How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

By Julia Califano · June 29, 2023 · 3 minute read

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How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

While opening up your home and your heart to a new child may seem like the natural next step for you and your family, the process can actually be pretty complicated — and 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

Adopting a child from foster care tends to be less expensive than other options. The process is often funded by the state and, typically, there are few or no fees passed on to the parents. However, some parents may opt to hire a private agency to help them through the process, which can come with out-of-pocket expenses. Parents may be able to recoup some or all of these costs through federal or state programs once the adoption is completed.

Home Study

One of the most important costs to account for in any adoption is the home study, which is when the prospective parents’ home is screened so that the adoption agency or a social worker 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 a private agency, the fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Foster care adoptions will also generally have a home study where a social worker observes the interaction between the potential adoptive parents and the child. In some cases, there may be state or federal programs to offset the cost of a home visit.

Tax Credits for Foster Care (and Other) Adoptions

The tax code currently offers an adoption tax credit that can help offset some of the costs involved in adoption, whether you adopt via public foster care, domestic private adoption, or international adoption. The total amount of adoption credits will depend on the tax year, so it’s a good idea to talk to an accountant for more specifics.

Families adopting children from foster care might also qualify for other types of federal assistance depending on the child’s eligibility. This assistance might include:

•   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).

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 $30,000 to $60,000.

Court Documentation Fees

Legal representation for the adoptive parents can run as high as $4,500. Depending on the state, these fees may or may not be covered as part of an agency’s overall pricing.

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 $25,000 to $45,000. 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.

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Expenses for Intercountry Adoption

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 average cost can range from $20,000 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

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Financing the Cost of Adoption

So, with costs ranging from at least a few thousand dollars to up to $60,000 or more, funding an adoption may require some planning. Financially preparing for a child typically means looking into all associated costs, including raising your new child and tackling your own debt.

Some employers may offer financial and other support to help with the adoption process. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption , these policies include financial reimbursement and paid leave for adoption, among other benefits.

Additionally, companies with 50 or more employees are 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.

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, and other specifics.

You can also consider taking out a personal loan to help cover the cost of adoption. Some lenders actually offer “adoption loans,” which are typically personal loans designed to cover costs associated with adopting a child.

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The Takeaway

The cost of adopting a child can vary widely, from a few thousand dollars to $60,000. Foster care adoptions tend to be less expensive than private agency or intercountry adoptions. There are state or federal tax credits and programs that can help offset the cost of adoption. Other resources to pay for adoption include grants and personal loans.

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