Many families find their children through the foster system because they see a need to help and heal kids in their own community, but did you know that adopting through the foster system can cost significantly less than a private infant adoption done through an agency? (A disclaimer before we start: Check with your local caseworkers in your state because protocols vary from state to state.)

Traditional infant adoption through a private agency can run anywhere in the tens of thousands of dollars—agency fees, travel and birth mother expenses, home study fees, and court fees can all increase the total expenditures you may face. Adopting a child from the foster care system, however, can be relatively inexpensive. When you start the process you will be asked what kind of a foster arrangement you are interested in. Most state agencies have children that are categorized as “ready to adopt” or “foster-to-adopt.” These kids are those for whom parental rights have been terminated, or are on track for termination. (Many of these kids are also considered “special needs,” but don’t let that terminology scare you. In the adoption world “special needs” can mean sibling group, kids older than an infant, or any child requiring additional medical intervention.)

When you work through the foster system, most of the prohibitive adoption fees are nonexistent. There are no agency fees to pay because the social workers are paid through the state. Home studies are generally cost-free to foster parent applicants, although you may need to pay for things like fingerprinting, readying your house for a child, and court costs can be minimal. Your caseworker will even have some recommendations for low-cost attorneys to represent you in court come finalization time. If you choose to foster-to-adopt, you may even be given a monthly stipend to go towards raising your child until your case is finalized and you are legally a family.

Jennifer Galan mothers four kids (one adopted, three biological) all while living the nomadic life of a military wife. She is a strong advocate for open adoptions, education reform, feminism, kindness, and naps. Mostly naps. Her favorite Doctor is number ten, and she is a proud Ravenclaw.