Adoption Cost

Don't let the cost of adoption keep you from adopting.

Elizabeth Curry & Lita Jordan February 26, 2019
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Adoption cost is one of the important questions many prospective adoptive parents ask when first starting the adoption process. It’s no secret that many adoption options have costs which are very high. Adoption cost, while it is an important aspect that parents need to keep in mind, is also something that can be planned for; it should not be the one reason to rule out adoption.

Before we delve into the actual adoption costs for the three main variety of adoptions (intercountry, domestic newborn, and adoption from foster care), let’s take a moment and touch on some of the ways that parents have found to finance an adoption.

There are many options out there for covering adoption costs. Some people have worked a second job, made significant cuts in their spending, or saved for several years in order to finance an adoption. Others have taken out loans, borrowed against their 401K, or taken advantage of an employer’s adoption benefits. Adoption grants are out there, but there are far more applicants than funds available, so grants cannot be counted on for funding. Finally, some people do fundraise, though within the adoption community, this has a very mixed reception. And remember, as you will see, some forms of adoption cost less than others. If you qualify for adopting from foster care, and that is something that fits your family, then it can be an affordable adoption option.

International Adoption Cost

Let’s now break down what the costs are in adoption, starting with intercountry (or international) adoption. The first step in nearly any adoption process is having a home study completed. For intercountry adoptions, you will need to make sure that the home study agency you choose is licensed to write home studies for the country you wish to adopt from. This may mean that you cannot use the least expensive agency, so be aware of that. A home study written for an international adoption is usually around $2,000 to $4,000 dollars. This is what you will pay your agency, but there are most costs as well. You will need to be fingerprinted, which can generally cost about $60 per person. (Your state will probably vary.) You will also need to have physicals and often a TB test done—which, depending on your insurance, will cost you out of pocket. If you live in a more rural area and use water from a well on your property, you will also have to pay to have your well water tested. Finally, if you live outside a certain distance from your adoption agency, you may also have to pay a travel reimbursement to your agency for your social worker’s travel costs.

One of the biggest ticket items in the adoption cost of international adoption is the agency fee. This fee pays for the adoption agency to act as your liaison between you and the country you are adopting from. Their employees help to match you with your child, provide adoption education, help you to complete the needed paperwork, translate and submit it to the country you are working with, facilitate travel, and also keep their own licensing up to date. All of this comes with a fee. Most program fees (the costs paid to an agency for these services) run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the agency and which country you are adopting from, though sometimes agencies will quote up to $25,000 for their fee. It pays to do your research.

You have your home study, and you have chosen your placement agency. Now, it’s now time to work on more paperwork and begin the immigration process. Unlike domestic adoption, intercountry adoption requires you to file the appropriate paperwork so that your new child can enter the U.S. and become a citizen. The first step is filing the I800A or the I600a, depending on if the country is a signer of the Hague Convention. Applying for the I800A/I600A also comes with a price tag. Currently, the application fee is $775. Plus, you get to pay for more fingerprinting, so include $85 for each person in your household who is or soon will be over 18.

Once you are approved to bring home an immigrant child, most countries will require you to create and submit a dossier. This is a document which tells the sending country about you, and that you have been proven to be a fit parent. Documents in the dossier can include doctor’s statements (yes, more doctor’s appointments), employment verification, birth, marriage, and divorce certificates (you’ll have to spring to get brand new ones), financial statements, photographs, and personal references. Every single item in your dossier will most likely need to go through the certification process at both the state and country levels, though some states also require an additional county certification. All of these various certifications cost money ranging from just $2 per document up to more than $40 per document. Once they are certified, you will probably need them to go to the consulate or embassy of the country you are adopting from and have them either authenticated or apostilled, depending on what is required. Once again, there is a fee per document to have this done. If you do not live in a city with an embassy or consulate, you will also need to make use of a courier to carry your documents in for you. Don’t forget to add in your FedEx account spending to overnight these precious documents back and forth. You’ve worked too hard on them to lose them in the mail! For those adding up numbers, figure somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000 for paperwork costs.

The next big ticket item in international adoption cost is travel. This is a highly variable budget item because so much is dependent upon which country you are traveling to. In some countries, you only need to stay a few days while others require a parent to stay for weeks, and still, other countries require multiple trips. The cost within the countries will vary as well. I’ve seen travel quotes range from $3,500 to $4,000 for China, to $9,000 to $15,000 for Ukraine, and $7,000 to $9,000 for Colombia. Your travels costs will also depend on the type of hotel you stay in, how much you spend on food, and how much shopping you do.

There will also be other adoption-related costs while you are in country. You will need to pay for your child’s passport, visa, and visa physical. If you are traveling to China, you will also have the orphanage donation, which is often around $5,000. Additionally, other countries will have childcare fees. (On a second note, this article lays out the real costs of parents choosing to not pay the donation, which is exceedingly important to note.

Once you are home, there are still fees to pay. Your state will require a series of post-placement visits as will the country you adopted from. Each visit will be between $200 and $500. On top of this, in order to ensure that you comply with submitting post-placement reports, many agencies will require a deposit, often in the $1,000 range which will be returned upon completion of all required paperwork. Social worker travel reimbursement will apply to these visits as well.

 Lastly, you will need to be sure you have dotted and crossed your legal i’s and t’s. If your child’s paperwork (mainly her certificate of citizenship) is not in the name she will be using, you will need to legally change her name to the correct one. This will most likely involve going through a readoption in your state. Some states require this step anyway, so you can do it at the same time. Other states have an administrative option for obtaining a Certificate of Foreign Birth, the equivalent of having a U.S. birth certificate. Readoptions can cost as much as $2,000 with the administrative options being less. To apply for a corrected Certificate of Citizenship, you will be asked to send in $555

Domestic and Foster Adoption Cost

The adoption cost in regards to domestic newborn adoption will include a variety of fees and expenses. There may be an application fee for the adoption agency that the prospective adoptive parents must pay. If an adoption attorney is used, he or she will often require a retainer for the services. These fees, again, will vary based on the agency or attorney used. The first expenses involved are related to ensuring that prospective adoptive parents are legally eligible to adopt a child. To ensure this, the prospective adoptive parents will need to go through an adoption home study. The home study will need to be done by a licensed adoption professional. The cost of this home study will vary based on the state and the adoption agency chosen. The average cost of a home study can range between $1,500-$3,000.

After the legwork of adoption eligibility is completed, the adoption cost moving forward will largely depend on if the prospective adoptive parents are already matched or need to be matched. If the prospective adoptive parents need to be matched with a birth mother, the agency or attorney will often require a match fee. This fee allows for the agency or attorney to work, on the prospective adoptive parent’s behalf, to advertise them to expectant mothers as a potential placement for their child. There will also likely be birth mother expenses that prospective adoptive parents are obligated to pay under their state law. These expenses go towards pregnancy-related expenses such as medical care, maternity clothes, and some living expenses. The adoption cost related to birth mother expenses will be determined by the state and may be waived in some instances. Some states put a cap on the amount of birth parent expenses that are allowed. To see what birth mother expenses your state requires, you can review that information on this link.

Once the child is born, the prospective adoptive parents will need to handle adoption costs associated with post placement. Many states require that prospective adoptive parents pay for counseling for birth mothers after placement. They will also be required to pay for post-placement visits. These post-placement visits are done typically by the licensed adoption professional who conducted their home study. They may occur within a week after the child is brought home and often continues once a month until finalization, though the frequency will vary by state. The visits can range in price depending on the state and the agency performing the visit.

The adoption cost in regards to foster care adoption can be a breath of fresh air after researching the high cost of other types of adoption. Adoption from foster care can typically range from little to no cost. The reason for that is due to the fact that there are many children within the foster care system in need of forever families. The state and the child welfare agency are funded to handle the adoption process and to take on the costs in order to find these children homes faster and without the financial burden for prospective adoptive parents. If there are some court costs that prospective parents will need to pay up front, these are typically reimbursed. Prospective adoptive parents may also choose to hire an attorney to help them navigate the process, though this is not usually necessary. If they do choose to hire an attorney, this cost will need to be covered by the prospective adoptive family personally. In order to determine adoption costs for your situation, your adoption agency or adoption attorney will often be able to provide a fee schedule of all set fees before you choose to move forward.

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Elizabeth Curry & Lita Jordan


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