hall: $100
            Obtaining a passport to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: $450
            Slip obtained from the Ministry of Gender and Family: $450
            Child Visa:  $230
            Obtaining permission to leave the DGM: $200

            Attorney receives $5,000 for services. 

3.  Why do you feel like it is important to give a breakdown of your fees?  Adoption is very expensive and it is important that families know and understand where their money is going.  Although some foreign service fees may vary slightly due to expenses associated with acquiring certain documents, services being provided by third parties, etc., they should be fairly close. 

4.  How did you determine what the breakdown of the fees are in Kinshasa?  We work with our attorneys and in country staff to determine foreign service fees, as well as regularly compare the “market” to ensure our fees in line with what the individual services actually cost.

5.  How would you respond to an adoptive parent who says that their agency/organization simply cannot give any breakdown of fees because fees are changing all the time or because the agency is not given that information themselves for each individual adoption case?  There are situations in which there could be extenuating circumstances that increase the fees in a particular case and we do make sure our clients aware of this; however, the cost of a particular document is the cost of the document.  If there is an increase in fees for the document, an agency should be able to explain why (for example:  the way a document is acquired changed or the rate increased for all families).  Agencies should be able to provide a standardized fee schedule and then if changes are necessary be able to explain why those changes are necessary.

6.  What is one piece of advice you would give to a prospective adopting parent in DRC?  You are paying for the services of your adoption agency to advocate for you and your child.  You should use a provider that allows you to ask tough questions and has answers to the tough questions or is willing to find the answers for you.  You should never feel as though you are bugging them.  You deserve to know how your money is spent, all of it.

7.  What is your contact information if a PAP wanted to contact you? amy@drcadoptionservices.com  (502)767-6902
 

The second interview is with OFA.  The same questions were asked as were asked to DRCAS.

1.  Our Family in Africa (OFA) is not an adoption agency, but rather a humanitarian organization with a mission to serve Congo's orphaned children.  We partner with a small number of adoptive families by providing guidance in their journey of adopting a Congolese orphan.  OFA is primarily a volunteer-run organization, and these families must commit to a long term role in our mission.  We support several orphanages throughout Congo, and we strive to provide food, caregiver support, education, medical care, safety and love.  

2.  We do not charge any foreign fees, but rather, we provide our families with a list of estimated expenses.  This helps our families to budget and prepare for the costs they will likely incur in the adoption process. OFA families pay their providers directly, not through OFA.  They will send funds directly to their document translator, DRC attorney, etc.

3.  While we don't set or negotiate any fees for the process in Congo, our Congolese partners do an excellent job of communicating the current costs involved, so we can help OFA families to budget and prepare.  It is important for families to understand what expenses they are paying for.

4.  In a country struggling with poor governance or infrastructure, costs are not always concrete.  It's very important to have trusted partners in a process such as adoption.  We rely on our partners to relay information such as court fees, document costs, etc.

5.  It is possible that fees could change during the adoption process, but any agency or organization should have a process in place to be made aware of any changes and to adequately explain these changes to their families.

6.  Prospective adopting families should be patient and understanding during the adoption process.  There are many challenges in Congo, and some families aren't familiar with how complicated simple tasks can be.  Lack of electricity, internet connection, poor road conditions, illness of Congolese partners, etc. can be frustrating realities and may possibly cause delays.  Families should plan to travel to Congo, and be prepared to embrace their child's birth country.  Families should be patient with the United States Embassy, as their investigation of orphan status is a critically important step.  Also, the Congolese government has ultimate authority in the adopted child's ability to leave the country.  We advise families to patiently respect the office of DGM, as they investigate the adoption documentation, and eventually issue an exit letter.

7.  We are not currently accepting new families into our program, but have many volunteer opportunities.  If families would like to learn more about the work we do in Congo, they can go to www.ourfamilyinafrica.com, or contact Cami MacDonald at 602-330-6337.  We are particularly excited about the success of our nutritional feeding program, which is in a remote area of Southeastern DRC. We have partnered with a group of Congolese women who grow and harvest peanuts.  Next, they grind the nuts into a nutrient-rich peanut paste which is saving the lives of children suffering with severe malnutrition.  This partnership employs ten Congolese people and has transformed the lives of children on the brink of death.  We are committed to help prevent additional orphans in Congo, and are thrilled with the positive results of this important project.  Families can donate to this cause or learn more at our website.



Thank you to DRCAS and OFA for being willing to be interviewed for this post.


And again, finally, I will repeat what I wrote in the first post, this post is not meant to recommend or attack any agency or organization.  If you are a PAP, please read through my other posts on the right side of this blog as you consider which agency to adopt from in DRC (and whether or not to adopt from DRC at all).  These posts meant to increase transparency in adoption in DRC.  This one specifically is meant to show that the information related to foreign fees are available to those working in adoption in DRC and you can ask your agency for this information (and should).  

Very important note on this post:  All comments will be moderated and anonymous commenters will not be allowed.  In addition, if your comment is not respectful, it will not be posted.   

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