Monday, July 30, 2007

I'm polling your thoughts!

2nd Update: Hey! 12.5% of you (so far) have voted for paying the fees. I'd love to hear your perspective on this in the comments section--truly. Props to Darren for sticking his neck out for the yes voters out there! LOL!

Update: Be sure to check out the comments for more thought provoking opinions, on both sides.

Hi all,

I want to hear (or rather see) your thoughts on something. It's an issue that's not cut and dry to me and has been on my mind for quite a while.

I don't think any of us LIKE paying fees to agencies/facilitators in order to complete international adoptions. But I bet most of us realize that it is legitimate and appropriate to pay agencies for the services they give clients. Programs cost money to run. Agency personnel deserve to be paid.

It's standard practice for clients to sign a contract and fee agreement with their agency before they begin an adoption. Some contracts are better (for the client) than others, but I would venture a guess that the majority of adoptive parents kind of wave off any red flags because they believe the agency they chose wouldn't ever do anything "like that" to them. I know Eric and I have done that. We're excited to get going...are invested in the relationship we are building with the just kind of sign the contract and don't think about it again.

So here's the situation... Agency X has you sign a fee agreement stating fees will be X amount. Also includes a statement that fees could change during the process. You don't like reading that statement, but okay, we understand it could happen and think "we'll cross that bridge if we come to it." You sign the fee agreement.

Adoption goes forward and you pay all of your fees on time! Feels GREAT to have the adoption fees paid off and to start thinking about travel budget.

Several months go by. Adoption is finally complete. Yee-haw!

A month AFTER your adoption decree is issued the agency notifies you that you owe "back fees" for monthly childcare at the orphanage.

Hmmm...were never notified of that. Remember seeing some sort of email to a group saying that monthly fees were starting to be charged, but assumed that was for new families (standard practice) and that your fee agreement would be honored. And surely if the new fees applied you'd get a letter from your agency stating this. But you didn't. You've kept all of your communication and you were never told about fees applying to you, nor were you ever charged fees until 7 months after the fact.

So in the end you were never really given a choice to consider these fees when they started to be charged to you 7 months before you were notified. You didn't have a chance to decide whether you agreed with the fee changes and if you would continue on with the agency--7 months before.

So here's the question: Do you pay the fees now? Vote below and don't forget to leave a comment if you have more thoughts on the issue!!


Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Yes and no...

Yes .. the agency should have said something at the start of it and yes it is up to the clients to ask this as well, in hindsite... I too would have asked and should have asked, I didn't , and I too got a bill. But at the end of the day, it does go to the Orphanage, and as Americans. You are lucky that most of your adoption can be claimed as a tax deduction? Not having a go at you Anita.. I do understand where your coming from... or others shouldn't have to pay it... if it wasn't mentioned to us at the begining...BUT what would happen if you or me didn't ? Is it really worth not paying it?... maybe come to some sort of an it off or simply just don't pay it if you feel that you shouldn't and they can't take you court!!!

Anita and Family 8:38 AM  

Anonymous Darren--Gotta sign your name dude!!! =-)

Definitely disagree with you that clients need to ask "Hey agency, any fee changes you need to tell me about?" Agencies should notify clients of fee changes.

Tax Credit (not deducation) doesn't play into this at all. Most Americans don't live the way you are able to in Bahrain (not having a go at you either) and it's HARD to come up with adoption fees, even harder when the fees change in the middle. That's why most agencies honor the original fee agreement signed by families even if the fees need to go higher for new families.

Anyway...this was put up there as a hypothetical. I know several families that this has happened to. I think it's important for people to know about because the contracts are written (in most cases) to protect the agency and put the clients at a huge disadvantage if issues arise. People--read your contracts! If you have problems with it, negotiate changes with your adoption agency if it's possible--if not possible don't sign it and move on.

Eric and I will be much more careful about adoption agency contracts in the future. =-)


thecurryseven 9:06 AM  

I would like to think I would not pay them. (Although, when the future of your child is at stake, who knows what any of us will do in that situation.) Any other business would notify you in a contract that retroactive fees may be charged or notify you and then charge. But, the adoption industry often doesn't seem to work like other businesses. In this case, to me at least, it is tantamount to extortion. The agency still holds the power for you to bring your child home. There is always the implied threat that if you don't pay the fees, you will not bring home the child. The agencies who practise this type of business know that parents, by this point of the game, will do just about anything to get their child. The clause in the contract that fees may change also allows agencies to suddenly demand large cash payments of parents who are already in country, who are once again caught between a rock and a hard place with the child caught in the middle. Reputable agencies, who know what they're doing, don't need to charge unexpected fees at the end of an adoption. This may sound strong, but adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents really need to join together and expect truely ethical behavior from adoption agencies.

Anita and Family 9:20 AM  

Amen...nough said. =-)


Sue 2:16 PM  


It sounds unethical to me that this unexpected bill would be sent now.

Also, you are correct, that this has nothing to do with the adoption tax credit. Many families can't even use the tax credit because they don't make enough income, as in our case. So it is useless to those who need it most.


Story of our Life 2:43 PM  

This is a really thought provoking question. I will be interested in reading the responses.

Since we are currently on hold in our adoption process. I can/will say that I do see both sides of the issue. And it will affect me directly in the future when we decide to move fwd and with which country.

Recently I've read numerous adoptive parents who have had this happen to them. They wait for the referral of their child (because the country is taking forever) or vise versa where it takes forever for the given country to 'process' the adoption and then the rates go up in the process. my ever so humble opinion. I think that once the contract is signed w/the listed fees ect ect. It should NOT change unless in the agreement it says "rates, ect ect can/will go up for x,y,z of services". If you add "new" fees then the families should be grandfather'd in.

Now...can I just say (again in my ever so humble opinion) In relation to your experiences w/Bright and the process you went through. I in my heart don't feel like he would be in your hands right now...if it were not for YOUR dedication and love forhim. I'm not saying the agency involved didn't love him. However, when it came down to it ( my ever so humble opinion...) emotions on their part got in the way. SOOO....Good For Bright he has a mommy and a daddy who were able to sacrifice what they did to get him home!!!!

:) Love Ya, G for the Tax Credit. others have said it all depends on your income. If you make to little it doesn't apply. If you make to much - it doesn't apply.

Anita and Family 3:11 PM  

Thank you all for your comments. I really do think this is more about the practice in general, rather than our specific experience with a specific agency.

Most agency contracts have that little sentence in there that says fees may raise without warning. But I don't know that anybody takes that to mean "fees may be charged without notice!"

The standard within the agency world (as someone pointed out) is that the agency, when fees need to be raised, would announce it to all clients that effective X date fees for new clients will change.

I've never heard of an agency (before our experience) that added fees mid-adoption to clients already in process, even though technically according to the contract, they can.


Carrie 3:29 PM  

If there was no communication about the fee change and no bill until way after the adoption was complete then I would refuse to pay and involve my attorney as necessary. If I had a very good relationship with my agency then I would consider negotiating the fee with them and paying some of it...but I'd be hard pressed to see that as a possibility because we we had that kind of relationship to begin with then i can't see them coming after me for "back fees".

At what point does it go from being OK to charge APs back fees when program fees change to extortion? 2 months after the adoption is final? 5? 1yr? Yikes that's a slippery slope.

Stacy 3:44 PM  

I can understand that sometimes things change with a program mid-stream, and as you said many contracts do state that some of the costs can change - and I've seen this happen with some of the Vietnam programs with it fairly newly reopened.

So that's a case scenario that I suppose I would work with - being notified during an adoption that things are changing.

But to have the adoption completed and then be told after the fact you owe additional and retroactive charges? Absolutely not. Accommodating something like that, to me, opens the door for extremely shady, unethical and probably retalitory behavior. As Carrie said - when would that window close of bringing up charges? If an agency was ok with doing that, how likely do you suppose it would be to happen to clients who had been unhappy or perhaps spoke out against their agency, but not to those who kept their mouth shut (or I could make a case for the reverse too - take advantage of the meeker clients).

If somehow something came up that I felt was sincere and legitimate, I may work with an angency on it. But the concept to me reeks of either poor management and communication or unethical behavior by the agency. If they can't work with me on the charges coming up during the process, I'd be hard-pressed to find a reason to accommodate them post-process.

Amblin 4:28 PM  

I can't think of any other service you pay for where you can be charged *after* the service is performed for additional fees. That is just bizzare. It would be like having a Cesarean section, paying for it, and then 7 months later my OB/GYN sends me a bill for further payment because of an increase. Or because he used 3 pairs of gloves and I paid for the listed 1 pair on the bill.

Those things are negotiated beforehand and if the change needs to occur, payment or notification takes place immediately not 7 months after the fact.

I'd talk to my lawyer.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

I could understand paying unspecified fees if, perhaps, a country decided issue a fee for some service that was previously free. HOWEVER, requiring childcare fees after the fact PLUS not notifing the client in a proper manner is not a fee i'd pay. When agencies have fee increases they are generally for new clients not clients om process. At least that's my experience having adopted three times with three different agencies

Anita and Family 7:03 PM  

I seriously appreciate all of your thoughts on this issue. I want to let everybody know that it DOES appear that an agency can legally (not ethically, but legally) charge these fees if they have the "fees can change at any time" clause in their contract.

I really think it is general practice for an agency to have this clause in their contract. We seriously would ask an agency to strike out that clause if we were to adopt in the future.

It's interesting "talking" to you all about this since I now work for an agency and am not sure what is in their contract. They do have 30 years of good ethical practice behind them though. That's something our previous agency didn't have.


Grosso Family 7:51 PM  

I would never do it myself - so I wouldn't expect you to do it.

I believe that with most things when you sign an agreement with fees - they need to notify you in writing of any changes - but most are grandfathered - or going forward these are what the fee's are.
Lame to think that families that were told their adoption would take 6 months to complete and months later (not completed) you are told the fee's go up? that is unethical in any language.

Katie Jo 8:45 PM  

I voted Yes. I think that we would and it would stink. However, God provided ever dime of our adoption through donations and fundraising, so I really think He would give us more money to pay the fees. Of course I would want to discuss the lack of communication with the agency...but, it has become standard practice in our household to do what is right, even if it costs us.

Anita and Family 9:18 PM  

Katie Jo,

Thanks for your comment and I appreciate your perspective. I think this is the key question we have to ask ourselves--"What is right?"