I feel if you begin to research if adoption is right for your family, the first question that naturally comes to mind is this: how much does adoption cost? I know I was intimidated by the sticker price of adopting a child when we first began the process in 2008. And if I thought I was intimidated about it then, I am even more intimidated about it now because it is not a very easy question to answer. There are a lot of factors to consider and a lot of different adoptions to explore. I will give you a very small glimpse into the different adoptions and how much they could potentially cost you. I will preface it by saying that every adoption is unique, and there is not a right answer to this question. If you are unsure of the adoption process, this is a really great overview article.


Let’s take a look at how much adoption costs if you are pursuing a domestic adoption using an adoption agency. There are plenty of adoption agencies out there to choose from. You can check out this link if you are having a hard time choosing an agency. My first piece of advice to you is to do as much research as possible on the adoption agency you choose. Ask other people how they felt about the agency. Going through the adoption process is difficult, and you spend a lot of time working with your social worker, so make sure you feel comfortable with him/her. Once you have determined the agency, make sure you get a detailed outline of the costs moving forward.

Your first form of payment to the adoption agency is probably an application fee. Our application fee was $500, and they can range anywhere from $50 to $500. These fees are paid to your agency and are used to process your initial adoption application. The second form of payment to your agency is probably to begin the home study process. Our home study fee was $4,750.  Again, if the adoption lingo is really confusing and you have no idea what a home study is, don’t feel alone; it is confusing. “What does a home study involve?” is a great article on the home study process.

I have seen the home study fees range from as little as $2,000 up to $5,000. This fee covers quite a bit. I won’t go into too much detail in this article, but it will cover the background checks, employment verification, physicals, recommendations/referrals, and the actual home visit. If I could give you one quick piece of advice about the actual home visit (and I feel I can give it now because hindsight is 20/20), my advice is to simply be yourself. Do not stress too much over your social worker coming to your house basically with a magnifying glass. If there are things you missed, they will tell you and let you fix them. I know it is nerve-wracking and intimidating having someone come through your home and telling you whether or not it is okay to bring a child into it. But in the big picture, it is a very small thing! Lastly, your agency will have a few fees broken up over the duration of your adoption process. We had one fee due once were matched with our son’s birth mother, and he was born. That fee was $6,700. After the termination of parental rights hearing was held, we paid an additional $1,500 for the post-adoption fee. In the state of Wisconsin, there is a six-month waiting period after the termination of parental rights hearing, so that fee was to cover anything that came up during that six months. And lastly, we had to pay our attorney fees. Our agency contracted with an attorney in town for all of their adoptions. We had very little legal involvement, but we still paid $3,100 for the attorney. There were other small fees we paid along the way as well, which we ended up paying roughly $17,000 for our domestic adoption. I have heard that is on the lower end of domestic adoption and that they can cost close to $40,000.

There is also the possibility of pursuing an adoption without an adoption agency and strictly using an adoption attorney. We were in the process of doing this exact type of adoption in 2016 (unfortunately it fell through). The reason we went with the attorney route this time was because we knew the birth mother, and we both were in agreement with the adoption, at the time. This article explains the differences of using an adoption agency and an adoption attorney. This route could end up costing you less, but it depends on your attorney’s hourly rate and your state’s requirements. The cost-effectiveness here is that you are not paying as many agency fees; you are simply paying the attorney’s hourly rate. In most cases, though, your adoption attorney cannot perform a home study. Therefore, you would still need to contract a social worker or agency to perform your home study.


Since we went with domestic infant adoptions, I am not as familiar with international adoption, but we will touch a little bit on international, stepparent, and foster care adoptions yet in this article. Again, just like the domestic adoption, you will want to choose an adoption agency to work with. You will also want to start researching and deciding from what country you want to adopt from. Among the many questions, I believe one of the most important is will you be able to create a culture for your child that incorporates his or her birth country? But let’s take a look at how much an adoption costs for international adoptions.

Just like the domestic program, international adoptions can cost different amounts. Again, you will begin with an agency application fee. I know for our adoption agency, that fee was the same, $500. It can range anywhere from $100-$500. Just like the domestic program, there will be a home study fee. Again, this could cost anywhere from $2,000- $5,000. The process will be the same. The home study fee will cover the background checks, employment verification, physicals, recommendations/referrals, and the actual home visit. There are also fees that will have to be paid for processing federal forms through the U.S. Government.

In an international adoption, there is also the option to have your adoption dossier authentication expedited. This will save you months and months of waiting for the dossier to come through. While it is optional, a lot of people who have gone through international adoptions say it is worth it in the end! Again, depending on what country you are adopting from, make sure you know the requirements for your dossier and what else might be needed if you are going to expedite it. This could cost you up to an additional $1,000.

Another extra expense with adopting internationally is that you will have to pay for travel. Again, this will depend on your country’s requirements for travel. Some countries require that you travel for a certain amount of time, and other countries require that you travel there more than once. Make sure to know your country’s requirements and plan ahead. Once you know the timelines, you can always start to look at flights into that country.  Lastly, just like the domestic program, you will have legal fees. These could potentially be less than a domestic adoption, but every situation is unique and could end up costing more.

Stepparent Adoption

How much does adoption cost when adopting a stepchild? Stepparent adoption is when a parent not biologically related to a child chooses to legally adopt the child. This can be accomplished by both biological parents agreeing to the adoption or by proving abandonment by the other parent. The only fees usually associated with stepparent adoption are legal fees. Again, depending on the situation and circumstances, these could range anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.

Foster Care

How much does adoption cost when adopting through the foster care system? Adopting through the foster care system is usually less expensive; yet, it still requires a lot of heart and work. Children who are in the foster care system are eligible for adoption because reunification with their biological parents has failed. These children are usually wards of the state they reside in, which means the state will absorb most of the fees associated with adopting the children. You will still need to have a home study completed. This also can usually be accomplished at a lower cost because of the children being a ward of the state. The fees associated with adopting from foster care can range anywhere from practically nothing to $2,500.

Kinship Care

How much does adoption cost when adopting through kinship care? First, what is kinship care? A good overview can be found at this link. Kinship care is sort of like foster care and stepparent adoption colliding. Kinship care is when children who have been removed from their biological homes are placed with a family. The people they are placed with are not necessarily a stepparent, but they have a relation to the child in some sort. Kinship care is found to be beneficial for some situations as the child will already have a family connection to the home he or she is placed in, which is contrary to foster care where the child is placed with a stranger essentially.

As daunting as this can seem at times, there are financial resources available to those who are willing to work for them. Some people are willing to fundraise; I know we were. We used an organization called Ordinary Hero. We also sent out letters to family and friends. We have been to events like a 5K for people who are raising money for their adoption. We also were at an event where the food proceeds were used for a family’s international adoption. There is also a tax credit for those who qualify for adoption expenses. I would recommend talking to a certified accountant about this, but for 2017, the tax credit was $13,570, and for 2018, it was $13,810. I know this was an incredible help for our family. As I indicated about our adoption cost (which was roughly $17,000), we received close to $13,000 in the adoption tax credit which we used over the course of three years. While we had to pay out of pocket up front, we essentially received most of our money back in the form of a tax refund.

While I am not sure I answered the age-old question, “How much does adoption cost,” I hope I gave you a quick rundown of what costs you should expect.

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