International Adoption Costs

Costs associated with adopting internationally can vary wildly depending on a lot of factors. Here's a quick guide to give you an idea of what to expect.

article image

Before you figure out how you are going to pay for the adoption, you need some idea of the total cost of the adoption. You need to know where you’re going before you can get there! The cost of adoption can vary widely depending on several choices, including whether to use an agency, what country you choose to adopt from, and how thrifty you can be in your travels. Some costs are more or less fixed, such as the filing fees with the government.

Agency Fees

Adoption agency fees vary widely. Different agencies have different fees for the same countries. The following is an example of one agency’s recent fees to use as a guide for estimating adoption expenses:

Application $175
Home study $1,500-$2,750
Dossier Fee $2,700
Adoption Program Fee $4,750-$12,250 (varies by country)
Travel for an escorted child $1,500-$4,000
Post Placement $700-$1400
Total: $11,325 – $23,275

Below are some examples of adoption program country fees:

China $9,000
Ecuador $7,500
Guatemala $7,500
India $7,500
Korea $12,250
Mongolia $9,000
Philippines $7,500
Romania $7,500
Thailand $7,500
Vietnam $9,000

Remember, these are only sample numbers-– you should check with different agencies and clarify exactly what is included in each fee structure to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

You should probably plan on the agency fee costing anywhere from $7,500 to $30,000. Some adoption agencies may lower their fees for families adopting older or special needs children and for lower income families. They will also typically lower their fees for adopting multiple children at a time or for repeat clients. Even if the agency doesn’t offer to lower its fee, you should always ask. It can’t hurt and you never know – you might end up saving some money!

About now, you’re probably wondering why the adoption agency fees are so high. Other than the overhead of running a business, agency fees go towards the costs of arranging the adoption – from passports for the child to translation costs and legal fees in that country. To ensure that you’re working with an adoption agency dedicated to helping children, be sure to ask each agency how much money is routed into building new orphanages or funding new foster families in that country.

One very important question to ask the agency is whether there is an additional orphanage fee. Some orphanage adoptions will require a donation to that orphanage (This is in addition to the country fee). In China, for example, this generally runs between $3,000 and $4,000.

Home Study Fees

Your home study does not have to be done through the adoption agency. It can be done independently or with a home study agency instead of with the adoption agency. An advantage of using a home study agency is that they will have experience with multiple adoption agencies and can give you some advice about which adoption agencies are more reputable. To find a home study agency in your area, try calling 1-800-Homestudy, or ask adoptive parents on adoption Web groups. International home study preparers are licensed differently than social workers who perform domestic adoption home studies.

The home study will typically cost anywhere from $300 to $3,000 (not including post-placement visits, which can cost around $200 per visit. As with all the numbers presented in this article, these are national averages. Your mileage may vary.) Some home studies may also require parenting or adoption information classes, which may entail yet another fee if your agency does not offer these classes as part of their services.

Government Fees

One item not included by the adoption agency costs are the various fees charged by the U.S. government for processing all the federal forms – the total cost for processing all these forms is around $1000. This does not include small charges for local requirements like state or county fingerprints and mailing costs.

Dossier Fees

One very important optional expense is the cost of having your adoption dossier authentication expedited. This may be included in some agency fee structures. While this expense is certainly optional, a good expediter will save you months of time and several dozen gray hairs by pushing your dossier through the government authentication process in weeks (or days) rather than the months it could take to do it yourself. Since there are different rules for each country, make sure that the person you choose to help expedite your dossier has processed other dossiers for your country of choice. For example, some countries require that any notarized documents have a notary whose commission does not expire for 12 months, while other countries only require six months of life for the notary’s commission. There’s no telling how many technical mistakes you might make on your dossier if you try to do this alone. Any mistake in your dossier can derail your international adoption quest. This expense should cost you less than $1,000 and is well worth it.

Travel

Travel expenses can add up quickly. It’s always best to assume that you aren’t going to get a super bargain on your airfare. To get a decent estimate once you’ve chosen a country, see what ticket prices are for two weeks’ advance notice for travel to get there. Also, check for special adoption fares from the airlines. (And remember that some countries require you to travel twice!) If you’re adopting a toddler or older child, you also need to remember to add in the cost of a one way ticket for your new child for the way back. Aside from airfare, the hotel bills and meals can really add up quickly, so make sure you don’t forget to add this into your cost estimate.

Legal

Legal fees can vary from $500 to $4,000, depending on the circumstances. The best way to get a good estimate for this is to consult with an agency you are considering or interview a local attorney who specializes in international adoption.