EL PASO -- Callers to Children's Connection in Lubbock are a little different from those of just a few years ago.
Inquiries about adopting children from foreign countries largely have become calls asking how to adopt children from Texas or elsewhere in the United States.
"Economics really does play a role in adoption," said Debora Phillips, adoption director for the state for Children's Connection. The nonprofit organization helps connect prospective parents with adoption agencies and helps them through the adoption process.
"We're seeing people that are still pursuing adoption plans, but maybe their interests are changing. Maybe they're not going to the most expensive option they might have gone to a year or two ago," she said.
She said others think adoption costs are now simply too high to allow them to expand their families.
"It's really expensive," Phillips said.
In Texas the method of the adoptive parents picking up a new baby from the hospital just after its birth can cost between $20,000 and $40,000.
Parents who want to adopt an orphan from another country can spend between $20,000 and $45,000, she said.
Domestic adoptions, including older children in the nation's foster care system, can cost from a few thousand dollars up to about $20,000.
Phillips said there's been an increase in the number of people interested in adopting children waiting in Texas or other states.
She said of all El Paso callers to her organization in 2008, about one third
wanted domestic infant adoption, one third wanted international adoptions and another quarter were interested in waiting child adoptions. The remainder were interested in kinship adoption.
She said so far in 2009, interest in international adoption has decreased to about 14 percent among callers from El Paso. Interest in waiting child adoption increased from 25 percent to about 43 percent, and domestic infant adoption also increased to about 43 percent.
Firm statistics on the number of adoptions in El Paso or Texas were not available because courts immediately seal adoption records.
Those who want to adopt children from within Texas must first foster the children in their homes.
"If you go the foster-to-adopt method through Texas you might have a four- or five-year window to adopt and all you will pay for is the cost for the final hearing," Phillips said.
Adopting from other states will include paying for a home study. Some states pick up the costs for post placement visits, supervision during a trial period and final adoption costs.
She said a federal adoption tax credit also helps ease the financial burden for families. The military and some large companies offer a slight reimbursement for adoption costs.
The decreased costs for domestic adoptions are a big reason people are choosing that route. Changes in some international adoption rules have made it more difficult to adopt children from countries such as Mexico.
Phillips said she expected more people to again opt for international adoption as the economy improves and knowledge of the new international rules spreads.
Her agency has helped several El Paso families through the adoption process, including Tammy and Kevin Huckabee.
When Tammy Huckabee saw the photo of a small girl with blond hair and wide eyes among dozens of other Ukrainian orphans, she knew she had found her daughter.
The couple already had three children of their own, including a 3-year-old daughter at home.
"We realized our family still wasn't finished," she said.
Tammy Huckabee said she'd always felt there were supposed to be more children in her family. She and her husband tried to adopt more than a decade before, but the Mexico adoption of twin boys fell through.
After their daughter Alyssa was born several years later, they still felt their family had room to grow.
They contacted an adoption agency in 2006 and were recommended to look to the Ukraine to adopt because children there were more likely to share their physical features.
Nearly two years later, the Huckabees were in the Ukraine, looking through photos of available children.
The little girl with the big eyes was 2-year-old Yana. She and her two older brothers, Igor and Illya, were waiting for a family at Ukrainian orphanages. They are now 3, 5 and 9 years old.
The Huckabees couldn't resist.
Six weeks later, the children were in America with a new family and new names: Kailyn, Jacob and Jared Elijah.
They've learned English and love to romp around their Santa Teresa home with one another.
"It's like they were always with us," Tammy Huckabee said.
The couple said it's important that parents do their research before beginning the process.
Priscilla Aguilar checked everything out before she began the process that would bring her Ilker, a young Russian boy.
Ilker, 3, became her son last October.
"I just wanted to be a mom. I'm 32 and I'm not in a couple and I didn't think I had to wait to have a son," she said.
She opted to adopt from Russia because there were fewer restrictions placed on adoptions to single women.
She was placed on a waiting list for an infant in September 2007. Early the next year she changed her age limit to two years old and received a call two weeks later that a boy was waiting for her.
She was sent a photo of Ilker.
"The second I saw him I said he's mine," Aguilar said.
She underwent home studies and finished the required paperwork and visited Russia a total of three times before the adoption took place in October.
"They try to designate a child that goes with your personality, so I guess I described myself as pretty active," the lawyer said as Ilker buzzed around the room and clamored for her attention.
She said she saved to pay for the adoption costs, but the entire process was worth it.
"Being a mother is better than I ever thought," she said.
She recommended that prospective parents be patient through the process and reach out to others who have been there.
"Economics really does play a role in adoption"
I know so many people want to believe adoption is all about finding families for so-called orphans. But the truth is, with adoptions costing between 20-45k EACH, (plus travel and added "hidden costs), and roughly 3000 adoption agencies competing to make the sale, how can anyone doubt economics does NOT play a role in adoption?
The more I learn about the economics behind adoption, (especially international adoption), the more I realize it's not the cost of adoption that's too high... it's the formal attention given to specific details within the child placement system that is far too low. Details like child trafficking, corruption, abuse/neglect taking place while in-care... all these not-so-little things DO affect a child's safety and future well-being... all these factors DO affect future child behavior and development (and placement).
With so many "facilitators" working to make adoptions happen, (quicker and easier), in spite of a tough economy, one needs to take the time to wonder how this rush to place is going to help families and children.