Why Is Adoption So Expensive?

Adoption costs should not be viewed as a whole. They are a lot of separate fees instead.

Lita Jordan February 12, 2019
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Adoption has never been famously known to be affordable. Many of the myths surrounding adoption are about its cost and its ability to be attainable by the everyday person. While there are many ways to afford adoption and adoption costs are often misunderstood, it is not usually a myth that most types of adoption are indeed expensive. When people ask the question, “Why is adoption so expensive?” it is usually because they are viewing adoption as a whole and not as a set of individual services. The process of adoption—broken up into sets of fees for the various services that need to be utilized—will help answer the question of, “Why is adoption so expensive?” in a more concise manner.

Adoption Eligibility

The first expense related to adoption is the fees associated with becoming eligible to adopt a child. The majority of the answers to the question, “Why is adoption so expensive?” will be answered with this eligibility process. To become eligible to adopt, most prospective adoptive parents will need to hire an adoption agency or adoption attorney to guide them through the adoption process. To begin the journey with one of these adoption professionals, many will require some sort of retainer or application fee. This fee can vary tremendously, but as an example, one attorney quoted a $700 retainer fee upfront to be hired for an adoption process. One of the agencies my husband and I looked into required a $300 application fee to being the process with their adoption agency.

One of the first steps in almost every adoption process in the adoption home study. This process will typically include FBI background checks, interviews, home visits, and a whole lot of paperwork required to be submitted by the prospective adoptive parents. The prospective adoptive parents will also need to complete education or training related to adoption that may be an additional expense. A home study will need to be completed by a licensed adoption professional. As with most fees that come will adoption, the cost for this process will vary depending on the adoption agency or adoption attorney used. The price for this process when it comes to domestic and international adoption usually ranges from $1,500-$3,000, while a home study in a foster care adoption is typically little to no cost.

Once this home study process is completed and the home study report approved, prospective adoptive parents are typically deemed eligible to adopt, yet the expenses do not stop here. After they have been found eligible to adopt, they may still need to be matched with a birth mother. If they have self-matched, they will not need to pay this fee, however self-matching is not always an easy or efficient journey. Matching fees with vary with each adoption professional and can reach into the thousands.

Birth Mother Expenses

In cases of domestic infant adoption, prospective adoptive parents may be obligated to pay birth mother expenses. These birth mother expenses are typically defined as any pregnancy-related expenses that need to be covered during the expectant mother’s pregnancy and for a short period after the birth of her child. These expenses often include maternity clothes, medical care related to the pregnancy, and often some living expenses such as utility bills and rent. There are states in which birth mother expenses are not required and others where the amount is regulated. There are also some situations in which the birth mother may choose to waive the acceptance of birth mother expense compensation. You can find out more about birth mother expenses in your state at this link.

When an adoption is handled by an adoption agency, the agency will typically include all adoption process fees in their fee schedule. They will also likely have their own team of attorneys or have certain attorneys contracted to handle much of the legal proceedings of adoption. The adoption agency will also likely provide its own representation for the expectant mother and work with her on the adoption proceedings. However, some adoption agencies do not provide unbiased representation for the expectant mother. If this is the case or when working with an adoption attorney, it is often advisable and often required for the prospective adoptive family to hire outside legal counsel for the expectant mother. This is done to ensure that the expectant mother is informed of her rights in adoption and also allows for a more ethical adoption process. The fees for outside legal counsel for an expectant mother can vary greatly and can easily top $5,000.

Travel Expenses

With any kind of adoption, there is potential that the prospective adoptive parents and the child who is being adopted will need to travel, and this will also generate travel expenses through their adoption journey. For international adoption, these travel expenses can be substantial and may also involve multiple trips. Travel is one of the main reasons that international adoption can top $40,000 in many cases. Travel expenses will be needed to be provided for both the prospective adoptive parents and the child. The adoptive parents may also choose to travel with other family members, therefore, increasing these expenses.

In any type of adoption where travel is needed, there will be travel expenses incurred above and beyond just transportation. Prospective adoptive parents will need to obtain lodging and food while they are away. In cases involving ICPC where prospective adoptive parents will need to stay in the child’s home state until they are cleared to go home, there is no set time line. Prospective adoptive parents do not know if they will need to find lodging and food for days or possibly weeks while they wait for ICPC to clear. The travel expenses incurred in adoption can easily enter thousands of dollars depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

Post-Placement

After a child is born or a child is placed in the care of an adoptive family, there may still be more fees for the adoption process that occurs post-placement. The birth mother may still require some final expenses, typically for up to six weeks after placement of the child. Many states also require for the birth mother to be offered counseling after the birth of the child. In domestic adoption, most states require a set amount of post-placement visits to occur with the adoptive family and their new child before an adoption can be finalized. These visits typically occur once a month until the finalization of the adoption. Some adoption agencies or adoption professionals will charge per post-placement visit or may charge one flat fee. The agency my husband and I used charged $1,500 for six post-placement visits.

Breaking down all the costs really answers the question of “Why is adoption so expensive,” and it gives you a greater picture of how quickly and enormously costs can add up. In a hypothetical domestic adoption situation, the fees could reach over $20,000 quite quickly. If a home study process costs prospective adoptive parents $3,000, and the application fee for the agency is $500, that is already quite a large amount right out of the gate. Also, there is a match fee of $1,000 as the prospective adoptive parents have not self-matched. The birth mother expenses may easily reach $5,000, and hiring outside legal counsel for her could equal that amount. If the prospective adoptive parents live in Florida, but the child is being born in Ohio, they will need to account for travel, lodging, and food. After airfare, food, and lodging for the four weeks of their ICPC stay, they have easily spent $6,000. They also have paid for counseling for the birth mother at the cost of $1,500 and their post-placement visits of $1,250. While each fee seems small on its own, these adoptive parents have reached finalization at a final cost of $23,500. This figure being only hypothetical and does not account for unexpected expenses or the possibility of financial loss with a failed adoption.

The question of “Why is adoption so expensive?” is simply answered with the knowledge that it takes many people and many processes to complete an adoption journey. The use of adoption professionals is crucial to ensure that an adoption is both legal and ethical. These services will cost in order to be sure that the best care is taken in the adoption process. As adoption laws are ever-changing and different adoption processes have different regulations, the costs of an adoption can vary greatly. These costs are many professional services combined that allow for adoption to protect all parties involved and to complete the due diligence needed to make the adoption as efficient as possible. Luckily, there are many ways to not only afford adoption, but also to recoup some of the fees through the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit is not a refund but will offset the tax obligation of adoptive parents. To find out more about the cost of adoption and ways to afford adoption even for those with limited income, you can read more at this link.

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Lita Jordan

Lita Jordan is a master of all things "home." A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the "other Michael Jordan" and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on Facebook.


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