Growing your family is a huge decision, and adopting a child will change your life forever. And while making the decision to open up your home and your heart to a new child seems like a natural next step for you and your family, the process can actually be pretty complicated—and surprisingly costly.
There are a few different adoption methods and each comes with its own unique costs and fees. Read on for a breakdown of some expenses you might run into in the adoption process.
Cost of Adoption from Foster Care
Adoption-related expenses can vary wildly. Adopting a child from foster care tends to be the least expensive option, while adoptions outside of foster care are often much more costly. According to a 2017 survey from Adoptive Families , the average cost of a foster care adoption was about $3,000. The good news is there are also plenty of government resources for foster care adoptions—The Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has a wealth of resources available discussing the ins and outs of adoption.
The Children’s Bureau further explains that thanks to amendments to the Social Security Act in 1994 , families adopting children from foster care could qualify for federal assistance depending on the child’s eligibility. This assistance includes :
• A one-time, non-recurring reimbursement for adoption transaction costs
• Recurring monthly maintenance payments for the child’s care (Not to exceed what the state would have paid to keep the child in foster care)
Families contending with medical expenses for the birth mother or child, attorney’s fees, or those who need extra travel for visits before placement might experience higher expenses than average with a foster care adoption.
Children adopted through foster care may also be eligible for health insurance coverage under Medicaid, and other medical assistance to cover some or all of the child’s needs like special education or therapy.
Planning for Private Agency Adoption
Private adoption costs in the U.S. can vary from state to state. According to the Children’s Bureau, the cost of a private, agency-assisted adoption can range anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 on average .
Parents should, of course, keep in mind the agency fee but also plan for other expenses such as medical bills, travel, legal counsel, and more.
One of the most important costs to account for is the home study, which is when the prospective parents’ home is screened such that the adoption agency can get a sense of their day-to-day life. While the cost of a home study might be included in the overall adoption fee from an agency, the fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
U.S. domestic adoptions must also be finalized in a court. Court documentation fees can be in the range of $500 to $2,000 , in addition to the cost of legal representation for the adoptive parents, which can range from $1,500 to $4,000 . Depending on the state, these fees may or may not be covered as part of an agency’s overall pricing.
Some agencies may adjust their fees based on family income, or reduce fees for parents who have found the birth parent on their own, but still need assistance with the overall adoption process. Some agencies are all-inclusive, while others might charge for each match. It’s a good idea to carefully review the details of your agency fees before signing up for a private adoption process.
Independent Adoption Costs
Some families choose to adopt a child without the assistance of an adoption agency and instead work directly through an attorney. It might seem like a cost-saving measure at first, but pricing can still vary. Expenses might be low if you match with a birth parent through word of mouth, or if the birth mother’s expenses are minimal.
However, these adoption costs can still range from around $15,000 to $40,000 . This typically includes most of the same costs of any other domestic adoption, including the home study, the birth mom’s medical expenses, and legal and court fees for the adoptive parents and birth parents.
Expenses for Intercountry Adoption
Of course, adoption fees will differ depending on which country you plan to adopt a child from. Intercountry adoption costs tend to be higher than a U.S.-based adoption because there is usually foreign travel and immigration processing to factor into the equation, in addition to other higher court costs, mandatory adoption education, and other documentation. The U.S. government says the average cost can range from $20,00 to $50,000 for a foreign adoption .
Costs can depend on the organization managing the adoption as well: whether it’s the government, private agency, orphanage, non-profit organization, private attorney, or some combination of the above. Some intercountry adoptions are finalized in the child’s home country, while others must be finalized in the United States. Finalizing an adoption in U.S. court can come with extra costs, but also provides additional legal protections and documentation.
Other costs to adopt a child from another country can include :
• Escort fees for when/if parents can’t travel to accompany the child to the U.S.
• Medical care and treatment for the child
• Translation fees
• Foreign attorney or foreign agency fees
• Passport and visa processing
• Counseling and support after placement
Financing the Cost of Adoption
So, with costs ranging from at least a few thousand dollars to up to $50,000 or more, the price of adopting a child is an expense that should be planned for, no matter your financial circumstances. Financially preparing for a child typically means looking into all associated costs, including raising your new child and tackling your own debt.
It’s important to note that some employers may offer financial and other support to help with the adoption process. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption , these benefits can range from a credit of $500 up to $25,000, with the average policy offering a maximum reimbursement of $9,000 and six weeks of paid leave.
Additionally, companies with 50 or more employees are actually required by federal law to grant parental leave to employees who have adopted a child. Mothers and fathers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.
To offset some of the high costs of adoption, there are currently also federal adoption tax credits . The actual amount depends on family income, tax year, and employer adoption benefits, so it’s a good idea to talk to your tax attorney if you’re interested.
Grants and loans also exist to help with the cost of adoption and can help with any type of legal adoption, whether a foster care adoption, private agency, or overseas adoption. Most grants and loans have their own eligibility criteria based on things like marital status, income level, or even specifics like religion.
You can also consider taking out a private loan from a lender like SoFi to cover the adoption costs. If you qualify for a personal loan, you can use it for whatever qualifying personal financial need arises. Or perhaps you want to pay down your credit card debt, or build a new bedroom before the baby arrives, which a personal loan can help with as well.
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