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

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

Whether you adopt through a licensed agency or independent attorney, expanding your family has some added expenses. Here's everything you need to know about the cost of adoption, so prospective parents can budget accordingly.

Private Agencies

Pregnant people 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.

An image of money on a colorful background.
Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Domestic Cost: According to a 2016 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 $20,000 to $45,000. Costs include legal fees ($1,500-$4,000), court documentation fees ($500-$2000), home studies ($1,500-$4,000), counseling and medical expenses for birth parents, training for adoptive parents, and interim childcare. Speak with a private agency for a more precise breakdown of prospective costs.

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 spent between $20,000 and $50,000 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.

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.

Independent Adoption

This type of adoption doesn't involve an agency, so it allows 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.

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. This 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.

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.

The Cost: The government provides foster parents 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.

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: Most companies offer benefits for biological parents, such as financial assistance, counseling, and parental leave—and these perks sometimes extend to adoptive parents, too. The Children's Bureau factsheet cites a survey by Aon Hewitt Associates, which found that more than half of employers have adoption benefits. 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 child 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 quality for loans and grants, which vary based on a wide range of circumstances, check out theChild Welfare Information Gateway page.

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