How Much Does It Cost to Adopt?

There are many expenses in adoption but it all depends on how you go about it.

Jennifer Kaldwell April 23, 2019
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If you are thinking about adding a child to your family through adoption, I am certain you have questioned, “How much does it cost to adopt?” There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. The cost of adoption varies greatly. It is definitely worth researching before you make a choice about which type of adoption to pursue.

Foster Care Adoption

How much does it cost to adopt if you choose foster care adoption? While this cost will vary somewhat, adopting a child from the foster care system is the least expensive, most affordable type of adoption. In some areas, all costs can even be reimbursed.

Adopting a child from foster care requires much of the same paperwork a private adoption would require. A home study, which may include a social worker coming into your house for a home visit, will be necessary. The social worker will be evaluating the space and safety of your home. They also evaluate if your home meets the guidelines required in your area. The home study also includes a criminal background check and several interviews about your life including childhood, any personal trauma, relationship history, and your current home situation. Home studies are one of the highest costs associated with foster care adoption. In some areas, after your home study is approved or after you have adopted, you can apply for a refund of this cost. This is not available everywhere, unfortunately. The home study fee can range from approximately $1000 to $3000.

Adopting a child from foster care may also require some changes to your home. Not all homes will need renovations but to meet county and state guidelines it is a possibility. These types of costs will not be reimbursed by your county or state, but you may be able to receive a tax deduction depending on what you do.

There may also be fees to pay for some classes that you are required to take to be approved for foster care adoption. Each state and county has its own education requirements. Some classes may be free to take, while others sometimes have a fee. Again, in some areas, these fees may be reimbursed. It would be important to find out ahead of time if any classes have fees and whether or not you can get a reimbursement for any of them.

How much does it cost to adopt when you have to consider paying attorney fees for the adoption? My state did not require us to have an attorney when we adopted through foster care. We were able to fill out and file the paperwork to petition the court for adoption on our own. We were guided by our social workers, who made sure to let us know that hiring an attorney to help was within our rights but not mandatory. We did not feel that we needed to hire an attorney. I would recommend asking if an attorney is required in your area or if you are able to file petitions on your own.

In some instances, there may be a monthly subsidy paid even after an adoption is finalized to help with any additional costs that your special need child might have. Typically, this monthly allowance is based on an individual child’s need, and it is not guaranteed for every child.

In my own personal experience, I have adopted twice from foster care. One of my children was older at adoption and had some diagnosed conditions for which he qualified to receive a monthly stipend after finalization. My other child had no obvious conditions or needs, and we did not receive any monthly help after his adoption was finalized. In the event that the monthly stipend isn’t sufficient to cover medical or mental health services, you may petition to have the file reviewed and updated.

There is also an adoption tax credit that can be used after you have adopted to help with any costs.

Private Agency Domestic Adoption

How much does it cost to adopt if you are using a private agency?

Adopting with private agencies is a good option when hoping to adopt an infant. The cost of agencies varies. The price can range from $8,000 to $40,000. It would be important to factor in the cost when deciding on an agency to work with. There are many agencies that help with domestic infant adoption, so don’t hesitate to do some research to find the one that is right for you.

Many agencies have expectant mothers who have chosen an adoption plan for their unborn children. In many cases, parents hoping to adopt these infants create a profile to introduce themselves to prospective birth mothers.

Creating an adoption profile can cost both money and time, in addition to being stressful. It is important to show who you are as a couple and a family. Many prospective parents opt to hire a professional photographer to take photos, which is an expense. Agencies will usually guide you on how to put together a profile to show prospective expectant mothers.

Agencies will help you match to an expectant mother with an adoption plan and will help advertise your profile to the mothers making an adoption plan. They are also there to help support you and answer any questions you may have. They sometimes provide counseling for both the expectant mother and the prospective adoptive parents. Agencies typically will be involved in helping with getting your home study completed. They also help with additional paperwork and education requirements needed in your area to adopt. Agencies often help adoptive and birth families come to agreements regarding what level of contact, if any, will occur after the adoption is finalized. Not all states recognize open adoption agreements, so you should check with your state guidelines to find out if these types of agreements are recognized and enforceable.

Independent Domestic Adoption

If you choose to pursue an independent domestic adoption, you will not have to pay agency fees. However, you will have to find the expectant mother yourself, or the expectant mother may approach you as an adoptive placement. This type of adoption typically happens when friends share information with each other about couples looking to adopt or pregnant mothers who are making an adoption plan. This may also happen when family members adopt within the family. So, how much will it cost to adopt if you choose an independent domestic adoption? The cost of independent domestic adoption still varies greatly and is dependent on what costs you must cover in your agreement.

Typically, the biggest cost for this type of adoption is the fee for the attorney or attorneys that are hired to facilitate the adoption. In some areas, it is required that each party is represented by their own attorney. Typically, the cost for both attorneys is covered by the prospective adoptive parents. There may be some additional costs depending on what your state allows. In some areas, you may pay medical expenses and living expenses for the expectant mother.

This is the type of adoption that sees the most risk of losing money or not receiving an infant that has been planned for. Expectant mothers can change their minds prior to terminating their rights. In these cases, you have still paid for attorney fees and sometimes for living expenses. Often these payments cannot be recovered, and your right to try is forfeited.

Agencies have less risk based on the counseling each side receives, and the background checks done by the agency. Also, when using an agency, should a birth mother change her mind about her adoption plan, then the agency will work to help you match with another expectant mother. However, even with an agency, if you have paid expenses to an expectant mother you risk not getting those funds back.

International Adoption

How much does it cost to adopt if you choose international adoption? There is no set answer for this question, as each country has different requirements and fees attached. Agency fees alone can vary from $7,500 to $30,000. There are other fees that are associated strictly with international adoption, such as the dossier fee and international travel costs.

When adopting internationally, you may need to travel to the country of your choice several times. Some countries require you to be present in the court proceedings while others may not. You will need to have passports and to also get a passport for the child you are adopting.

When traveling there are basic costs that you will have to consider. Airline tickets, hotel stays, food, and in-country travel costs. If you must travel several times to complete the adoption process, those costs alone could add thousands of dollars to your total adoption cost.

Another thing to consider when choosing to adopt internationally is any waiting period required by the country prior to allowing the adoption to take place. After you are matched with a child, some areas take longer than others to move forward and allow you to return home with your child. During this waiting time, you may incur fees for your child’s care or may be required to donate a set amount of money to the place that cares for the children waiting to be adopted.

It is important to find an agency to help facilitate an international adoption that is familiar with the country you choose to adopt from. Each country has its own policies and paperwork requirements. One small error in these documents can result in extra money spent to correct the mistake along with more waiting time to get your child. Not all agencies specialize in international adoption or in adoption for all international countries. Finding an agency familiar with the country you choose is imperative to making the process as smooth as possible with fewer hiccups along the way.

The agency you choose should be able to provide you with an itemized list of expenses that you will incur pursuing the international adoption. The list may not be accurate, as travel expenses and things may not be concrete numbers, but some basic fees and expenses should not change. Estimates on other costs will help determine if international adoption is right for you. It is always better to estimate high rather than low. Planning with a higher estimate and having money “leftover” is far less stressful than planning and running low on funds.

Sometimes you may have to travel with little notice as things progress. Depending on country adoption requirements, you may be required to be present for some steps of the case along the way. Could you fly to another country with just a few weeks notice? How flexible can you be?

Also, consider the age of the child you are hoping to adopt, and how long the adoption will take to complete. If you are hoping to bring home an infant, then what is the estimated wait time from paperwork completion to bringing your baby home? Will the child be a 3-month-old, a 6-month-old, or a 1-year-old before you are able to parent full time? If you are bringing home an older child, have you considered language barriers? Are they getting a proper education while awaiting their trip home to you? Will they be behind for their age? What potential health issues, both mental and physical, might need attention when you become their parents? How prepared are you to handle these issues?

Each type of adoption will have pros and cons to consider. Researching all your options is important. If you are worried about being able to afford adoption there are options for fundraising to help. Foster care adoption is relatively inexpensive as an option as well. Whether you are able to spend $5,000 or $50,000 on your process, you want to pursue the adoption that is right for you and your family. Finding ways to cover costs can feel overwhelming. Find that light at the end of the tunnel, and keep moving forward. There are many places that will assist you in finding your perfect fit at a cost you can manage.

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.

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Jennifer Kaldwell

Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children's classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.


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