If you have considered adoption I am sure you have asked yourself the age-old question, how expensive is adoption? While you have come to the right spot to find an answer to that question, I am afraid there is not one clear answer to your question. There are several factors to consider and several different routes you can choose. In this article, I will attempt to lay a foundation of how expensive adoption can be, how to plan ahead, and how you could possibly save money. I know it sounds strange saying “save money” while pursuing adoption, however, it is possible.
I will advise you that this article is written from my own personal experience and research, please do not take it as legal advice. Please contact your local adoption agency or attorney for more information regarding how expense adoption is in your area. But for now, this article will contain basic information on how expensive adoption is and what you may expect.
An agency adoption is an adoption that occurs through a licensed child-placing agency. The agency will facilitate the adoption process and can possibly be advocating for the birth mother and the adoptive family. This is the type of adoption we utilized with the adoption of our son. Our social worker advocated for our son’s birth mom and prepared us for the adoption process.
The average agency adoption can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. Now, before you get blown away by that number, let’s explore what costs are covered by this number. An agency adoption completes the entire adoption process from start to end. These individuals are licensed and trained in their field. They have experienced numerous different types of scenarios regarding adoption and are prepared to be with you every step of the way. However, let me urge you to know what costs are expected out of you upfront. Most adoption agencies will have a fee schedule notifying you of what to expect. This is usually laid out in one of your first meetings with your agency or through your informational/parenting classes that are required by your agency. I will also advise you to find an agency you feel comfortable working with. Adoption is a very personal experience and working with someone you can trust is very important. Again, I reiterate, find someone you feel comfortable with and trust and get a detailed description of the costs and fees associated with each adoption.
Basic costs you will be covering will include, but not be limited to, the following:
– Application Fee – This is a fee paid to the agency at the beginning of the process and usually sent in with your application. Once the agency accepts you into their program, you can move on to the next step in the process.
– Background Checks or FBI Clearances – Your state may or may not require you to pay for these services. Again, make sure you talk with your agency about these fees in advance so you know if there is a cost or not. However, background checks and clearances are required for all adoptions.
– Medical appointments and financial documents – Your agency will require you to have a physical exam, any cost associated with the exam is paid out of pocket in addition to any fees paid to the agency. The same goes for any financial documents you may need. If there is a charge in obtaining them, you are responsible for those costs out of pocket.
– Home study fee – The home study fee can range from $2,000 to $3,000, depending on your agency. The home study is the gathering of all the required paperwork, walking through your home and having your agency worker write up a report regarding his/her findings. If you move during your adoption process, you may be charged an additional fee to update your home study, this is usually a few hundred dollars.
– Agency Fee – The agency fee is whatever your agency charges to act as your adoption agency. These fees can range from $1,000 to $15,000. This is where it is hard to say just how much an adoption costs because there is such a wide spectrum of amounts charged. I can tell you our agency fee was $3,000, a little on the lesser side, but we loved our social worker and loved working with the agency we did.
– Legal Fees – Even if you are working with an agency, you will be required to pay legal fees or attorney fees. Again, make sure you know what your agency expects you to pay out of pocket ahead of time. We, too, had to hire an attorney for our adoption (our agency uses the same one every time) and paid an additional approximately $3,000 for attorney’s fees. There are also filing fees associated with adoptions. Again, make sure you know if you have to pay these out of pocket or if they are included in the agency fee.
– Birth mother expenses – Birth mother expenses are also paid out of pocket. The payment of birth mother expenses are regulated by each state, but they usually include medical, living, legal, and counseling expenses. These are unpredictable and vary from case to case. With our son’s adoption, we did not pay any additional expenses for his birth mother.
– Travel Costs – Any travel costs you may incur related to the adoption are all paid out of pocket. However, I will note that if you keep track of the mileage you may be able to claim those miles on your federal income taxes relating to the adoption tax credit (more about that later).
Private adoption is an independent adoption that involved direct placement between the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s), without the use of an agency. This type of adoption is not available in every state. However, some states require that an adoption agency be involved with every adoption, making private adoptions not possible.
If your state does allow private adoptions, where the birth mother and prospective adoptive parents find each other, there will still be some fees associated with the adoption. These fees may include advertising online to locate a birth mother. Again, this is not allowed in every state. As indicated above, if your state requires you to utilize an adoption agency, they may charge a lesser fee than if they facilitated the match between birth mother and adoptive parents. You may also want to consult an attorney if you are pursuing a private adoption. Not only will you know what your rights are regarding the adoption process but it also might give you peace of mind as well. In some states you can use an adoption attorney to facilitate the adoption process and will pay whatever they charge and whatever their hourly rate is. Again, this is not one size fits all either. Make sure you consult with more than one adoption attorney before choosing the one that fits your family’s need the best.
Foster Care Adoption
If you have been interested in pursuing adoption, you probably are aware that you can adopt from the foster care system. While the ultimate goal of the foster care program is parent reunification, there are certain circumstances when that is not possible and when an adoption plan can be made for that child. Usually, the children available for adoption through the foster care system are older children and/or part of a sibling group. Most states cover the cost of adopting through the foster care system. There is also several different kinds of state and/or federal adoption assistance available, which may include medical assistance and/or monthly maintenance payments.
As indicated above, some of the fees associated with foster care adoption could include:
– Home Study Fee – Usually a lot less than if you were using an adoption agency. The average fee is around $250.00. Make sure to check with your local county foster care provider for more detailed information regarding their fees, if any.
– Attorney’s Fees– Again, usually a lot less than if you were using an adoption agency and could possibly be reimbursed from your state. Average attorney’s fees for foster care adoption range from $1,000 to $2,000.
– Travel Expenses – Just like an agency adoption, any travel fees associated with your foster care adoption are paid out of pocket. However, you may be able to keep track of mileage and use that on your taxes. Check with your certified public accountant, or CPA, for more detailed information.
Also, some of these fees may be reimbursed from the state in which you are adopting. Make sure to contact a local county foster care provider for more detailed information regarding any fees and expenses that may be expected from you if you are adopting from the foster care system.
International adoption is the adoption of a child born in another country than the one in which you reside. International adoption also has a very wide range of fees, as each country has their own fee scale and traveling to each country varies. The average international adoption can range from $30,000 to well over $50,000. Similar to the agency adoption costs above, international adoptions will require the following fees:
– Agency Fee/Program Fee – This number, of course, is one that varies by which country you are adopting from and what agency you are using. The costs can range from $10,000 to $15,000. For more specific information, contact a local adoption agency and discuss with them what their rates for international adoptions are and know what country you are interested in adopting from, as that will determine the cost.
– Home Study Fee – Similar to the agency adoption, your agency will also charge a home study fee. These again, range from $2,000 to $4,000, depending on what program you are in and what agency you are using. In addition to the traditional home study requirements and paperwork, there may be additional items that need to be provided. Also, since international travel will be required both parents will need passports and/or Visas. This will be additional out of pocket costs that need to be paid.
– Dossier Preparation – The adoption dossier is similar to the paperwork process of a home study. It is essentially the gathering of several pieces of paperwork to provide to the sending and receiving country to show that the adoptive parents will be able to provide a safe and secure home for the child. This fee can range anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.
– In-Country Adoption Expenses – Again, this number will depend on what country you are adopting from. Usually in the range of $5,000 to $7,000. Make sure you discuss these fees with your adoption agency ahead of time so you are aware of what each country may charge.
– Travel Expenses – As seems to be the theme of this article, this number will depend on what country you are adopting from. Some countries require more than one visit before you are able to complete your adoption. Some countries require longer stays than others. Again, make sure to discuss with your agency what travel will be expected of you before deciding on what country you wish to adopt from. Travel costs can range from $5,000 to $10,000.
– Child’s passport, visa, medical exams, etc. – Your child will also need a passport and/or a visa depending on what country you are adopting from. He/she will also most likely require a medical exam. These are all fees that will be paid out of pocket in addition to any agency fees. Together, these will probably cost less than $1,000.
Ways to Save
I know these numbers seem staggering and you probably think you cannot afford to adopt a child, but there are ways to “offset” some of these expenses. As I mentioned earlier in the article, talk with a tax professional to discuss what options may be available for in regards to the adoption tax credit and/or adoption assistance programs. You may also be able to apply for grants. A simple Google search for “adoption grants” will result in hundreds of possibilities. Applying for grants takes time, however, it usually pays off in the end. You may also be able to apply for a no-interest or low-interest loan to cover your adoption expenses. There are several online resources for that as well. Get creative with fundraising. I know it seems silly to be asking people to help pay for a child, however, you will be surprised at how willing people are to help you. Have a garage sale. Have a bake sale. Create an online shop for something you make by hand. Start a 5k run/walk. Provide concessions at events. The possibilities really are endless, you just have to be willing to try.
I know this is a lot of information and certainly can be overwhelming. However, I hope it somewhat answered your question, how expensive is adoption. If for nothing at all, it at least got you thinking about adoption and what the costs might be. I urge you to contact a local adoption agency to get more specific cost information from them and start the process today! It really is a journey and one that is quite rewarding if I do say so myself.
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.