Introduction

If you have ever considered adoption, you probably noticed the confusing lingo, the variety of options, and the wide disparity of potential cost involved. The costs associated with adoption can be astounding, and affording adoption can be a formidable endeavor. Even though it is illegal to “buy a child,” the legal, adoption agency, and birth mother fees, as well as all associated travel costs, can make your head spin. While not all adoptions cost thousands of dollars, it is true that many do. So, how much does it cost to adopt a child? In general, the cost of adopting a child can range anywhere from $0 to $40,000+, depending on the avenue that you choose. There are six basic avenues of adoption from which you can choose: domestic agency adoption, domestic lawyer (private) adoption, international adoption, foster care adoption, stepchild adoption, and kinship care/adoption. That broad range of choices and the wide swath of rates are not really helpful when one is considering adoption. Here are simple explanations of the types of adoptions and the potential expenses associated with each.

How much does it cost to adopt a child in a domestic adoption if I use an adoption agency?

When using an adoption agency to facilitate your domestic adoption, there can be quite a bit of expenses. Typical adoption agency fees range from $20,000-$40,000. This article states that “adoption costs are usually outlined in advance. Most agencies have a set fee schedule for the services they provide. You may be responsible for additional expenses upon being matched with prospective birth parents depending on their specific situation, but you should know in advance what those costs entail.” Many agencies utilize a sliding scale method based on your income to determine the amount that you will pay; thus, each family’s adoption costs may vary. There will be fees attached to the following: application, home study, documentation preparation and authentication, advertising and marketing, birth mother expenses and counseling, legal costs, and agency contracts. That being said, the money is typically not all needed up front, and the fee schedule is broken up to be paid at each step along the way.

Applications

Before you can even proceed down the adoption path with an agency, you need to apply. Application fees vary according to the agency, but they can range from $50-$300. Once you are accepted to work with an adoption agency, the fun begins. The first big hurdles are fingerprinting, background checks, doctor physicals, and financial surveys. For these items, you will pay as you go along. The associated fees may seem like smaller amounts in comparison to the big picture, but these are NOT included in the expense sheet that your agency will give you. You should be prepared to pay several hundred dollars up front, depending on the number of people living in your household.

Home Study

Next is the home study. This is a big paperwork and discussion process that culminates with the social worker of an approved home study agency walking through and checking the safety and availability of space in your home. It can be pretty intimidating as they inspect all areas of your physical, emotional, and financial life, but they want to make sure that you are able to appropriately care for any child brought into your home. Your personal life will be inspected under a microscope, and the fees will be between $2,000 and $3,000. If you need to amend the home study because you move or no match has been made within six months of home study completion, you may incur a $200-$300 fee to update and once again verify your home study.

Additional Expenses

Once the home study is completed, the last big amount due will usually be broken down into smaller more manageable amounts with the final portion due at placement. These expenses are for the agency networking, program, and documentation fees. The agency needs funds to work for you by letting expectant women considering adoption know that you are seeking to adopt. The fees for counseling birth families and caring for the expectant mother are also included in this. These costs vary greatly between adoption agencies, but will generally cost you around $15,000 and up. The more steps it takes to bring the adoption to completion, the more it will cost.

This article on Adoption.com makes a good point when it states that “you are responsible to hire an attorney to complete your adoption. One service most agencies don’t include is the legal fee for the adoptive couple to finalize their adoption. This fee is comparatively minimal as you are only paying for an attorney to file a petition to adopt in the state you reside and represent you before the judge in finalizing the adoption. If you are adopting across state lines, there may be an additional fee to complete an Interstate Compact, allowing you to take the child to your home in another state.” These fees will vary per lawyer and location but will run an average of $200 to $500—with some costing as much as $1,500. It is prudent to remember that there may be travel costs associated with an ICPC or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. This allows for the ICPC paperwork to move through the legal system and be completed prior to bringing your child into your home. While awaiting ICPC, you may incur expenses related to lodging, food, and travel; however, there is no way to predict an estimated amount you may need to spend.

How much does it cost to adopt a child in a domestic adoption if I use an adoption lawyer?

You may choose to use an adoption lawyer to facilitate your adoption in lieu of an adoption agency. The adoption lawyer may either do only the legal part of the adoption, or you may choose to allow him or her to handle the entire adoption. It is good to remember that the fees for an adoption lawyer “vary by state, experience, and time frame. It all really depends on which [lawyer] you choose….There isn’t one set rate, so it is important to consider multiple adoption attorneys before you settle on one….Explore your options so that you can be confident and comfortable in your final decision.”

If you already have a connection with an expectant mother, you may only need a lawyer to take care of the legal details pertaining to placement, relinquishment, and finalization, thus saving you money over using an agency. You can expect for this to cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The lawyer should be able to give you a statement of expected fees at the beginning of his retainer.

Should you choose to hire the lawyer to seek out potential matches for you, the associated fees will be considerably higher. This article articulates that “in many states, the adoptive parents are allowed to pay for the birth mother’s living expenses, clothing, etc. while she is expecting. If you pay these living expenses, there is no guarantee she will place the baby with you. If she chooses to parent, she is not required to pay back those expenses you paid on her behalf. You may also be responsible to pay for the birth mother’s medical expenses in addition to the legal fees.” Your fees may fluctuate depending on how motivated the lawyer is, how he “markets” his clients, and the availability of expectant mothers looking to place their babies for adoption.

Regardless of how your lawyer functions in your adoption, you also will need fingerprinting, background checks, doctor physicals, and finance reports just like an agency would require. Allot yourself a couple hundred dollars for those items. You will also still need a home study completed by a licensed home study agency. You should plan to spend $1,500 to $2,000+ for the home study. There also may be costs associated with travel and wait for ICPC if the child you are adopting is from a state different than the one in which you live. All in all, using a lawyer to complete your adoption can be a much cheaper option.

How much does it cost to adopt a child in an international adoption?

International adoptions tend to be the priciest, as well as the most unpredictable, of all adoptions. Because each country has its own fee schedule and requirements, working with an agency is essential. Your agency should be able to give you a fee schedule near the beginning of your relationship with them. So, how much does it cost to adopt a child via international adoption? In general, you should expect to spend around $10,000 to $40,000 by the time the process reaches completion.

To get started, you will need to apply to the adoption agency of your choice. These fees can range from $150 to $300, depending on the agency. You will also need to have a home study, which will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,750. Additionally, something that is unique to international adoption is the need for an adoption dossier.” An adoption dossier is essentially a collection of documents you will need to complete your international adoption. The assembly of documents is designed to show both the sending and receiving country that the prospective adoptive parents are in good standing and will provide a good forever home for the adoptive child. The specifics of the necessary documents vary slightly from country to country, but for the most part, they include statements of your financial standing, your health status, job status, etc. Many of these documents will be similar to those you assembled for your home study; in fact, your home study will be one of your dossier documents.” The cost to assemble this massive file is around $2,700. “One item not included in the adoption agency costs are the various fees charged by the U.S. government for processing all the forms involved. The total cost for processing all these forms is around $1,000. This does not include small charges for local requirements like state or county fingerprints and mailing costs.” Keep in mind that most documents must be original; therefore, you may need to order an original, notarized copy of your family’s birth certificates from vital records. There is usually a nominal fee associated with this.

The largest part of the cost for international adoption is the adoption agency’s program fee. This will cover the agency fees, government fees, and paperwork. “Agency fees go towards the costs of arranging the adoption—from passports for the child to translation costs and legal fees in that country….Every country has different requirements and fees. For instance some countries require an additional orphanage fee in addition to the country fee. In China, for example, this generally runs between $3,000 and $4,000.”

Other fees generally not included in the program fees are travel and post-placement visits. “Travel expenses can add up quickly. There may also be fees ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 associated with having your child escorted. To get a decent estimate [on airfare] once you’ve chosen a country, see what ticket prices are for two weeks advance notice for travel to get there. Also, check for special adoption fares from the airlines. (And remember that some countries require you to travel twice!) If you’re adopting a toddler or older child, you also need to remember to add in the cost of a one-way ticket for your new child for the way back. Aside from airfare, the hotel bills and meals can also add up quickly so make sure you don’t forget to add this into your cost estimate and plan for saving.”

Another set of fees to remember are those associated with post-placement visits. Once your child is home, there are just a few more simple visits that are needed so your adoption can be completed. These three final visits will be completed by your agency’s social workers. They just want to make sure that your family is adjusting and the newly-adopted child’s well-being is still being cared for. The cost for these visits can range from $700 to $1,400.

How much does it cost to adopt a child through a foster care adoption?

Foster care adoption is a great way to build your family. All across the United States, there are children available for adoption from the foster system. In these cases, reunification—the ultimate goal of foster care—with their primary guardians has failed, and they are desperately in need of a loving family. Foster adoption is probably the least expensive form of adoption. Since the children are already in state custody, most of the fees are absorbed by the state. As with any adoption, you must have a home study in place. The fee for this is around $400. For a completed foster adoption, most families report that they pay anywhere from $0 to $2,000 from start to finish. These fees are often reimbursable after the adoption from foster care is completed. In addition to lower adoption fees, families of foster adopted children are usually allotted a monthly stipend from the state in which they live. The average amount allocated is around $705 a month.

When considering how much it costs to adopt a child from foster care, it is prudent to remember that there may be travel costs associated with an ICPC or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. For example, if you are matched with a foster child who lives in Georgia, you will most likely need to reside in Georgia for a specific amount of time before/after you are placed with a child. This allows for the ICPC paperwork to move through the legal system and be completed prior to bringing your child into your home. While awaiting ICPC, you may incur expenses related to lodging, food, and travel; however, there is no way to predict an estimated amount you may need to spend.

How much does it cost to adopt a child through a stepchild adoption?

Deciding to adopt your stepchild is a beautiful way to solidify your relationship with the child you already love and care for. You will need to talk with your spouse to discuss “the advantages, challenges, and feelings that will be part of such an important decision. Be sure to talk with your stepchild about his feelings and emotions, as this can be a sensitive matter for him, depending on his age and the circumstances around the adoption.” An adoption attorney will understand all the laws and requirements surrounding adopting your stepchild. Generally, you will not need a home study for a stepchild adoption, but a lawyer will be able to help you determine this. They also schedule a court date for the adoption finalization and will be present at that hearing. Stepchild adoption is not as expensive as regular adoption. The “adoption process is much shorter and the child has likely already established a home life with his or her parents. Still, with the combined cost of legal fees and attorney, be prepared to spend between $1,000 and $3,000, respectively.”

How much does it cost to adopt a child through a kinship adoption?

Kinship care is “the tradition of relatives helping raise a child [and] has been around much longer than child welfare agencies….Ever since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, relatives are the first to be given the choice of raising children whose parents cannot be the primary caregivers. As of September 2016, 32 percent of children in the foster care system were placed in foster homes with relatives….State and federal laws recognize kinship care as an official type of foster care.” Should the child be placed with the family through the foster system, the family will receive aid from the government. If the child is unofficially placed with family, there is still aid available, but the family must apply for it. In the event that reunification with the child’s biological parents is not possible or unsuccessful, the parental rights may be terminated, and the family caring for the child may be given the option to adopt the child. The costs of the adoption are small. The funds paid out of pocket are for lawyer fees, court fees, a home study cost, and physicals. Most people report that the cost can range from $0 to $3,000, depending on the state and lawyer.

What kinds of financial help are available to help with the costs of adopting a child?

When you are considering how much does it cost to adopt a child, the finances will most likely be one of the biggest hurdles you will face. Anything that is not foster adoption related is not cheap, but do not panic. It is very likely that you will not need to pay for the full cost of adoption entirely out of pocket. A wide variety of finance options are available if you are willing to do a little digging and a whole lot of paperwork.

Adoption Grants. There are quite a few agencies that offer adoption grants or scholarships that do not need to be repaid. Each grant has its own set of requirements and specifications, but they are generally only available for international and domestic adoptions only. Check out our adoption grants website for more information.

Adoption Loans. Adoption loans allow you to finance your adoption at fixed interest rates and predictable repayment schedule. These loans allow you to have cash ready to cover most or all aspects of the adoption process. They allow for funds to be available in an emergency as well. There are a variety of agencies or lenders who offer adoption loans. Visit this section of our website for more information on adoption loans.

Adoption Tax Credit. “It is an important federal tax benefit and can have a significant financial impact for many adoptive parents….This is NOT a deduction, but it is a tax refund based on your income and your adoption expenses. You can request 100% or a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of the amount of qualified adoption expenses you incur during a domestic or international adoption….For 2017, the federal adoption tax credit [was] $13,570….Fortunately, most expenses [include]: court costs, attorney fees, agency fees, traveling expenses (meals and away lodging), and any fees whose principal purpose is for the legal adoption of an eligible child….To claim the tax credit, you must fill form 8839 “Qualified Adoption Expenses” and attach to form 1040 or 1040A.” Check out our adoption tax credit guide for more information.

- Employer Adoption Assistance Benefits. Many companies offer adoption assistance benefits. Check with your company’s human resource department or refer to your employee handbook to see if the company you work for participates.

Adoption Fundraising and Crowdfunding. There are many creative ideas for raising funds to help finance the adoption. Basically, if you can dream it up, it can quite possibly be done.

Conclusion

As you can see, when considering the question “How much does it cost to adopt a child?” there are a variety of options with a wide range of associated fees. Don’t let the potential cost discourage you from pursuing your dream of growing your family through adoption. If you are considering a special needs or older child adoption, many adoption agencies offer significantly lower fees because the children are harder to place. It would be in your best interest to inquire with your agency to see if that is the case for those children. Finally, you can breathe easier knowing that all the funds are not due upfront. Usually, there is a fee payment schedule that will allow the funds to be spread out over time prior to placement, giving time for you to see grants, loans, and fundraising avenues. You don’t have to be a millionaire to adopt. Adoption can be an expensive endeavor, but it is so very worth every cent to have the privilege to provide a child with a loving forever home.

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.