Everyone is choosing to adopt a child for different reasons. Whether you’ve faced infertility, are seeking alternative ways to build your family, or are fostering a child you are adopting, there is one thing that is consistent: there is a financial cost that comes with adoption.
We all know it’s not polite to talk about money, but there is one thing you need to be talking about with adoption professionals and that’s how much adoption costs. When I first heard that the average adoption cost upwards of $40,000, I was worried and frankly, upset because I didn’t understand where that money went. Unfortunately, this is a shock to many as they start the process and though it may seem like it’s something you can’t afford, there are ways to offset this expense.
Though those costs vary depending on how you’re adopting. (Foster adoptions cost less than adoptions through private agencies), you’ll still have a cost that will come out of your pocket. Your first steps are to figure out what your cost will be, why that cost is there, and to figure out your best steps for managing to pay that fee.
What Is the Domestic Adoption Cost?
There is no one universal fee for adoption. In order to fully understand the domestic adoption cost, you’ll need to do research about your state, agency, lawyer fees, etc.
According to U.S. News, “The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a U.S. government-funded adoption information service, estimates that the average U.S. adoption costs $8,000 to $40,000. If you’re adopting a child from another country, the range is $15,000 to $30,000. If you’re adopting through foster care, which generally involves becoming the parent of an older child, the cost is much lower: zero to $2,500.” Read the full article here.
Though this seems like a shock to many, it’s the reality of adopting in the United States. It is expensive. Though it may not seem like it should cost this much, the reality is that there are fees and people that work to help make adoptions possible as well as to provide support for birth parents—these fees offset those costs as well.
For more information, read “What Is a General Breakdown of the Costs of Adoption?“
What Do the Fees Go Toward?
There are many things that the fee paid toward domestic adoption cost is for. This is all situational and depends of course on the agency, etc.
Some agencies charge a fixed fee—this means that no matter what happens, you’ll still pay one rate. Some agencies fees change during the adoption process as they increase every so often or because there are variances to the fee.
Adoption agency fees go toward many things. (And though it seems costly, in my opinion, it’s not only worth it, but once you understand what it goes through, it sometimes doesn’t even seem like enough!)
In some instances, agencies are advertising—this means sharing your profile, which comes at a cost to them. There are state guidelines that have to be met, regulatory meetings and continuing education by staff, as well as the upkeep of not-for-profit status, etc. All of this comes at a cost to the agency.
Adoption agencies are businesses that pay a staff (many of whom that we all call, email, and text around the clock during our adoption journey) and they have office expenses, space to pay for, paperwork, etc.
Many adoption agencies offer counseling services to birth parents. This is critical and when I found out this was something that our agency was offering to birth parents, before, during, and after the adoption, I was so grateful. There are things like this going on at many agencies that you’re likely not even aware of.
Other costs to consider that may or may not be within a set fee are:
1. Medical Expenses: If the birth mother doesn’t have insurance or isn’t on Medicaid, you might be responsible to pay for her hospital expenses. Additionally, you’ll be responsible for the baby’s stay in the hospital as well. (Check with your insurance company about getting that covered before preparing to pay for your baby’s stay out of pocket)
2. Legal Expense: In our case, a domestic adoption cost on top of our agency fee included the fee that we had to pay our lawyer to finalize our adoption in court. Your agency may appoint a lawyer, or you may have to find one yourself. This fee was minimal and was similar to that of our home study fee.
3. Home Study Fee: There is a possibility that your home study fee isn’t a part of your adoption fee. In most cases, this is a separate fee due to the fact that your home study can be utilized with different agencies, etc., so it’s a fee you’ll be expected to pay prior to your home study’s completion. It’s typically the first fee you pay following a deposit to an agency.
4. Living Expenses: Know your state’s policy for paying for living expenses for birth parents. Sometimes, this is a fee (with a cap!) that you’re expected to pay. I have heard some people complain about this cost, but think long and hard before you think negatively about this cost—someone is giving you the gift of a child, and in many instances, it’s because they don’t have the funds to raise that child. In my humble opinion, helping out with living expenses is just one small way you can help support these amazing individuals.
The best thing you can do to make sure you understand what out-of-pocket expenses, costs, and fees you’ll have to pay, is to ask a lot of questions so that you’re not surprised.
I’ve Heard About a Tax Credit for Domestic Adoption Cost.
There is an adoption tax credit that helps many offset the domestic adoption cost.
According to the North American Council of on Adoptable Children, the 2019 adoption tax credit is up to $14,080 per child.
Things to Know About the Adoption Tax Credit:
- This is not refundable—you have to owe that much in taxes to get the credit.
- You must have completed the adoption in the fiscal year that you’re filing
- This credit is only applicable when adopting children under the age of 18
- This credit can not be applied to the adoption of stepchildren
Additionally, according to the NACAC, “In 2019, families with a modified adjusted gross income below $211,160 can claim full credit.” That means, if your family has earned more than that, you’re not eligible for the credit.
To be sure that you understand this credit and your eligibility, please visit the IRS website and talk to your accountant. There are various things that have to be done prior to filing for and receiving the credit, so this is the time to seek the help of a professional.
How Do People Pay for Domestic Adoption Cost?
After pummeling me with questions about the home study, the most common question that people ask me is how we paid for the adoption. In our case, we just paid for it. We had time to prepare and as older adults, we both had jobs and though it was a sacrifice, we were blessed to be able to do that.
However, many other people seek alternate ways to offset domestic adoption cost. Whether that be a fundraiser or looking into not-for-profits that provide grants for adoption.
Becky Fawcett is the co-founder of Helpusadopt.org, a not-for-profit based out of New York City, whose mission is to help couples/individuals (regardless of ethnicity, gender, marital status, religion, or sexual orientation) with the cost of their adoption by awarding grants up to $15,000.
Becky knows firsthand about the expense of adoption as she also is aware of the domestic adoption cost as she adopted her two children.
“Affording adoption is like a math problem,” she says. “If an average adoption costs $40,000 and the average household income in our country is $58,000, at what point can you truly afford adoption? Secondly, taking these numbers into consideration, it’s no wonder that so many hardworking American families are struggling with this insurmountable problem. If people can’t afford adoption, what happens to these children that need homes?”
Grant programs like this exist in order to ensure that couples who are trying to adopt, but do need financial assistance, can do that. This is particularly powerful to those of us who have seen children who are being adopted out of foster care—in some instances, the families they were placed with can’t afford these costs and it’s crucial that they find assistance so that these children can have homes.
“Every day at Helpusadopt.org we strive to push further and to do more for these families who need help and we are honored to be part of their story,” notes Becky.
There are many couples and individuals who choose to hold fundraisers to help pay their domestic adoption costs. This is something that I have been privy to as an active member of the adoption community and one who wants to help families when I can.
I have been to picnics; shopped online auctions; purchased bracelets, T-shirts, and Christmas ornaments; have attended concerts; etc. There really is no wrong way to fundraise, but you should be upfront about the costs, what people’s money is going toward, and follow up with a thank you—I have even received notes with photos following adoption placement, even some years later, and it is a special thing to be a part of!
Most recently, I went to a large garage sale where a woman had asked her family and friends to chip in items to sell. It was a win/win—everyone got to Marie Kondo their house, I got to purchase some new clothes for my growing kiddo, and the family got the funds they needed to cover the costs of their adoption.
Also, I’ve helped others on accident by wearing products they’ve sold like T-shirts and bracelets that have prompted conversations with others not only about adoption but about their particular situation. This has convinced others to give.
Preparing for the Domestic Adoption Cost
One thing to remember is that after the adoption fees are paid, you’ll still have the added expense of raising a child, which is never what you think it will be. (Kids are expensive!) So, start to look at your finances to not only prepare for the domestic adoption cost, but to keep saving for your child’s future.
Pre-parenthood, many of us have had the benefit of spending our money on just ourselves and are able to cut out expensive lattes, shopping trips, and less dining out. Going ahead and doing these things during your adoption journey are a good way to start putting money aside to help with your costs.
You’ll also be examining your finances and your worth as you go through the home study, so now is the time to get realistic about your debt, spending, and making a financial plan that will benefit you for a long time to come. If you have questions that you don’t have the answers to, it is in your best interest to speak to a financial planner (and because you’ll need to consider life insurance, etc., potentially depending on your state and agency’s requirements, you might want to find someone who is licensed to help you with all of that.)
Adoption is costly. And it can seem like it’s far-fetched for many of us, but with careful planning, having an awareness of the costs and fees associated with domestic adoption, working with professionals, understanding the adoption tax credit, and through fundraisers, etc., you can afford adoption.
Keep reading about the cost of adoption:
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.
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.