Adoption may be much more budget-friendly than you thought!

If you have ever considered adopting a child but assumed it was too expensive for someone without a large income, think again.

In fact, it is possible to adopt a child for free or for a low fee. Singles and families with modest incomes adopt every day and find it quite affordable. They just need to think carefully before committing to an adoption path.

Let’s take a look at the options.

How Much Is the Cost of Adoption in Foster Care?

Foster care adoption is by far the least expensive way to adopt.

The cost of adoption from foster care is usually between $0 and $3,000. This is because families are working through local state child welfare agencies, so there are none of the fees that are usually connected with private adoption.

Some families do choose to use a private agency to help facilitate a foster care adoption. This is required in some states, although others have government agencies that oversee foster care adoptions. The legal fee of $3,000 or less that some families incur when they adopt through foster care is sometimes reimbursed by the state. If it isn’t, most families can take advantage of a federal or state tax credit that will be more than sufficient to help them recoup these funds.

In addition, children adopted through foster care often receive ongoing health insurance in the form of Medicaid until they are 18 years old. They may even be eligible for free college tuition, depending on the age they adopted at and the state they are adopted in. Children with special needs, including developmental needs stemming from poor early childhood circumstances, may be eligible for ongoing stipends that can be used for counseling, medical visits, and other services. Other youngsters who are considered to have special needs are those who are part of sibling groups or children who are members of ethnic or racial groups that exit the system at slower rates.

Most of the children available for adoption through foster care are between the ages of 3 and 8 years old. Approximately two-thirds of the children in foster care also have a sibling in care, as do 20 percent of those children already available for adoption. Research suggests that siblings adopted together feel more secure and are better able to adjust to their new families. Siblings have been shown to have less failed placements, fewer moves, and many emotional benefits than children adopted alone.

If you are interested in adopting through foster care, a simple search engine query of foster adoptions in your state will lead you to the right organizations or private agencies who facilitate them. In most cases, you will need to be over 21 years old and financially stable. You will have to participate in training, as well as complete a satisfactory home study. While you do not need to live in a palace, you will need to show adequate space for your child, including a separate bedroom. You do not need to be married to adopt through foster care. Families will be asked questions about their parenting philosophy, education, and interest in adoption. Interviews are conducted and references need to be supplied.

While this seems like a lot of red tape, adoption through foster care allows you to provide a home to a child who would have no means to support themselves once they age out of the system. Twenty percent of these young people will become instantly homeless if they don’t have a permanent home, and less than 3 percent will go on to receive a higher education. Only half of the kids who age out will have a job by the time they reach 24 years old.

Once you become approved to adopt in your state, you can also research the children available for adoption throughout the country. Be sure to contact the child’s social worker right away if you are interested, and they can supply you with more information. Remember that you will not be the only person interested in some cases.

It is possible to adopt a child under age 3 through foster care. In fact, children under the age of 1 are a growing part of first-time admissions to foster care. Sixty percent of these children are African American or Hispanic and many are part of a sibling group. Almost half of all adoptions through foster care are of children who entered care before the age of 1.

If you are interested in adopting an infant through foster care, you will probably have to foster the child before you adopt. If this is your goal, your agency or social worker may be able to identify children who are more likely to become available for adoption in the future. They cannot, however, guarantee that birth parent rights will be terminated.

The stipend for fostering can be anywhere from $400-$800 per child each month, depending on the state you live in and the age of the child you are fostering. All income received for fostering is tax-sheltered. The funds can be used to provide for the basic needs of the child, such as food, clothing, and child care. Additional funds may be available to provide services to children with special needs that are often continued after an adoption is finalized. Children in foster care are eligible for health insurance, and your state may provide a stipend that covers all legal fees when it is time to adopt.

What Is the Cost of Adoption Through a Domestic Agency?

The average cost of adopting through a domestic agency is $39,966. Domestic adoption is what most folks think of when they hear about adoption. An infant whose birth parent rights are terminated is given to adoptive parents, whom the birth mother has selected from a number of applicants.

If you are interested in domestic agency adoption, research agencies and look for one that you feel is best suited to meet your needs. Ask about the number of children they place each year, and the ages and genders of those placements. You will want to call references and find out if other couples or individuals were happy with their experience.

The costs associated with domestic adoption include agency fees, home study fees, legal fees,  birth mother expenses, and travel. The amount of “openness” between the birth mother and adoptive parents is usually worked out before the child is born.

In many cases, you will need to supply an online or physical photo book to show to prospective birth mothers before you adopt. You can provide photos of your home, pets, interests, and other children so she can make an informed decision about who she wishes to raise her child. There is a good deal of competition with domestic adoption, and you will likely have to wait two or three years before being matched with a child.

There is a lot of financial assistance available to parents who adopt. The main way most middle-income families make it affordable is the federal adoption tax credit, which is currently $13,810 per child. Any necessary adoption fees, court fees associated with adoption, and travel expenses can be recouped up to this amount through the tax credit.

If you and your spouse have a combined income of less than $207,140, you are eligible for the full tax credit. If your combined income is between $207,140 and $247,140, you are eligible for part of the credit. If your combined income is above $247,140, you do not qualify for the adoption tax credit.

While the adoption tax credit is not a windfall, it is money that you will not have to pay in income taxes after your adoption is finalized. The amount is per child, so it could be doubled or tripled if you adopt a sibling group. You have up to five years to use the credit.

Some states offer additional tax credits ranging from $1,500-$10,000 per child. There are currently 17 states that offer their own credits, and you will want to see how much you are entitled to before you consider adoption.

Many employers also offer adoption tax benefits. In the same way that they may give you a flat fee toward infertility treatments, many major companies and some smaller ones will give their employees a certain amount of money toward each child they adopt.

A third way that families make adoption affordable is adoption grants. Some grant agencies have money available that you can apply for, and others will assist you in fundraising for your adoption. Some grant organizations specialize in certain types of adoptions, such as sibling adoptions or Eastern European adoptions. As with anything else, doing your research and working hard will help to make your dream come true.

What Is the Cost of Adoption Through a Private Lawyer?

A private adoption through a lawyer can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $20,000. Families will be responsible for paying legal fees, home study fees, and birth mother expenses.  Unlike agency adoption, adoptive parents using a lawyer may find themselves responsible for more legwork, such as placing ads in papers to find birth mothers or answering phone calls. A good lawyer will hold your hand through the process.

Families who adopt privately are also eligible to be reimbursed through federal and state tax credits, employer assistance, and adoption grants.

What Is the Cost of Adoption in Another Country?

International adoption is one of the most expensive ways to create a family. Depending on which country you adopt from, it could cost anywhere from $30,000-$45,000 per child. Fees associated with international adoption include agency fees, home study fees, dossier reviews, international travel, and food and lodging abroad. Some countries require shorter stays of less than a week, and others require stays as long as three months while your adoption is finalized.

Many families who adopt internationally choose that path because it does not involve any contact with the birth mother. It is possible to adopt infants internationally, although, lately, it is more common to adopt toddlers and school-aged children. Some popular countries families currently adopt from are China, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Haiti.

Families who adopt internationally are eligible for tax credits, employer assistance, and adoption grants. Be sure to check with your state, as well as your company’s HR department, before determining if you can afford to adopt a child overseas.

What Is the Cost of Adoption?

The cost of adoption will vary greatly, depending on which path you choose to take. If your budget is tight, foster adoption is a wonderful way to grow your family and provide a home to a child in desperate need of love. If your heart is leading you to adopt a domestic infant or an internationally-born child, tax credits, employer assistance, and adoption grants can help make the process more affordable.

However you choose to adopt, get ready for a roller-coaster adventure that will change your life and make you grateful for every penny you invested in the life of a precious little one.

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.