Many people have the heart to adopt, but the cost of domestic and international adoption can sometimes be prohibitive. Other people discover ways to fundraise or even choose a cheaper type of adoption process. Every adoption type is different, and as a result, the costs vary. There are both wildly expensive adoptions and very affordable ones, and it’s good to learn the differences between all types of adoptions.
The Types of Adoption
First, let’s begin with the type of adoptions that are out there. Domestic adoption is often called infant adoption or private adoption. Typically, these happen through an adoption agency or lawyer and involve the adoption of a U.S. child. International adoptions involve adopting a child from another country. Every country has different rules and fees regarding their adoptions, but most of the time, this involves older children. Foster adoption is when you adopt a child through the foster care system.
How Much Is It to Adopt?
Every type of adoption is different; therefore, the adoption costs vary widely and depend on many factors including where you adopt from (domestic or international) and whether you adopt through a lawyer, an agency, or go through the foster care system. To cover the fees for each type of adoption, you need to break down the various costs associated with the type of adoption you are pursuing.
The Home Study Cost
After any initial introductory fees, the first fee you will pay to cover is the home study. That’s because you cannot adopt through any adoption agency or lawyer unless you have an approved home study completed. The home study is a long written report that clarifies all aspects of your family history. From your personal history to your health and employment history, everything gets covered in this detailed report. There is no way to get around the time and money that the home study takes. In order to complete your home study, you will need to hire out a licensed caseworker. Keep in mind that some agencies have their own caseworker and will include your home study in the fee breakdown. Other agencies will not. A home study is usually around $2,000 to $4,000 dollars. For foster care, those fees may be covered or reimbursable. Check with your state laws to determine what fees are covered in foster care.
You will need to be fingerprinted for your home study, which is a separate fee from the home study. This is part of the criminal background check that is required by your home study but is completed through various government agencies. The fingerprinting can range in cost, but can be $60-$100 and varies by state.
You may also need to get a health physical from your doctor for the home study. This is also an additional cost and varies in price and insurance coverage but can range from $75 to $200 per person. Your insurance may cover this cost, but both parents will need a physical. You may also need a TB test as well, which is an additional cost.
How Much Is It to Adopt Domestically?
Domestic adoption costs vary greatly and can be anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on whether you use an adoption agency or a lawyer. Going through an adoption attorney can be less, but they typically provide less support and education. Furthermore, you will still need to hire a caseworker for your home study whereas an adoption agency sometimes will provide that for you.
How Much Is It to Adopt through an Adoption Agency?
Whether you go through an agency or a lawyer, your fees help provide the adoption agency staff’s time and ensures all your paperwork is completed correctly. An agency is sometimes a greater cost than a lawyer because they provide a lot of extras including adoption education classes, counseling for the birth parents, and personal support for you. You will still pay separately for the cost of a lawyer for the adoption finalization, which can range between $1,000 to $2,000. Travel costs are additional on top of the agency fees.
You may also provide for birth parent expenses according to your state laws. You may provide these directly to your birth parents or the agency may offer these as part of their services to birth parents. Check to see what is legally allowed in your state, but most states allow expenses limited to living expenses, medical costs, and adoption-related needs, like counseling. There are legal limits to how much money you can provide, so check your state laws before giving money to any birth parent you are matched with. Ask your agency or lawyer for guidance as well.
How Much Is It to Adopt through Foster Care?
Foster adoption is very affordable with most of the costs being reimbursable. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the average cost to adopt from foster care varies from $0 to $2,500. Special needs adoptions, sibling groups, and hard-to-place children (like older foster children) may be less. Ask your foster agency about which fees can be reimbursed so you understand what expenses you will be responsible for.
Although foster adoptions are less than any other type, you should never make the decision solely on finances alone. Foster adoptions have unique challenges, and your child may need extra help including counseling or special services. Foster care always brings the additional risk of a child being placed back with their biological parents if parental rights have not been terminated. These factors should be taken into consideration before making a decision about what kind of adoption is right for you.
How Much Is It to Adopt Internationally?
The cost to adopt internationally varies by country but does include some general fees that all families will pay for. First, you will need a completed home study which will cost from $2,000 to $4,000. You will also need to make sure that you choose an agency who is licensed to perform adoptions in the country of your choice. Do not make the decision based on the cheapest agency. The biggest cost for international adoption is usually the agency fee. This is the cost of the adoption agency’s staff and time to be your liaison between you and the country where your child is being adopted from.
Adoption agencies will match you with your child, submit paperwork and all the appropriate forms to the country you have chosen, and help ensure that you are following the rules for an ethical adoption. These fees can vary greatly depending on the country you are adopting from but generally range from $5,000 to $25,000. You will know upfront how much these fees are before starting your adoption. They are updated yearly, and your adoption agency keeps track of the costs.
Unfortunately, there are many more small fees to complete in order to finish the rest of the paperwork. You will need to complete the 1800A and I600A, which costs around $775 (check with your agency for the latest costs as these change). You will need additional fingerprinting, which varies by state but plan on $60 to $100 per person.
Once you receive your approval, you will need to submit a dossier. This document proves your identity and that you have been approved as an adoptive parent. These might include some of the same forms included in the home study, but it might also require some additional ones including doctor’s statements, employment verifications, birth and death certificates for each family member, marriage and divorce certificates, financial records, and more. You will have to provide new certificates in addition to the ones you’ve already provided for the home study.
Next, the documents will need to be certified from both the state and the country and then they will need to go to the country’s embassy you are adopting from. There are additional fees for this process. If no embassy is located close by, then you will pay for the mailing of these documents. The cost of all the paperwork certification can range from $1,000 to $2,000.
Although you may have travel costs in domestic adoption, the travel costs for international adoption are much greater. International travel prices range greatly depending on where you are traveling and how many trips are required. Travel can range from $3,500 to $15,000 per trip. Additionally, airfare is not the only expense that matters. The cost of hotels, transportation while in country, food, and paying for your child’s passport, visa, and other expenses can also add up. Also, you may need to pay an orphanage donation or other fees related to childcare, which may be up to $5,000. To understand what fees you will need to pay, talk with your adoption agency or other families who have gone through the process.
Costs for Finalization
At the end of the adoption, you will need to do post-placement visits with your caseworker and finalize your adoption. Sometimes agencies include these post-placement visits in the fee breakdown. If you used an outside agency to do your home study, then you may need to pay for each visit, which ranges between $200 to $500 per visit. You may also need to provide travel reimbursement for your caseworker in some cases.
Finally, you will need to finalize your adoption in a court of law, which means hiring an attorney. This can range in price from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the lawyer. If your child was adopted outside the U.S., you will need to legally change your child’s name and go through a readoption in your state (or, in some cases, obtaining a Certificate of Foreign Birth). In addition, if you apply for a corrected Certificate of Citizenship, that may cost around $555. Check with your adoption agency as fees may change at any time.
Getting Help for Your Adoption Costs
When parents ask, “How much is it to adopt?” they may get an array of confusing answers. Since adoption costs can be overwhelming, it’s critical to make a plan to fund your adoption and raise support if you don’t have the money. There are typically three ways you can fund your adoption when you don’t have the money: fundraising, loans, and grants.
Fundraising opportunities are a wonderful way to raise support, and the options are limitless. You can set up an online fundraising platform with ease. Through the use of social media and email, you can quickly share your fundraiser online, making it easy for people to donate. In return, these businesses take a small fee for using their platform.
Adoption grants are another option to explore and involve researching available grants and doing additional paperwork. To ensure you follow through the whole adoption process, grant funds are often not awarded until you have paid most of your adoption fees. They are typically provided to the family as a reimbursement for adoption expenses.
Low-interest adoption loans give families another option and may provide a stopgap between paying fees and receiving a grant or adoption credit. These loans usually have small fees (3% or less). Using a combination of methods for funds provides several options so that you don’t only rely on one method.
One way to get people to support your adoption fundraiser is by sharing your adoption story with friends, family, and others. This means sharing the reasons why you decided to adopt and telling the story of how you came to this decision. Using social media to share your story and provide your fundraising link will help you raise awareness surrounding your adoption and may assist you in fundraising. It can assist with grant applications or even be used with your online adoption profile. Your personal story can help you build support, connect with others, and raise funds for your forever family.
Finally, to answer the question, “How much is it to adopt?” you need to make other critical decisions surrounding your future. Consider things like what type of adoption is right for your family and how much you can fundraise or afford to spend. As always, don’t just consider the cost of adoption when making a decision. The cost will eventually pass, but the decision to adopt a child is one that affects your family forever.