When I was a single adult in my 30s, I always wanted to have children but assumed it would be impossible to adopt because I heard it was so expensive. As a result, I never even investigated the option. However, as I got older, I decided to become a foster parent and was told that if you adopt a child from foster care, there is little to no cost. So when it comes to adopting a child, do you have to pay?
The quick answer? Sometimes. If you are adopting a child through private adoption, there are so many fees that you could end up paying well over $35,000. However, if you are adopting a child out of foster care, in most instances, you don’t have to pay anything, and in some states, you will even receive a monthly stipend to help support the child until they are 18 or 21 years of age, depending upon the laws of the state. Let’s take a closer look at the process and costs of adopting a child.
What Costs Are Involved When Adopting a Child in the United States?
There are a lot of variables that factor into the cost of adopting a child in America. And it can be a tricky topic to discuss for valid reasons. It can sometimes feel as though you are buying a baby, and though some people are probably seeking to profit by providing families with children to adopt, this is not the norm.
The first variable is the type of adoption you are seeking. Are you trying to adopt an infant, or do you want to adopt an older child? Do you want a child of a specific race or ethnicity or possibly a specific gender?
Your circumstances and whether you are choosing to work through an agency or work directly with a lawyer in an independent adoption will also come into play. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, if you choose an independent adoption, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000. When choosing to work through an agency, the range can be between $20,000 and $45,000.
For a domestic adoption, the fees involved go towards the legal, medical, and professional work that is needed to complete a legal, ethical adoption of a child. Both the prospective adoptive parents and the birth mother must be represented by an attorney. There are also physicians to pay for, social workers, counselors, and the fees of the agency that is facilitating the adoption, as well as administrative costs.
All licensed adoption agencies have to work within the confines of federal and state laws, and adoption fees go towards making sure everything is done legally.
A Breakdown of Potential Services You Will Pay For a Domestic Adoption When Using an Agency
Services for Adoptive Parents
- Counseling and training to prepare for adopting a child
- Conferences, meetings, and orientations
- Coordinating and overseeing the entire process
- Support throughout the entire process
- Contact with the home study professional
- Hospital records and their retrieval
- Case management services and file documentation
- A risk-sharing program (if the agency has one) where you will receive your money back if there is a disruption in the adoption process
- Post-adoption support
Services for the Birth Parents
- Screening and evaluating potential birth parents, especially to gauge their commitment to adoption
- Counseling and education
- Around-the-clock adoption support for the birth parents
- Developing the prospective adoption plan around the birth mother’s needs and desires
- Arranging housing and travel if necessary
- Counseling costs after the adoption
Birth Parent Expenses
- Prenatal care that is not covered by insurance
- Delivery and hospital costs not covered by insurance
Newborn Care and Services
- Any hospital costs not covered by insurance
- An original birth certificate fee
- Pediatrician examinations
- Termination of parental rights, including attorney’s fee as well as court costs
- Finalization of the adoption
- Legal counsel for both the birth mother and adoptive parents
- Court reporting services
- State and local background checks
- State abuse registry checks and clearances
- If needed, a thorough search for the birth father
- Services to provide an adoptive family profile and video for the birth parents
- Website to display adoptive family profile
Staff and Office Expenses
- Health insurance
- Mileage reimbursement
- Rent, utilities, and office supplies
What Would It Cost to Adopt a Child Through Foster Care?
How much one pays to adopt a child from foster care depends on their chosen path. If they want to just adopt, they can choose a child whose parents’ rights have already been terminated and are available to be adopted immediately. With this path, there will most likely be initial costs such as the home study cost and possibly agency fees if you are going through an agency. However, the costs are minimal and are usually reimbursed by the state after the adoption is finalized.
If they want to foster a child with the possibility of adopting if the parents’ rights are terminated, the process is much longer but costs little to nothing.
When you choose to foster with the hopes of eventually adopting the child, the state pays for all up-front costs of the adoption journey. This includes attorney, medical, documentation fees –– everything. Most states even offer a monthly adoption subsidy, Medicaid insurance, and some will offer free college tuition for the child when they graduate high school.
However, it is essential to know that even though this is the most affordable way to adopt a child, it can be a long and arduous journey. Raising a child with a significant trauma history can be quite difficult, so it is important not to go into this lightly. Make sure to research the topic and, if possible, talk to other foster parents.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child Internationally?
When it comes to international adoption, the cost involved varies. Most likely, this is because it can fluctuate at any time. For instance, as of this writing, there is a war going on in Ukraine. They are under attack by Russia.
Ukraine is listed as one of the easiest countries to adopt a child in 2022. Yet, at the moment, this is most likely not the case.
With international adoptions, they can take anywhere from 12-36 months to complete, and the cost ranges between $20,000-$60,000, with the average being around $30,000-$35,000. However, there are additional costs to consider that may fall outside the peak costs. Here is a list of necessary expenses you would need to have covered to adopt internationally.
- Immigration Application: To be eligible to adopt, you must apply with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and have your adoption application approved. You will also need to have the application to bring an eligible child into the United States approved.
- Adoption Program Fees: These fees will vary depending upon which professional agency you use. This fee will cover assessing available children, determining their legal status, caring for them before they are matched, matching them with families, and communicating with the international adoption authorities.
- Home Study: Just as in a domestic adoption, you will have to have a home study completed in order to be eligible to adopt.
- Documentation and Authentication: The adoption process includes certain official documents for intercountry adoption officials.
- Travel: This is a big expense as different countries have different guidelines concerning the number of times you must visit the child before being allowed to adopt from their country. Even if it is only one visit, you need to have money and be ready at a moment’s notice to go and retrieve your child. Some countries will require you to stay in the country for a certain period of time before taking the child.
- Legal Requirements: Most legal steps in finalizing the adoption will occur in your child’s country. But you will need to complete an international re-adoption to obtain a state birth certificate that is easy to get in the event that copies are required at some point.
Is There a Risk of Corruption With International Adoption?
Unfortunately, with such high adoption fees, international adoption can be a profitable business, and many countries have governments entrenched in corruption. With this in mind, there is a possibility that a child placed with a family in adoption was kidnapped from their birth family through trafficking. This is why it is essential to investigate the agency you are working with to ensure it is a legitimate adoption agency. Another possibility is to adopt a child who is at least five years old. This will ensure that the child is old enough to have memories of their life before being adopted and will be able to communicate to you what that was like.
In conclusion, the best thing to do to make sure everything is legitimate, as well as ethical, is to research your options very carefully. Childwelfare.gov has a list of ways to assess the reputation of licensed, private adoption agencies. This is a good place to start as you seek to build your family through adoption.
Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.