Crowdfunding the cost of having a child
Kickstarter. Indiegogo. GoFundMe. What do all of these websites have in common (besides catchy multisyllabic names)?
They’re all popular crowdfunding hubs on the Internet, platforms where people can request or donate money in the confidence of a presumably non-fraudulent environment.
Just in case you’ve been hibernating since around 2006, let’s begin with a quick primer on crowdfunding. Somewhat intuitively, you may be able to gather that crowdfunding is a way to fund a project or venture by accepting amounts of money from a crowd. Technically speaking, crowdfunding is a concept that’s been around for ages. Asking people for money in times of desperate need seems to be a logical, universally human thing to do, and the patronal model has been around for ages, assisting artists and writers to create and not starve in the process for millennia.
Of course, if we expand, explore and contextualize this concept in the modern age of the World Wide Web, we come to the contemporary definition of crowdfunding. Despite each website’s attempt to differentiate itself, most, if not all, crowdfunding sites enable people to create profiles, short videos, itemized lists, elaborate and/or witty descriptions and entreaties and even incentives, all in order to convince the general public to fund your newest creative endeavor.
Now, perhaps as to be expected, we’ve seen a lot of strange things crowdfunded over the years. Relatively recently, for example, 6,911 backers pledged $55,492 to fund a young man’s creation of a potato salad on Kickstarter, and 161 backers offered up $7,423 for a slightly crazy puppet twincest musical starring famous YouTuber Jon Cozart, aka Paint. But the latest crowdfunding trend has caused quite the ethical and sociopolitical stir: Crowdfunding the cost of a child.
It should come as no surprise that children are expensive. While your child may be priceless, the cost to raise him or her is actually quite estimable: CNNMoney reported that “To raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18, it will cost a middle-income couple just over $245,000, according to newly released estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Yet this sum does not even take into consideration some couples’ need for expensive fertility treatments, or the often exorbitant costs of adoption. On Nov. 1, 2014, The Seattle Times reported that in vitro fertilization costs approximately $20,000, and the costs of one couple’s international adoption cost an initial $25,000, with an additional $10,000 necessary for delays and multiple unforeseen international flights.
Thus, even if a couple may be relatively fiscally sound, it is reasonable to see how a little extra money would ease some of their excess financial burden.
And that’s exactly where crowdfunding comes in. Hundreds of pages exist on sites such as GoFundMe, Indiegogo and AdoptTogether to help alleviate the costs of fertility treatments or adoption fees. Family, friends, even strangers read the pleading stories, see the loving pictures and open their full wallets, and et voila — the longing couple is finally on their way to a happily ever after. It’s a heartwarming testament to the kindness and empathy of humanity. What could possibly go wrong?
Besides the complaints of countless people decrying the process as lazy and/or irresponsible, there are also potential moral ramifications. Who’s to say, for example, that this money is truly going to this cause? Sure, there are rules against the abuse of that sort of thing, but they can’t be impossible to evade. Even if the story is true, who’s to say that seemingly loving couple on the Internet is actually mentally, physically and emotionally ready and fit to raise a child? And if we encourage crowdfunding the costs of adoption or fertility treatments, who’s to stop future couples from crowdfunding birthday presents? School supplies? College funds? Heck, why not crowdfund your child’s whole life?
Of course, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the success of crowdfunding relies on the generosity of often bona fide strangers. If people are moved by a story, shouldn’t they be allowed to use their money as they see fit? We should ultimately not disparage desperate people for being resourceful, especially if their intentions are pure and they end up successfully becoming healthy parents. After all, as the old adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
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