Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Retroactive Fees: Comments and Follow Up

Thank you all so much for the wonderful dialougue in the comment section today. Your perspectives really did make me investigate my own heart more on the issue. First, the comments. Then I'll share more about the conclusion we came to about our personal experience with "retroactive fees."


Anonymous said...
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... No..you/me 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 agreement..pay 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 said...
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 said...
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 said...
TheCurrySeven,Amen...nough said.

Anita,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.Sue

Story of our Life said...
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. Personally...in 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 (again...in 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, Gps...as for the Tax
Credit. Again..as 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 said...
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.Anita

Carrie said...
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 said...
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.

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.

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

Anita and Family said...
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.Anita

Grosso Family said...
NO NO NOI 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 said...
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 said...
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?"
9:18 PM

In the end, 30 of you voted that no, you would not pay the fees. 5 of you voted that yes, you would. I was actually quite surprised that nearly 15% of voters would pay the fees because "what the agency says, goes." But I think that Katie Jo's comment might have given me a clue about the perspective of the other "yes" voters. It's all about what we see as right and wrong. Do we pay the fees because the agency can charge them, legally? Or do we fight the fees because they shouldn't charge them, ethically?

One thing that we didn't bring up is the "we're home and I just want to be done with it" factor. That is REAL! Eric and I are living proof (okay, me more than him). Bringing Bright home was a difficult journey for us. I just want to enjoy him and not think about the yucky stuff. I want to be through with that agency relationship. So, for my sake Eric agreed last night that we would pay the large majority of the fees we are told we owe (82% of the fees to be exact!). I bit the bullet and told the agency we would be sending payment within the month, minus a few hundred dollars that we are contesting. I said we would not pay more than this and felt that this was a fair resolution.

Unfortunately, the agency would not resolve things there, so we are back at square one. We tried to pay several hundred dollars, but it wasn't accepted as enough. I will say...this completely took Eric and I by surprise. We made it clear that they could take X amount from us, or not a penny. They chose the second option.