How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

FT Contributor  | 

Not only is the adoption process expensive, but it also costs a lot to raise a child in the U.S. This financial and emotional commitment can feel daunting for potential adoptive parents. The costs to adopt a child vary based on the type of adoption. Learning more about the costs associated with adoption as well as the different types of adoption available can help adoptive parents figure out how to adopt while staying on budget.

Private Adoption vs. Agency Adoption

With a private adoption, the birth parent(s) or potential adoptive parents contact an attorney who specializes in adoption. The attorney advertises for the client and when two parties are matched, they sign a legal contract that relinquishes the birth parent’s rights and transfers them to the adoptive parents.

Private adoption is generally faster than agency adoption because there are fewer requirements for adoptive parents. However, it can take longer to find a match between two willing parties. With a lawyer involved, adoptive parents pay legal and advertising fees in addition to adoption fees, which can make costs less predictable; they usually range from $8,000 to $30,000.

Adoption agencies have strict state-mandated guidelines used to vet potential adoptive parents. Home studies and other requirements are exhaustive, making the process more complicated and longer. Adoptions through agencies can be open or closed, so birth parents may still be involved in the child’s life.

With an agency adoption, parents have access to more resources, such as ongoing counseling and parenting classes. The costs for a private agency adoption range between $4,000 and $30,000. They offer fixed pricing, making it easier to save up money to prepare for the adoption.

Domestic Adoption

When both the parents and child are U.S. citizens, the adoption is domestic and includes foreign travel and citizenship fees. A domestic independent adoption usually costs between $15,000 and $40,000, but the costs vary by type.

Legal Counsel and Court Costs

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG), attorney fees can range from $500 to $2,000 for an independent adoption. An agency adoption must also be finalized in the U.S. court system, which can cost between $1,500 to $4,000.

Counseling and Educational Preparation

Most agency adoption programs include educational preparation and counseling. However, you may need to obtain independent counseling if you didn’t use an agency. The cost for counseling varies, depending on where you seek services.

Adoption Home Study

In a home study, an adoption professional visits your home to observe your family and ensure it’s a safe environment for a child. The costs of the home study are usually included in agency adoption fees and can range from $1,500 and $4,000, according to CWIG.

Agency Costs

Agency costs can vary because they’re regulated by the state. Some states waive adoption agency fees while others set fixed fees. For example, in Alabama, a $300 agency adoption fee is charged. Other states leave it up to the agencies to charge reasonable fees.

Medical Expenses and Birth Parent Expenses

Medical expenses can also include doctor’s visits and other costs of a baby, such as vaccinations. These expenses are usually covered by Medicaid or included in overall adoption agency costs.

Counseling

Most adoption agencies offer counseling for free after adoption. If not, you may need to pay to hire a private counselor to help with the transition.

Travel Expenses

With domestic adoption, travel expenses are not extensive. However, if you’re adopting far from home, factor in gas and time off from work to visit the adoption agency.

International Adoption

International adoption fees vary depending on the country and type of adoption. The CWIG estimates an international adoption costs between $20,000 and $50,000.

Legal Counsel and Court Costs

Document preparation and paperwork fees can total between $2,000 and $5,000 while child passport and visa fees can total between $650 to $1,400.

Counseling and Educational Preparation

If you use an adoption agency, counseling and educational preparation are usually included in the program. However, you may need to travel to utilize these resources.

Adoption Home Study

An international home study analyzes your financial and mental health. Costs vary depending on the agency, but according to Adoptive Families, they’re usually between $1,000 and $2,500.

Agency Costs

Adoptive Families estimates that agency application and program fees are between $7,000 and $35,000.

Medical Expenses and Birth Parent Expenses

You must ensure the child has vaccinations and translated medical records before coming to the U.S. These fees can vary.

Counseling

Post-adoption services, including counseling and support groups, can cost between $800 and $2,000, according to Adoptive Families.

Travel Expenses

According to Adoptive Families, international travel expenses can total between $8,500 and $15,000, while domestic travel expenses range from $3,000 to $5,000.

Foster Care Adoption

While the process of adopting from foster care is similar to domestic adoption, it costs little to nothing due to state and federal adoption assistance programs.

Legal Counsel and Court Costs

There are no legal costs associated with foster care adoption. However, if you choose to hire a private attorney, you are subject to attorney fees, which can vary.

Counseling and Educational Preparation

Extensive educational preparation is required for foster care adoption since children may have experienced trauma. These counseling programs are free for adoptive parents.

Adoption Home Study

A social worker visits your home and interviews you and your family to ensure it’s satisfactory. This home study is mandatory and free.

Agency Costs

When you apply to become a foster-to-adopt parent, the program is free to complete and paid for by tax dollars.

Medical Expenses and Birth Parent Expenses

While you’re not responsible for birth parent expenses, you must pay for the child’s medical expenses, which can vary, after you’ve taken over parental rights.

Counseling

Ongoing counseling programs are offered at foster care adoption agencies for free. If you prefer private counseling, the fees vary.

Travel Expenses

The travel expenses you incur will vary based on the location of the adoption agency. You may need to pay to travel to the agency several times for counseling and education both before and after adoption.

Financial Assistance for Adoption

You may be eligible to obtain financial assistance for adoption, including:

  • Federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance: Payments are provided to adoptive parents of eligible children with special needs on a one-time or recurring basis.
  • State adoption assistance: Children who aren’t eligible for federal assistance may meet requirements for state adoption assistance programs. These vary by state and may include medical or payment assistance.
  • The child and dependent care credit: A tax credit for eligible childcare expenses an adoptive parent spent on a child throughout the year.

Whether you qualify for adoption assistance or not, adopting a child is a lifelong financial and emotional responsibility. Adoption costs vary depending on the type of adoption you participate in, but the positive effects on a child’s life are priceless.


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