Can I Adopt a Child for Free?

Adoption is expensive. Here's how to do it for free—or at least for cheap.

Derek Williams June 04, 2018
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A huge barrier to private adoption is the cost involved. Domestic, private adoption can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000. International adoptions can cost as much as $40,000 depending on which adoption agency you choose and which country you choose to adopt from. This discourages many people who want to adopt before the process even begins. But there is hope! It is possible to adopt without mortgaging your home. Here’s how:

Foster Care Adoption

According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, out of the 400,000 foster children in the US, 100,000 of them are free for adoption.

Foster care adoption costs virtually nothing. In many states, if you adopt from foster care, application fees, home study fees, pre-service training fees and attorney fees are waived. This differs from private or international adoptions, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The courts will appoint you an attorney and a foster/adopt agency who will write your home study, free of charge. The only costs you may incur in foster care adoption are improvements to your home and property, first aid/CPR training, fingerprinting, adoption physicals, and other minor costs. The elimination of the bulk of these costs frees the adoption applicant to focus on the care of the child, which is of utmost importance. If you are willing to adopt older kids or sibling groups, foster care adoption may be right for you. If the child has special needs, he or she may also be eligible for an adoption subsidy. Lastly, there may be tax benefits for adopting a child out of foster care.

County Attorneys

If you have an identified child, you may be able to adopt a child for little to no cost if you hire a county attorney. You may need to do a little research to see what your state and county regulations are. However, county attorneys often charge low fees. If you know of a mother who is already willing to voluntarily relinquish her rights and is not involved with Child Protective Services, this type of private adoption may be possible. We’re talking hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands.


Guardianship is not quite adoption but not quite foster care. Guardianship is a legal measure, approved by the courts, in which a parent turns over custody to another responsible adult who agrees to care for the child. A guardian has the power to make health, education, and personal decisions for that child. Guardianship may be temporary or permanent. Temporary guardianship may be granted if parental rights have not been involuntarily severed. With temporary guardianship, the birth mom still retains parental rights, still has visitation rights, and may petition the courts to end guardianship should she feel that she is now in a position to raise the child. Permanent guardianship may be granted to another person if it is proven that abuse, neglect, or abandonment has occurred by the biological mom. Seek legal advice should you choose this route.

Whatever path you choose, caring for another child not your own is a lofty goal. Don’t let a lack of funds deter you from following your desire to care for another child. You will not go broke adopting, fostering, or taking guardianship of a child. On the contrary, it will be the most rewarding thing you have ever done.

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Derek Williams

Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journeys. He and his wife started their own adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children, 6 of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities, including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.

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