When you start the adoption process, you likely start to outline what fees you’re going to incur and you try to map out a financial plan to handle all of those costs. You need to do your research to understand what you’re exactly responsible for in your state, county, and in relationship to your agency or lawyer. For example, your agency fee might not even include your home study fee, legal fees, etc. So, though this article will provide you with details, every state, county, agency, and lawyer has different fees and different expectations of what adoptive parents are responsible to pay. Though, again, the fees differ from state to state, the fact remains that adoptive parents can be responsible for a certain amount of birth mother fees. You will hear stories of birth parents who are on Medicaid, who don’t request fees, etc. and though that may be the case and they may not ask for your help, you should be prepared financially in case that is something that you’re required to pay for.
Birth Mother Expenses and Why You Have to Pay Them
I get really frustrated when I hear people complain about financially supporting a birth mother. This is an incredibly brave woman who is literally giving you the opportunity to be a parent, and in my humble opinion, we owe them the world. To put it plainly, some of the money that they may need can impact the well-being of the baby, and you should be happy to cover those costs as well as others to ensure the safety of the birth mother.
In speaking with birth mothers, those who didn’t seek funds had health insurance, support from their families, and housing, etc. Yet, some simply can’t afford these things and this is where adoptive parents come in.
What Birth Mother Expenses Can Include
If you are working with an agency and your birth mother is working with the same agency, her agency fees may be covered through your fee. However, there is also a chance that she’s being charged money to use their services as well. Look into this when you’re choosing an agency. (I felt very strongly that services should be free of charge to those who are considering making an adoption plan for their child and was happy to see those fees included on our end of the payment).
However, you also could be required to pay for the following items:
1. Counseling: This was very important to me to know about counseling options for our child’s birth parents. We actually chose an agency whose fee included lifetime counseling for our child’s birth mother. I’m grateful for this because this is likely a very traumatic experience. Whatever reason a person has for creating an adoption plan doesn’t lessen their loss and the reality that for their own mental health, they need to be speaking with someone about this grief. If this is not a service that your agency provides, you may be asked to pay for these costs. Particularly if this is suggested by a lawyer or agency that doesn’t provide counselors and the birth parents have to seek their own counselor or therapist.
2. Medical Expenses and Doctors Visits: Those who can’t financially afford other insurance typically have Medicaid, but if they don’t and don’t have the ability to do so, then you could be responsible for all prenatal care and doctor visits. In my experience and in speaking to agencies, this is something that birth parents are usually helped in doing. But, if you’re adopting without the help of an agency, this might not be the case, or the individual may not qualify for Medicaid. If that’s the case, be prepared to cover these costs.
Note: Once a birth mother has signed her rights to parent over to you, the baby will then be able to be added to your insurance to cover costs following his or her birth. Check with your insurance company about this, what you need to do, etc., beforehand. You also need to find out if there are forms that you will need copies of that you’ll need to have signed or notarized, or that you’ll need to get from the hospital prior to leaving. Make sure you do your research on this early on in the process. Once you get the call to come and pick up a baby, all bets are off on what you’ll remember!
3. Maternity Clothes: In writing articles about adoption, I speak to many adoptive families, birth parents, and adoptees. When I asked questions about costs to both birth mothers and adoptive parents, many mentioned that adoptive parents picked up the costs for maternity clothes, which was an expense I had not heard about. Again, in my situation, we used an agency that provided a lot of things to both birth parents and those who needed support in parenting, so this wasn’t something that had crossed my mind, but is an added expense like it would also be if you were carrying a child. One birth mother told me that her children’s adoptive parents actually took her shopping for a few things, but for the most part, adoptive parents told me it was a line item in the things that a birth mother legally submitted for reimbursement. Again, in those cases it wasn’t extravagant and was typically just a few items to help out. Speak to your lawyer or agency about this if you have any questions.
4. Housing: If the birth parents don’t have stable housing, you might have to contribute to those costs. Realistically, an agency or social worker might be helping with this and you’ll need to offset those costs. I know in our state, there is a cap to how much money you could pay toward a birth mother’s housing, but that might not be the case everywhere. Look into this in your state to ensure that you’re prepared to cover this very important expense that we sometimes take for granted.
5. Labor and Delivery Costs: Again, if the birth mother doesn’t have insurance or Medicaid, you could be responsible for all labor and delivery costs. This is another instance where you will need to speak to your own insurance ahead of time. Though our insurance didn’t cover this, I recently spoke to an adoptive family whose insurance did offset the cost of their birth mother’s delivery costs. Do your research—hospital stays aren’t cheap and if there are any complications, this could cost more. You’ll need to be aware so that you can be prepared for these costs.
6. Legal Fees: You will be required to pay legal fees for your end of the adoption and the court hearing, but the birth mother may incur some as well for paperwork. Again, this varies from state to state and even from county to county in some instances. You’ll need to speak to your agency or your own adoption lawyer to further understand these costs.
Why You Are Responsible for These Costs (and Should Be Happy to Pay Them!)
I know this can be a lot and adoption shouldn’t be as expensive as it is. However, I’ll say it again, supporting the human being that is literally giving you a child, shouldn’t be the expense that frustrates you. Though some birth mothers don’t claim reimbursement for the aforementioned costs, they all have the right to. So, if you’re trying to save money for these costs, you need to find out what the max amount they can request for reimbursement is and just plan to pay that. If you end up not paying the full amount, you have a little nest egg for your baby (and all of the diapers you’re going to need!)
Adoption Fees to Consider
I write about the cost of adoption a lot. Mainly because it’s something that people ask me about a lot. It’s one of the things that people who haven’t adopted are the most nosey about—they want to know what you spent. It’s disappointing because there is a lot more to learn about this process, but it is something I get when people are adopting. If you’re seeking to adopt, however, it’s likely not just curiosity driving these questions, but the reality that you’re seeking to find out how much money you’re going to need to prepare to spend.
The first thing you need to do is speak to your agency or lawyer. What is the fee and what does that cover? For most adoptive parents, there are numerous additional fees you need to pay, including, but not limited to: the legal fees for the adoption hearing, home study fees (and remember, a home study is only for a certain amount of time and in the adoption process, often needs to be updated), the birth mother expenses, deposits for agencies and lawyers, and the cost of making a profile for birth parents to view, etc. Again, it’s difficult to give you an exact number because every single agency and state differ on these costs. Lawyers have different fees than agencies because they provide different services, so it just depends on what route you take to adopt. Those who adopt through the foster system typically have fewer fees than those who do domestic infant adoption.
And, if you’re adopting outside of your state or country, another fee to consider is your travel expenses…and the travel expenses for the child you might be bringing home.
The Cost of Adoption in the United States Today.
Remember, depending on the type of adoption, you can prepare to pay anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000 dollars and in some instances, even more. Take into consideration also, the adoption tax credit. You can read more here and talk to your accountant to prepare for this and ensure you qualify and have the right documentation to utilize it.
There Are Organizations to Help Offset Costs!
One of the most important things to remember is that there are people out there working constantly to help you with adoption and to offset the costs. We know that these fees are high, particularly when you note that the high end is likely around the cost of your annual salary.
One of my favorite organizations to highlight is Helpusadopt.org, which offers grants to those who are adopting. You can read more about them and the amazing work that they do here!
Becky Fawcett is the co-founder of Helpusadopt.org and a mother by adoption as well.
“I think one of the things that most people don’t understand about the cost of adoption is that the adoptive parents pay for everything,” she says. And as you can see from this article—she means everything. You pay for your legal fees and that of the birth mother.
Fawcett further notes that you can expect to incur more costs if you’re adopting internationally because you’re paying “a large country fee and an orphanage fee on top of your agency expenses.”
She started Helpusadopt.org because she knows that these expenses add up and can become “an insurmountable expense for many families.”
So, What’s Next?
We know adoption is expensive and we know it’s possibly not an expense that you planned for. When you’re starting this process, the best advice I have for you is to diligently do your research and ask all of the questions you can so that there are no surprise fees and that you are 100 percent aware of any possible fee that you could have to pay. Make a list and figure out your debts, monthly expenses, etc., and then go to a financial planner to help you make sense of everything because adoption is emotionally exhausting, financially daunting, and this is a time that I always recommend speaking to professionals for best practices and advice!
Julia K. Porter is an educator, writer, and cultural competency consultant. She began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and has taught college courses since 2008 and has done nonprofit work. Currently, she is the project manager for Celebrating Cultural uniqueness at Tiffin University. Julia has a passion for diversity and in educating about the nuances of adoption as that is how she chose to grow her family. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures, and knitting. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Kyle, daughter, Brooklyn, and Australian Shepherd, Hunter. For more information, visit www.juliakayporter.com.