While international adoption is not for everyone, in FY 2018, 4,059 children from around the world found permanent homes in the United States as a result of intercountry adoptions, according to Travel.state.gov. It is no secret that the international adoption journey can be a confusing one and may take longer than other options such as private domestic adoption or foster care and adoption. It’s also no secret that international adoption is expensive, which many prospective parents suggest as the number one reason they have decided against it. Despite its difficulties, though, international adoption is attainable and has brought many forever families together, providing loving homes and brighter futures for waiting children. 

What Is International Adoption?

Travel.state.gov defines international adoption as “the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.”

The International Adoption Guide provides you with a 40-step walkthrough of what the international adoption process may look like for you with helpful videos, links, and articles to better explain everything from deciding on whether or not international adoption is right for your family to what to do when you get home in order to maneuver through post-placement visits and reports.

What Are Adoption Fees?

While the exact cost of an international adoption will vary from agency to agency and country to country, some of the basic international adoption fees typically include:

 – Overseas travel (sometimes multiple trips)

 – Foreign country and United States government fees

 – Legal and facilitator fees

 – Adoption agency expenses

 – Insurance expenses

 – Orphanage donations 

 – Additional in-country support 

One of the biggest expenses with international adoption is the travel involved (in some cases, certain countries require multiple trips). Most countries expect all family members to travel for adoption at least once and for part of the time (until the in-country adoption has gone into the court system). Families need to consider reaching out to their agency well ahead of time and asking other families for information on accommodations (some residences offer meal plans while with others, you will have to shop and make your own meals), transportation, translators, and in the case of special needs adoption, medical assistance (medicinal and equipment). 

And for those with extended stays, you’re either going to go stir-crazy with little ones in tow staring at the same four walls for weeks on end or you’re going to want to find things to do. It’s a great opportunity to learn about your adopted child’s birth country and to take in some of the surroundings and culture if possible, but it is another added expense.

In addition to these basic fees, there will be plenty of miscellaneous costs as well, including the cost of missed work (if you are unable to work from your travel destination and/or unable to take advantage of paid family leave. You will also have finalization paperwork and post-placement visits to take care of once you’re back home.

Why so Expensive?

You won’t find too many people arguing about the high cost of international adoption, but it can be expensive depending on which site you look at, there are some reasons behind the fees.

Adoption agencies are, in essence, businesses like any others, that are working for you to help to match you with an adoptive child. Just like any other business, agencies need to cover their own expenses, pay for insurance and taxes, licensing and certifications, overhead, and, of course, pay their employees to do their jobs. 

Similarly, government agencies involved in your adoption process carry the same expenses as private adoption agencies and, thanks to a lot of red tape, there are a lot of people involved along the way, lots of paperwork, and lots of legal hoops to jump through in the interest of all involved parties, but most especially in the best interest of the children and families involved.

With international adoption usually comes international travel—and international flights and lodging and food and in-country transportation and translation and all of the other things necessary when one takes a trip (or more than one trip) across the world.

Until you are able to be united with your adopted child, someone is taking care of them for you—be it a private institution or an orphanage. Someone is providing three meals or more a day, clothing, shelter, bathing, medical aid, physical therapy, and in some cases, even education. These programs and facilities also need to cover their costs and depending on how many children reside there, these costs can be quite high and difficult or impossible to manage unless government funding or private donations are part of the mix. 

Adoption.com’s Affording Adoption page offers links to several guides and more than 126 articles to help you to better understand the adoption costs, pricing, loans, and fundraising opportunities.

Ways to Financially Prepare for and Save for International Adoption

Go Lean and Stay Home. You’re planning to start a family, via adoption or natural or any other route, raising children tends to be an expensive venture. International adoption or not, you should start saving now, budgeting now, and planning for the long-term. Tomorrow, it may be baby food and diapers, just a few years away, pre-school, and then activities, sports, braces, cars, college, and weddings! 

No, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t really) give your children everything and nobody is asking you to, but mark my words, there will come a day when you will find yourself cutting back in areas or taking on extra work after you’ve noticed little Sarah’s tapered piano fingers and keen ear for music and decide you’re willing to give up a morning cup of Joe if it means providing the opportunity for her to see if she may just be a budding future concert pianist. Or you may just realize that helping fund an inexpensive first car for Tom helps you both out by allowing him to drive himself to that first part-time job, giving yourself a little wiggle room in a day.

So how to cut back when you feel like you’re already pinching pennies? Keep your credit clean. Regardless of adoption, having strong credit is never a bad idea (and it’s never too late to turn things around)! It’s been statistically proven that we tend to spend more on plastic than when using cold hard cash. Keep a coin tin in the kitchen. Getting change back is inevitable. Throw yours in a can when you get it before it winds up buried under a bed, at the bottom of a drawer, or lost in a parking lot. Think twice before your next impulse buy. Did you know some folks blow through thousands of dollars a year eating lunch out rather than packing a bag for lunch or school? Same for dining out—not only is eating in typically better for you, you will save a fortune in paying for overpriced drinks, tax, and tips. Save going out for special occasions (like that future wedding).

Consider Adoption Loans and Grants. An adoption loan is, according to the website, FundYourAdoption, “an affordable financing option for couples and individuals looking to grow their families through adoption. It is a personal loan intended to pay for expenses related to domestic, international, and embryo adoptions.” Whereas, the site describes an adoption grant as “one of the best sources of money to pay for adoption. Grant awards vary in amount and, depending on the priorities of the organization, can be used to pay expenses for domestic, international, foster care, and embryo adoptions.”

The site goes on to list three types of adoption grants:

1. Fundraising Adoption Grants

2. Matching Adoption Grants

3. Direct Adoption Grants

With advice on how to choose the one that’s best for you.

They also provide helpful information regarding when to use an adoption loan, “Before moving forward with an adoption loan, consider your funding goals, how much you need to borrow, your adoption timeline, and your overall financial situation. Adoption loans can provide several benefits:

 – “Access to funds. Money is immediately available to make adoption payments. This greatly reduces the likelihood of a cash flow crunch.

 – “Buy yourself time. Make payments toward your adoption and bridge the gap while you fundraise, apply for grants, and utilize the Federal Adoption Tax Credit to support loan repayments.

 – “Manageable repayment terms. Some organizations offer interest free adoption loans. However, if you don’t qualify for an interest free loan or it doesn’t meet your needs, consider if an unsecured personal loan or a credit card with 0% is right for you. Depending on your goals, both can be utilized with manageable terms to help fund your adoption.”

Plan a Fundraiser. While it’s not up everyone’s alley, many people turn to fundraising in order to assist with the cost of international adoption. Adoption.com’s “Adoption Fundraising Guide provides great tips for raising money for international adoption.

Before you get started, figure out your goal—that’s an important thing to have ahead of time so that you can better tell your story no matter what sort of fundraising efforts you decide on. 

With the advent of social media, your ability to reach out to even more people has greatly increased—just look at the success of GoFundMe pages! But even if you decide that’s not for you, take advantage of this (basically) free marketing opportunity to share about your event and let family and friends know to do the same.

Employer Assistance. Not all employer assistance comes in the way of cold hard cash. According to information taken from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a report showed that “more than half of the 940 large employers surveyed said that they offer some type of adoption assistance. Employers that offer adoption benefits cite advantages for their companies including
maintenance of productivity, retention of good employees, a positive public image, and equity in benefits for all employees.”

In addition to financial assistance, other benefits included parental leave and legal assistance. Parental leave is where adoption benefits may be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, in which employers with 50+ employees must offer mothers and fathers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Certain employers also allow adopting parents to combine paid time off (sick time and vacations) with unpaid leave in order to extend time off. Other employers may offer legal plans that would cover the legal expenses associated with your international adoption. 

What Is the Adoption Tax Credit? According to the IRS, “Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it’s limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years.”

You can learn more about the 2019 Adoption Tax Credit here. You should also plan to speak with your financial advisor for the most current information relevant to your unique situation.

Family and Friends. While you may be familiar with the saying, “Never underestimate the kindness of strangers,” the same can be said for close family and friends who, typically, upon hearing that someone they care about is hoping to become an adoptive parent for a child in need will gladly rise to the occasion in many ways, including gifts and donations.

Not everyone has money to spare; however, but that doesn’t mean family and friends can’t or won’t come through in other supportive ways like volunteering at a fundraiser or helping you to go through those bins ahead of a garage sale. They’ll also show up when you’ll need them later on for things such as babysitting, sending care packages, sharing hand me downs, and stopping over for a much-needed cup of coffee when you’ll need it the most!

Parenting is a lifelong commitment and reaching out for support does not show weakness, but rather your understanding that you’re not in this alone (nor is your child). Put your pride aside and do what’s in both of your best interests. Think of the causes that you support without judging the recipient and understand that those who will want to support you will want to support you for all the right reasons!

Ready to Get Started?

For more information on everything adoption, including links to international adoption, how you can afford international adoption, adoption agencies, and waiting child profiles check out Adoption.com’s How to Adopt page today!

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.

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.