We all know that adoption can be expensive. This is a conversation that’s going on in both the adoption and the greater community. What you may not know is that there are countless people working tirelessly to get these costs down. There are organizations dedicated to raising funds for grants to help offset the costs of adoption for those who are in the process. What you may not also know is that there are numerous people eager to become parents that have already exhausted their funds in other endeavors to become parents. Whatever the reason that funds are needed, there are ways to get help with adoption costs.

Why is Adoption Expensive?

There are so many variables to the cost of adoption. Remember that agencies have staff, building costs, offer so many critical and important services to birth families, and that lawyers have hours of paperwork, legal info, etc. The professionals that help you are also worth a lot—they’re educated, have experience, etc. All of these factors play a part in the costs. Additionally, costs vary based on each state, whether you use a private agency, a lawyer, or adopt through foster care.

For specific information about domestic adoption costs, read this article.

For the naysayers…

I can’t even begin to say how disheartening it is when I talk about adoption costs and someone says to me, “Well if they can’t afford the adoption, how will they afford the child?” I get it.  According to The Street, raising a child from their infancy to the age of 17 could cost parents over $233,000. But, we don’t pay this in a lump sum. The reality is that many people are adopting after they’ve already exhausted their resources through infertility treatments, attempts at surrogacy, and in some cases, other failed adoptions. Before you second-guess someone’s finances, realize that adoptions on average cost $40,000. That’s a lot of money—many people’s annual salary who support happy and healthy children with money left over.  The reality is that this cost, all at once, following other costs dealing with fertility and life in general, can be burdensome to many.

Emily’s Story

You may not know someone who has struggled with the financial costs of adoption, but many of us do. Emily, from Royersford, PA, and her husband struggled with infertility for years—paying for most of her infertility treatments out of pocket because her insurance didn’t cover them.

“We had two ectopic pregnancies and three miscarriages leading up to our adoption journey,” she notes.

When she and her husband decided to build their family through adoption,  they believed that matching with a birth parent would take some time. (And for many of us, this does take a very long time—the average wait time for a domestic adoption placement from the time of a home study is around 18 months).

“I really still felt like I may never become a mom,” Emily said. “So when we were matched [with] a birth mother in just seven and a half weeks, we hadn’t had the time to figure out how we would cover all of the adoption costs.”

Having already given everything to infertility treatments, they began researching online and found Helpusadopt.org, which was a grant that her family qualified for as they were adopting a newborn through domestic adoption.

Helpusadopt.org was critical to their adoption. Emily explains that their friends and family had already helped them to the extent that they could.

According to Emily, “Helpusadopt clearly spelled out the expectations for their application. We had to show our need. Period.”

Becky Fawcett, co-founder of Helpusadopt.org says, “The financial support that Helpusadopt.org provides is crucial. If an average adoption costs $40,000 and the average U.S. household income is $54,000, do that math.  The numbers are prohibitive for most American families to afford adoption. And if people can’t afford to adopt, then what happens to all the children that need homes?”

With no application fee, this also helps couples save every extra amount toward their adoption expenses.

“I remember sitting at my desk at work when I received a call from Becky Fawcett. She asked if anything about our situation had changed and then shared that we had been awarded the money that we would need to complete our adoption,” Emily says. “This was just a few days shy of when we needed to give our final payment to the attorney and about one month from our son’s due date.”

Emily and her husband had been worried about how they would come up with the funds and this was the answer—they could focus on the joy of at long last, being new parents.

“Helpusadopt was the reason we could bring home our son,” Emily says. “They bridged the gap between all of our efforts and the help of our friends and family.”

This experience also gave Emily and her husband the confidence and financial security to adopt once again. Because of the help they received, they were able to financially recover again and move forward with a second adoption.

If you’re in a similar situation to that of Emily and her husband, she encourages you to tell your entire story.

“Explain what doesn’t show up on your financials and what else is going on,” she says.

“What else is going on in your life that is impeding your ability to pay for your adoption? What are you doing to make this adoption happen?”

Emily and her husband were working multiple jobs, selling items in their home, hosting fundraisers, etc., which showed that they were making the effort to secure the funds needed.

Emily’s story is similar to many of yours that I read. There are ways to overcome the costs of infertility treatments to move forward and build your family through adoption.

Understand Your Costs First

I cannot stress this enough: Understand clearly what your total cost will be. There is a myriad of fees including what you will pay an agency, potential birth mother medical and housing costs, the cost of the home study, legal fees, deposits, etc. Add these up. Though an agency may quote you a price, be sure that it includes everything. Does your deposit go toward the final cost, etc.? And secondly, find out when these costs are due. Some of them may come before the final fee and some of them may come after.

For example, my husband and I had to pay a deposit to the agency and home study fees (including renewing the home study after a year had passed and we still hadn’t been placed yet). Additionally, we paid for other expenses that were smaller but still added up like the cost of the profile books, etc. Before we left the hospital, we owed the agency fee, and then we had legal fees when the court date came around, etc. We were able to add our daughter to insurance for most of the medical expenses.

We created a sheet with our costs and would check them off when we paid them and indicated when they were due. I can’t stress enough how important staying organized is. If you don’t know how much you owe, you can’t find out how much you need. Again, familiarize yourself with potential domestic adoption fees as well as the adoption tax credit and how it works before you proceed in reaching out for financial assistance.

I also get asked frequently why the home study is an earlier cost. This is because, in most instances, you can take this home study to use with any agency or lawyer—even if you use one agency to conduct it. Getting the home study is imperative as many of the grant organizations that support adoption costs won’t proceed with helping you fund your adoption until you’ve completed this step.

So, while you’re making other decisions and figuring out your finances, get your house ready for the home study. (This is a great time to organize and think about listing items you’ve been meaning to get rid of for a while on eBay or other shopping sites—this will help contribute to the costs you’ll be incurring.)

You’ll Have to Pay Some Costs Out of Pocket

It is highly unlikely that you’ll find one organization that will offset all of your adoption costs. This is important to remember. Like I mentioned, you often can’t get funds until you’ve completed steps like the home study and paid a deposit to an agency. Organizations also tend to offer grants that offset the costs of adoption—they don’t typically pay for the total of all of the costs. This is important. You’re not likely to find one place that will fund all of your adoption expenses, so you’ll need to be realistic. Look through your finances, savings, etc., and figure out what you can do. This is when many couples start fundraising.

We’ve been to fundraising garage sales, dinners, silent auctions, etc., to help couples afford adoption costs—something that I’m always happy to do. It not only goes to a worthy cause, but it shows their dedication to adopting a child.

Learn More about Organizations in Your Area

My husband and I prepared for our adoption and paid for it ourselves. However, we got married older (when we were settled in our careers) and knew early on that we were going to build our family through adoption, so we had more time to process. (Honestly, it also helps that my husband is a financial planner—he had this covered. In fact, if you’re going to be adopting, it might be time to meet with a financial planner. She or he can help you with this!)

Shortly after our own adoption, I learned about a local organization called Raise the Dough that helps offset the costs of adoption for individuals.

My tip to you? Start to immerse yourself in the adoption community early on. There are a lot of people, like myself, who are eager to help and through word of mouth, you’ll hear about many organizations like this. Every time I hear of a not-for-profit that helps people financially afford adoptions, I am sure to pass them on.

For more information about adoption grants and organizations where you can apply, click here.

Research and Write

I’m a researcher and writer professionally, so this was always a fun part for me—not my husband’s strong suit. Wherever you stand on reading and writing, learn to love it. You need to research to gather information about adoption. It’s just the way it is. You’ll have to find credible information for your state. Though you have social workers to help you and adoption professionals, I’ll tell you from experience that when you’re excited about being a parent, waiting for someone to return your call or email can be difficult, so it’s best to get used to finding information that you need.

As you’ll likely know if you’re seeking an adoption grant, you’ll have to go through a lengthy application process. This is important. It’s not because they want you to do more work, but it’s because not-for-profits only have a certain amount of funds and they need to determine who is the most worthy of those grant dollars.

You need to spend time regardless of telling your story. If you’re fundraising or asking others for money, they’ll want to know. Also, you’ll be telling your story to birth families and if you get used to writing and telling it well, it will mesh into the story that you tell your child one day.

It’s Worth It

Again, when I speak with people about adoption, they can sometimes not fathom the fees that are associated with adoption. People are quick to judge the system. Though I don’t agree that people should have to pay extraordinary amounts to parent when we have so many children in foster care that need permanent homes, I do understand the fees associated with adoption agencies—they have staff, costs, and many of them are counseling birth families—something that to me, is critical.

The cost can seem overwhelming, but when you speak with professionals and ultimately, become a parent, you realize that the money isn’t so important.

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.