How Much It Costs to Adopt a Child

If you're looking to adopt a child, there are a lot of financial issues to consider. Here's everything you need to know about the cost of adoption.

Adoption can be a wonderful (albeit difficult and complex) way to create and grow a family. While the prospect of welcoming a child into the family is what is on the minds of most prospective parents, there are financial issues to consider. Whether you adopt through a licensed agency or an independent attorney, adopting a child often requires a significant financial investment. Here's everything you need to know about the costs of different types of adoptions.

Private Agencies

When choosing to place a child for adoption, birth parents often work with private agencies to find an adoptive family. The birth and adoptive parents determine the guidelines together, such as whether they want a closed or open adoption. Private agencies, which usually have both domestic and international programs, boast more lenient requirements than public agencies.

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Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Domestic adoption

According to the 2022 fact sheet "Planning for Adoption: Knowing the Costs and Resources" from the Children's Bureau, the price of private adoption varies greatly, but usually ranges from $30,000 to $45,000. Costs include legal fees ($1,500–$4,500), court documentation fees ($500–$2000), home studies ($1,000–$3,000), counseling and medical expenses for birth parents, training for adoptive parents, and interim child care. Consult with the specific private agencies you're considering working with for a more precise breakdown of the prospective costs for your situation.

International adoption

International adoptions often cost more than domestic adoption, since parents need to coordinate the added expense of travel, immigration, and documentation. The Children's Bureau estimates you'll spend between $20,000 and $50,000 when adopting a child from another country.

Public Agencies

Those adopting through the foster care system will work with a public agency. Public agencies tend to have stricter guidelines than private agencies. They often require criminal and medical checks, parenting class attendance, home studies, court adoption orders, and more. However, there is a greater potential for aid and other resources to help reduce the costs of the adoption.

Adopting a waiting child

Public agencies connect prospective parents with children in state custody who are waiting to be adopted after their birth parents’ rights have been surrendered or terminated by the court.

Government-funded adoption assistance programs help pay legal and professional fees for these adoptions. If you're adopting a child with special needs, federal or state subsidies may come into play. Note that the designation of "special needs" includes having mental and physical health concerns as well as a variety of other factors, such as age, background, and the need to be adopted with a sibling.

A 2016–2017 survey by Adoptive Families Magazine found that adopting a child from foster care costs an average of $2,938.

Fostering to adopt

In a foster-to-adopt situation, prospective parents become foster parents and agree to care for children who have entered the foster care system (but whose parents' rights have not been surrendered) with the hopes of adopting one day. It's important to note, however, that the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children with their birth parents, so the option to adopt is never guaranteed and all foster parents are expected to support reunification efforts.

The financial costs of adopting a child after fostering them tend to be a lot less expensive than private adoptions (and in some cases it is free), according to the Children's Bureau. The government provides foster parents with a monthly stipend for child care while fostering, and if adoption is approved, the government also assists with legal and professional fees. The Adoptive Families Magazine survey public adoption cost estimate of $2,938 applies here as well.

Independent Adoption

Independent adoptions don't involve an agency, so they allow for greater customization. Prospective parents (or attorneys) work with birth parents to make arrangements. Not all states allow independent adoption, and a major downside is that the birth parent could change their mind after the child is born. There are also fewer protections in place with this type of adoption.

The cost of independent adoption varies greatly, but a 2018 fact sheet by legal information site FindLaw gives an average cost ranging from $8,000 to $40,000 or more. The Children's Bureau estimates the costs of independent adoptions to be between $25,000 to $45,000 or more. This price includes legal fees (since parents work closely with an attorney), court and medical fees for birth parents, and a home study. According to the Children's Bureau, using advertising to find expectant parents also raises the price.

Resources to Lower The Cost of Adoption

To lessen the burden of adoption expenses, parents-to-be can take advantage of available resources. These include employee benefits, tax credits, and loans or grants.

Employee benefits

Many companies offer benefits for parents, such as financial assistance, counseling, and parental leave—and these perks sometimes extend to adoptive parents, too. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, more than half of employers provide some kind of adoption benefit. Contact your human resources department for more information.

Tax credits

Adoptive parents may qualify for federal tax credits for the year in which the adoption is finalized, according to the Children's Bureau. The exact amount depends on factors like income and the child's disability status. For more information, visit the IRS website for more information on adoption credit and assistance. State credits may also be available for parents using public agencies.

Loans and grants

To find out if you qualify for loans and grants, which vary based on a wide range of circumstances, check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway funding page.

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