how much to adopt a child
How Much Does Adoption Cost?
Probably the most common questions asked in adoption: "How much does it cost to adopt a child?" or "What is the cost of adoption?" Not all adoption processes are the same and each one has its own expenses. In a domestic adoption, expenses may include legal representation for the adoptive and birth parent(s), medical costs, counseling, rent, phone and travel for the birth parent(s), and travel, court, Home Study and networking/advertising costs for the adoptive parent(s). In an international adoption, there are agency or attorney fees plus the applications to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In the country from which the child will immigrate, there are legal and agency costs, court, medical and document and translation costs, donations to the child welfare center and local travel.
While many feel by charging for adoption services “you are putting a price tag on a child,” there are real costs associated with adoption. Adoptions through foster care are paid for through taxes. The public institutions get state and sometimes federal monies to make adoption plans and provide needed services, including monthly stipends to adopting families whose children qualify. In a private domestic or international adoption, the adopting parents typically pay for all services permitted by state and federal regulations.
Most adoptions through foster care are done without a charge to the adopting family. In some instances, an out-of-state family may need to pay for the cost of the Adoption Home Study and Post Placement Supervisory Visits. In some states, the adopting parent(s) need to pay for the finalization of the adoption. There will also be a series of trips to the other state to meet and bond with the child before placement into your home. The adopting family covers those costs. A local foster care adoption can cost up to $2,000, not including travel expenses.
Private domestic adoption costs vary from adoption to adoption and state to state. An agency fee ranges from $15,000 – 30,000. Additional costs for birth parent expenses (i.e. medical, rent, living expenses, phone, etc.) are set on a case-by-case basis. The adopting parent(s) pays for the Adoption Home Study and Post Placement Supervisory Visits, travel, as well as legal counsel for themselves and the birth parent(s). Private placement adoption costs are between $25,000 – 50,000.
The majority of international adoptions are done through adoption agencies. They have detailed explanations of fees and when payments are due. There are additional fees for the Adoption Home Study and Post Placement/Adoption Supervisory Visits, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service applications and travel. International adoption may cost between $30,000 - 80,000.
Through further examination of the actual costs, it will become clearer on how to budget for an adoption process and where costs can be controlled.
Adoption Agency Costs
Birth and Adoptive Parents can choose to work through an adoption agency. They will receive initial information, ongoing counseling, assistance in the “matching process,” oversight of expenses and distribution of funds, help with paperwork and coordination of social services necessary for the placement and adoption finalization.
Each adoption agency sets its fees and service options. It is important to ask for a detailed list of fees, refunds and un-refundable expenses. Birth parent expenses are usually set on a case-by-case basis. You should, however, receive information on which birth parent expenses (and the monetary range) you will be asked to cover.
Adoption agencies who serve as the conduit for information or visits after the adoption placement may have additional fees to provide for these services.
Legal Counsel and Court Costs
Birth and Adoptive Parents are entitled to separate and impartial legal representation during the pregnancy and at the time of placement. Adoptive parents require legal counsel at the time of finalization of the adoption. If birth parents will be part of the finalization process, they will also be entitled to legal counsel. The adoptive parents typically pay for all legal costs, including court filing fees and serving notice, when needed.
International adoptions have legal costs, including court filings, immigration applications (one prior to adopting and one when the child is ready to immigrate to the United States), and embassy medical, visa and passport fees. If the adoption is not finalized oversees, the adopting family will need to hire an attorney to finalize the adoption once back in the United States.
Adoption Home Study Costs
The adopting parent(s) need to pass an Adoption Home Study. A social worker will visit the home, meet with all family members and collect required documentation. Most states require the Home Study be conducted by a licensed agency, although some states allow a private social worker to conduct the Home Study. It is safer to go with an agency study, even if a private social worker can to it, because if you adopt a child from another state, they may require an agency Home Study. In that scenario, you would need to begin again (losing time and money). Also it is prudent to confirm what other services the Home Study provider offers or if you can call with questions after the study is completed. Fees for the Home Study are set by the social worker or agency.
During the Home Study process, all adult household members will have child abuse and criminal background checks. Depending on your state, these clearances may go back to when each person was 18 years of age. There is usually an additional fee for each clearance.
Every household member will need a medical, usually within 6 months of the adoption application. Some states and adoptions require specific blood work, immunizations or other testing.
As part of the Home Study, more and more agencies are requiring adoption parent education. This may be in person, in your home or an on-line option. Find out what your options are and the fee for each.
Post placement or post adoption Supervisory Reports are done after the child comes to live in your home. The social worker comes back and sees how everyone is adjusting. When you are looking for a Home Study provider, ask about the fees for the Post Placement/Post Adoption Supervisory Reports, when you need to pay for them and how many are needed.
Finding your child
There are many ways to locate a child to adopt, and this is an area where you can control the expenses. The least expensive way to find a child or pregnant woman is by word of mouth networking. Tell everyone you know you are looking to adopt. Hand out business type cards. Free newspapers are another way to go; then there are other newspaper publications. Some people use the Internet, posting profiles and creating their own website. The most expensive way to go is to use a consultant who designs and executes your networking campaign.
Birth Parent Costs
Every birth parent should meet with an objective counselor who can discuss parenting and adoption options. If they decide on an adoption, they should be able to work with a counselor who will oversee their medical care, be the liaison with the adoptive parent’s counselor or attorney regarding the birth parent’s needs and provide ongoing emotional support to the birth parent.
Pre-natal care and hospital costs will be paid for by the adopting family if the birth parent has no medical coverage and does not have Medicaid. While the baby’s hospital bill may be covered under the adoptive parent’s medical insurance, the birth mother’s expenses are not. Any recommended specialist appointments or testing is the responsibility of the adoptive parent(s).
In domestic adoption, each state regulates how much and which birth parent expenses an adoptive parent can pay. Counseling should be offered to the birth parent and varying amounts of counsel can be paid for by the adopting parent(s). In an international adoption, donations may be made to child welfare institutions or orphanages to help care for the children still in care.
If you network or adopt from out of state, there is a potential to make several trips to the other state—to meet the birth parent(s), take custody of your child and possibly to finalize the adoption. While you could stay with family or friends, if they live locally, most Adoptive Parents stay in hotels. By keeping your adoption local, you limit airfare, car expenses, hotel and other “away from home” costs.
Each adoption has its own budget and costs. Before agreeing to work with an agency or attorney, ask them for a description of all fees, as well as their own specific fees. Ask if any fees are refundable. Ask them how they evaluate each situation for costs. Make sure they are aware of your budget limitations.
There are loans and grants to help with the adoption process. Some families fund raise to cover costs. There is an Adoption Tax Credit you can claim in the year you finalize your adoption.
While adoption costs and processes vary, there is an adoption for every budget.