He said that minority mothers often qualify for Medicaid or other financial support that pays their expenses while they are carrying their babies, and sometimes will cover the cost of the delivery, whereas white mothers often do not, so those costs are paid by the prospective parents of the baby.
In some states the birth mother's living expenses can also be passed on to the adoptive parents, and that can create a disparity in cost for different adoptions. If a birth mother does not have other support, laws in some states allow the cost of her rent, maternity clothes and food to be passed on to the couple seeking to adopt her child.
One Web site for a licensed, non-profit adoption agency says it will wind up costing prospective parents about $19,000 to $35,000 to adopt "non-African American (i.e. Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American etc. or any non-African American combination of races) healthy newborns and infants" through the "Traditional Programs."
In the "Minority Program," prospective parents can expect to pay an average of $8,000 to $15,000.
The difference between the costs for black and non-black babies is explained by the "subsidies to help offset the costs of these adoptions" and because more advertising is needed to find non-black babies.
There is also a difference in cost depending on whether a family is willing to wait nine to 18 months for a non-black baby ($19,000-$24,000) or wants an infant in three to nine months ($27,000-$35,000).
"The fee difference results from higher living expenses and medical expenses for the birth parents," the site explains. "Also, because there are fewer familes that can afford these higher cost adoptions, the waiting times are significantly reduced."
Hutcherson and some adoption experts said the range and disparity of fees seen on the site are representative of the fees of many private adoption agencies as well.
‘Money Should Not Be Driving Factor’
Every state prohibits the buying and selling of children, but agencies and facilitators are allowed to charge fees that are deemed to be reasonable.
Only four states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Minnesota — ban adoptions by independent facilitators or attorneys, though Connecticut, Massachusetts and Minnesota will all waive the requirement that adoptions be done through an agency if the child's interests are better served by an independent adoption.
"It is interesting that states have never looked at why the fees for a white newborn might be $30,000 and why the fee for a black 5-year-old with slight retardation should be $2,000," Adoption Insitute executive director Cindy Friedmutter said. "The costs of adopting either child shouldn't be any different.
"The laws are in some cases not strong enough and in some cases are not enforced well enough," she added. "Money should not be the driving factor."
Some states allow independent adoption agencies, facilitators or even families who want to adopt to place advertisements in newspapers, magazines, on the Internet or other means to find birth mothers who want to give up their babies. Unscrupulous facilitators will sometimes try to pressure pregnant young women into giving up their child for adoption by holding out the promise of money for their "product," Friedmutter said.
"For poor families, for young, unwed mothers, that creates untoward pressure," she said. "That's not the way adoption is supposed to work.
"When money's involved, ethics go out the window," she added.