I don’t have the statistics, but I feel confident in saying that “How much does adoption cost?” is in the top three all-time questions about adoption. Even people who have no intention of adopting want to know how much adoption costs, just because. However, the answer to “How much does adoption cost?” is not cut-and-dried. The cost of an adoption depends primarily on two factors:

• What type of adoption is it?

• Where does the adoption take place?

Once we’ve answered those questions, other factors come into play, including:

• Are there birthmother expenses?

• Is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) involved?

• Is travel involved?

• How much does a home study and its related items cost in your state?

• Is a biological parent contesting the adoption?

• Do you have to locate an unknown father?

• Are you using an agency, an attorney, a facilitator, or some combination of these?

• Is this a kinship adoption?

• Do you need to have your home study documents translated?

Every year, Adoptive Families magazine conducts its Average Adoption Cost and Timing Survey. In 2013-2014, more than 1,300 surveys were submitted. According to Adoptive Families, the average costs of adoption are:

• Private domestic infant adoption (DIA) through an agency: $38,464

• Private DIA through an attorney (aka an independent adoption): $33,037

• U.S. foster adoption: $1,730

• International adoption from China: $37,945

• International adoption from Ethiopia: $57,253

• International adoption from Ukraine: $50,000+

• International adoption from Haiti: $34,706

• International adoption from South Korea: $51,833

adoption costs, per adoptive families magazine

Average adoption costs, according to the 2013-2014 Adoptive Families Magazine survey.

But don’t take their word for it. I asked real people in an adoption-related social media forum to answer a few questions about how much their adoptions cost. Most of the families completed private DIA. Only two foster/adopt families and four international adoptive families answered all of my questions.

I found that the average cost of private DIA was $22,562. Why is this average so much lower than the Adoptive Families average? Two of the adoptions were kinship adoptions, in which the adoptive parents were related to one of the birth parents. These adoptions cost approximately $13,000 and $3,550. One of the independent adoptions cost only $8,000, because the family did their own networking. Another family used an agency that charged low fees, so their adoption came in at $16,000. On the other end of the spectrum, one family experienced a very costly failed match, and their expenses reached $39,500.

While only two foster/adopt families answered my detailed questions, many responded to my post indicating that they had essentially adopted for free. The state will usually reimburse the family for any expenses. Also, the Adoption Tax Credit (ATC) can be a boon to these families, as adoptions from foster care are generally considered “special needs” by the Federal government. Each of the families that responded spent less than $2,000 on their adoptions, and both were reimbursed by their states.

With only four responses from the international adoption arena, we don’t really get an accurate picture. All four adoptions were from different countries, which makes a big difference in fees and travel costs. The average of the four was $33,700. The least expensive international adoption was $29,000 (Haiti) and the most expensive was $40,000 (South Korea, special needs).

The home study is one component that is required for all adoptions. For foster adoptions, home studies are usually free outright or are reimbursed by the state. For all other adoptive parents, they most definitely are not. Also, most states and countries require that home studies are updated every one to two years. If a family is waiting for more than one year, they will have to pay an update fee. The cost of a home study depends largely on the state in which you live. Not including the foster/adoptions, the average home study fee among my entire group was $2,467, while Adoptive Families reported an average cost of $1,930 for DIA and an average cost of $1,722 for international adoption (not including document preparation fees).

There are certain fees that are specific to international adoptions—translation costs, orphanage donations, passports, visas, and the like. These fees can add up as well. According to Adoptive Families, the average cost, taking five countries into account, is $11,139.

DIA often includes birthmother expenses. Many adoption professionals will tell you that you can’t adopt without paying birthmother expenses. However, some people do. Adoptive Families reports average birthmother expenses of $4,256, while my group’s families reported an average of $2,942. Four families paid nothing in birthmother expenses, while one family paid $11,000, because the birthmother was both homeless and jobless.

When considering adoption costs, remember that there are a lot of individual items in adoption. The first time we adopted, I thought there would be the agency fee, the “birthmother expenses,” and the travel costs. Oh how naive I was! When all was said and done, this is how I broke down our adoption costs:

• Home study, including fingerprints, criminal background checks, CPR certification, home study fee, and home study update fee

• Agency, referral service, and facilitator fees

• Attorney fees for adoptive parents and birth parents, court filing fees, fee to terminate an unknown father’s rights, and so on

• Advertising and networking, which includes creating, printing, and mailing the adoption profile scrapbook, and may include pass-along cards, website maintenance fees, or memberships to online adoption profile sites

• Travel, including airfare, car rental, hotel stays, gas, and food

• Miscellaneous expenses, such as education fees and mailing fees

• Birthmother expenses, including counseling fees

If you’re adopting internationally, you need to add document preparation, in-country adoption expenses, and passport, visa, and other fees.

This has been the long answer to the question: How much does adoption cost?

Aren’t you glad you asked?

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