Let’s face it, when it comes to adoption, “expenses” is a dirty word. One of the biggest deterrents prospective adoptive families face when pursuing their dream of adopting a child is the fees and costs that often come with it. Just how expensive is adoption?

There is no getting around the fact that other than foster-to-adopt, almost every form of adoption comes at a cost to families who save and sacrifice in the hopes of adopting.

Still, before you decide that adoption is too expensive for you and count yourself out–thereby also counting out the possibility of giving a family to a child who needs one–let’s walk through the different types of adoption and the expenses associated with each.

Adoption Expenses Per Different Processes

In general, the cost to adopt a child can range between nearly $0 and $50,000, depending on the process you use and the country from which you adopt, according to U.S. News.

Foster care is a wonderful opportunity to give families to children in our communities who have experienced hardships early in their lives and will benefit greatly from a loving family. Unlike private and independent adoption, foster care is often funded by the state, and in most cases, there are few or no fees. Additionally, families who choose foster-to-adopt may even receive a monthly stipend to go toward raising your child until your case is finalized and you are legally a family, according to Adoption.org.

When working with a private agency to adopt a healthy newborn baby or to adopt from another country, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a federal service, advises that you may be looking at a cost between $5,000 to $40,000. Some agencies have a sliding scale based on the prospective adoptive parents’ income.

In addition, an independent adoption can cost anywhere between $15,000 to $40,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. The fees typically encompass the birth mother’s medical expenses, legal representation for both adoptive and birth parents, associated court fees, social workers, and more.

Let’s look at how expensive different forms of adoption are.

Domestic Adoption Expense Breakdown

The adoption process, as well as adoption fees, change from state to state due to different processes and requirements. The Adoption.org article, What is a General Breakdown of the Costs of Adoption? provides insight into the reasons behind the cost of adoption. How expensive is domestic adoption? Some of the basic fees to consider for domestic adoption include:

Agency Fees. Agency fees cover the costs of an agency to manage your adoption. These fees typically cover a registration fee, home study fee, and post-placement fee. Some agencies adjust their fees based on family income. These fees can range between $20,000 to $40,000.

Third-Party Adoption Providers. You should anticipate paying some fees either to your adoption agency or directly to third-party providers. Some of those fees could be toward those who help create your adoptive family profile, conduct fingerprinting, provide education and training, and collect placement fees should you be matched through another entity (other than your adoption agency).

Travel and Placement Fees. Even though you are adopting within the United States, you may still need to travel if you are adopting across state or state lines. You should anticipate airfare, ground transportation (car rental), meals, lodging, medical expenses, and placement fees if you are matched through an entity other than your adoption agency.

Legal Requirements. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, court documentation fees can range from $500 to $2,000, while costs for legal representation may range from $1,500 to $4,000. It’s important to note that legal fees may be impacted by additional legal actions such as termination of parental rights.

International Adoption Expense Breakdown

Just like there are differences between different domestic adoption processes, there are differences in expenses and fees between different countries. Still, there are some crossover costs and fees that you should figure into your overall cost. Your best bet is to work with your adoption facilitator and social worker for a complete and accurate breakdown with fee breakdown for the most current numbers, as these change often. How expensive is international adoption?

Here are some of the services you can anticipate:

Home Study. A home study is a document prepared by a licensed social worker in your state that examines every aspect of your family’s life. Although similar, home studies for international adoption tend to be more intensive than domestic adoption. According to most adoption sources, you can expect to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the type of adoption you are pursuing, the state where you reside, and how quickly the report is required.

Adoption Program Fees. The professionals you choose to help with your adoption determine the fees, which typically cover assessing available children, care of the child before their adoption, matching waiting children with prospective families, and communication with involved international agencies who will be involved with your adoption. Although fees typically range between $15,000 to $20,000, adoption program fees will vary and should be discussed with your adoption facilitators.

Immigration Application. A filing fee is required for many immigration forms, including for adoption.  

Documentation Authentication and Translation Fees. While documentation authentication fees typically run about $5.00, the cost to hire a service to translate adoption certificates can average anywhere between $30.00 to $125 per page. In some cases, translators may charge between $0.08 to $0.40 per word.

Travel and Living Arrangements. It’s fairly difficult to provide a ballpark number for travel for international adoption because it’s different between countries and situations. The same goes for living arrangements. While some families are able to find long-term residences that are set up to accommodate adopting families, others choose to stay in independent hotels or rent private homes. Also, because the adoption process is different from country to country, the time you may spend in the country will determine your travel and living arrangement expenses. Your best bet is to speak with your adoption facilitators as well as other families who have adopted previously for details when it comes to airlines, in-country transportation, residences, food, medical, necessities, escort fees, translation fees, passport, and visa processing, and additional in-country support.

Legal Requirements (birth country and stateside). The cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, with legal representation ranging from $2,500 to $12,000 or more in some states, according to FindLaw.

How Can I Afford Adoption?

Wondering how you can afford adoption can feel overwhelming and confusing. The truth is, affording adoption is not easy for the average family. However, with some research and a bit of work, no matter which path you choose to adopt a child–you can make your dream to give a family to a child a reality. So how is adoption expensive?

Adoption.com offers an entire page full of articles, videos, and stories devoted to helping hopeful families afford adoption. Just a sampling of ideas includes adoption loans, adoption grants, employer-provided adoption benefits, and the Adoption Tax Credit.

 According to the Adoption.com article, “9 Items You May Not Think to Include in Your Adoption Budget,” but should include:

  • Copying Charges – Prepare to go through a lot of paper throughout the adoption process. Even as we’ve turned the corner into the technology age, you should anticipate the need to have copies at the ready for everything from your application to home study to background forms to personal financial information like pay stubs, bank statements, and tax forms.
  • Cost of a Profile Book – One method of matching a prospective adoptive couple with an expectant mother is by creating a profile book to help her make her decision based on photos and information about her options.
  • Physicals – One of everybody’s favorite parts of the adoption process–the home study–typically requires completing medical reports for adoptive parents and any other children in their home. This trip to the doctor may also involve lab work for drug testing.
  • Notary Fees – You should anticipate that some of your paperwork and documents will require notarization. Notaries typically charge for their services. Prospective adoptive parents can save a little money if you know a notary who would provide the service at no charge.
  • Travel Costs – You may be traveling out of state, so planning and budgeting for airfare and car rental is a must. You’re going to get hungry whether you drive or fly, so make sure to consider your appetite. Other items that may come into play include luggage/baggage fees, taxi/cab fares, tipping, and paying to park your vehicle in an airport parking lot for an unknown amount of time. 
  • Hospital Photos – While it’s entirely possible for adoptive parents to take their own photos to document this important first milestone in their family’s history together, let’s face it, you’re going to have a lot of other more pressing things on your mind. Some families opt to hire a commercial photography service to capture those first moments allowing you to focus on what’s most important–your little bundle of joy.
  • Food and Lodging While Awaiting Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Processing – It is illegal to take a child out of state until an ICPC review has been finalized. The process can take several days, which means adopting parents should assume food and lodging will need to be arranged. 
  • Certified Copies – You should have copies of original documents on which it is noted they are true copies of the original documents (say that three times fast) for things such as the court’s final judgment granting the adoption. This is often necessary to obtain a new birth certificate or to request a Social Security number.
  • Amended Birth Certificate – Once a child has been adopted, their original birth record needs to be revised to record a potential name change as well as to list their adoptive parents as the legal parents. 

Ways to Save for Adoption

Anyone considering adoption should do their share of research regarding what sort of financial resources may be available before digging too deeply into their savings. After you have spoken with your adoption consultant to learn what fees you will be looking at, you may also want to consult your financial advisor to make sure you are in a position to adopt without putting yourself into debt.

Check where you work. Many employers offer adoption benefits up to tens of thousands of dollars. While not overly common, it’s worth a trip down to your HR department to find out what may be available to you.

Another popular go-to for adoptive parents is an adoption grant. Again, while these may not be plentiful, they do exist. If you happen to fall into a category that warrants one, it’s worth looking into in order to determine whether or not you qualify for assistance.

While nobody loves fundraising—it can feel awkward and uncomfortable—you may be surprised at the response you receive from family and friends who want nothing more than to see your dream of starting or growing your family through adoption become a reality. Whether you work with your church, plan a garage sale, bake sales, start a GoFundMe or other social media campaign, or simply reach out to loved ones or coworkers who may be willing to donate–asking for help is nothing to feel ashamed about.

Last but not least is the Adoption Tax Credit, as mentioned above. The tax code provided an adoption credit of up to $14,300 for qualified adoption expenses in 2020. The Adoption Tax Credit is available for each child adopted no matter the type (foster to adopt, domestic private, or international). 

Ready to Get Started?

One of the best things you can do to determine whether adoption is too expensive for you is to learn about the different types of adoption and what the best choice may be for your family. Check out the How to Adopt page on Adoption.org today!

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.

Sue Kuligowski is an author 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.