The Real Cost to Adopt: The Ins and Outs of Financing Adoption

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 is a wonderful way to create—or grow—a family. While the new baby is what is on the minds of most prospective parents, there are financial issues to consider as well. Whether you adopt through a licensed agency or independent attorney, expanding your family in this way requires a significant amount of money. Here's everything you need to know about the types and costs of adoption, so you can plan and budget accordingly.

Private Agencies

Pregnant people often work with private agencies to find a new home for their soon-to-be babies. 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 cost

According to a 2022 fact sheet called "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 childcare. Consult with the specific private agencies you're considering working with for a more precise breakdown of the prospective costs for your situation.

International cost

International adoptions often cost more than domestic adoption, since parents need to coordinate 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 from the foster care system will work with a public agency. These agencies connect prospective parents with older children, siblings, or children with special needs, many of whom were taken from their parents by a state social services department. The ultimate goal of foster centers is reuniting children with birth parents, so there's more risk involved with public agency adoptions.

What's more, public agencies have stricter guidelines; 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. Plus, these children are in significant need of a loving home.

The cost

Government-funded adoption assistance programs help pay legal and professional fees. If you're adopting a child with special needs, federal or state subsidies may come into play. A 2016-2017 survey from Adoptive Families Magazine found that adopting a foster child costs an average of $2,938. 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.

Hosting a Foster Child

Some prospective parents host a foster child with the hopes of adopting them one day. Of course, the child may be eventually returned to their birth parents, so the adoption process isn't always guaranteed. However, the financial costs tend to be a lot less expensive and in some cases free, according to the Children's Bureau.

The cost

The government provides foster parents with a monthly stipend for child care. If adoption is approved, the government also assists with legal and professional fees. The Adoptive Families Magazine 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, and there are fewer protections in place with this type of adoption.

The cost

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 biological 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 was 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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