What Is the Average Cost of Adoption?

Sarah Tecla, Preferred Banking Office Assistant Manager, First Republic Bank
June 24, 2022

  • Adoption comes with unique expenses compared to childbirth.
  • Be sure to consider costs such as travel, living expenses, and legal fees.
  • The cost of adopting a child differs based on how and from where you do it.

Adoption can be a fulfilling way to start or expand a loving family, and can be a great option for same-sex couples, single parents or couples with fertility challenges.

It’s understandable that the multiple expenses associated with adoption, as well as all other costs associated with raising a child, can be overwhelming. However, understanding the potential total cost of adoption can potentially help you, as a future adoptive parent, plan the best way to finance your family’s future.

What typical expenses are associated with adoption?

How much does it cost to adopt a child? While several potential expenses are associated with adoption, the answer to this question varies from situation to situation because the specific expenses you may encounter can change depending on your circumstances. That said, prospective adoptive parents can expect some common types of adoption costs. 

Common types of adoption costs include:

  • Home study expenses: Cost to evaluate prospective parents and their homes to ensure the adoption is a safe and proper fit
  • Agency expenses: Cost for paperwork, fees and miscellaneous expenses related to agency adoption that may vary for domestic and international adoptions
  • Legal expenses: Fees for paperwork, a lawyer and other costs to finalize an adoption
  • Medical expenses: Cost of medical testing, psychological testing and possibly hospital bills for the birth mother
  • Living expenses: Temporarily assuming costs associated with living or transportation for the birth mother and child

Adoptive parents may incur varied costs based on the type of adoption and specific adoption process pursued. It's also important to note even if individuals or families don't exit the process with a child, they are usually still responsible for any costs incurred that were agreed to beforehand.

Types of adoption and their costs

Prospective adoptive parents can choose to adopt several different ways, each of which has its own unique requirements, considerations and potential fees. These types include foster care, independent, agency and intercountry adoptions. 

Understanding how each method works enables adoptive parents to decide which type of adoption most resonates with them. Knowing these considerations can make you feel more confident moving throughout the adoption process.

Foster care adoption

A common type of adoption is foster care adoption. In foster care adoptions, also called “foster adoption,” a public child welfare agency will identify children waiting for homes. Children in foster care range in age from toddlers to 21 years old. Children may be adopted by their foster families (in a foster-to-adopt process) or other adoptive families.

Foster care adoptions are typically less costly than other types. The state typically pays for expenses; while adoptive parents may assume some out-of-pocket fees, they are usually minimal, and parents may be able to recoup these fees from federal or state programs after the finalization of the adoption.

Independent adoption

Independent adoption, also called private adoption, is a type of adoption that happens outside of the public child welfare system. Attorneys connect adoptive parents with an expectant parent (or parents) to coordinate the adoption process, ultimately placing the child directly with them. There is no agency involved. It’s worth nothing that independent adoption is not legal in all states.

This type of option often involves fees involved throughout the birth mother’s pregnancy and directly after birth (such as living, travel, counseling and legal costs) that are agreed on between the birth parents and adoptive parent(s).

Average Cost Range: $15,000–$40,000

Domestic agency adoption

Agency adoptions are also referred to as “agency-assisted adoptions.” This type of adoption is arranged outside the public child welfare system. Agencies connect prospective parents to an expectant mother. There are two different types of agency adoptions: identified and nonidentified. In the former arrangement, the birth parents select the adoptive parents; in the latter, the agency selects the adoptive parents.

Adoption costs related to agency adoption include those involved with the birth mother’s pregnancy and shortly after birth. Many agencies have a sliding pricing scale that’s based on the adoptive parent’s income. The actual costs associated with this type of adoption can vary greatly based on these factors and what financial assistance adoptive parents decide to pursue.

Average Cost Range: $20,000 — $45,000; varies widely based on various factors, like agency used, legal fees, counseling, medical expenses and social work services 

Intercountry agency adoption

Intercountry adoptions involve adopting a child from a country outside the United States. Adoptive parents then bring the adoptive child back to the United States with them for permanently legal adoption. These types of adoptions are governed by international standards through an agreement called the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Intercountry adoption costs may stem from the following: immigration application, adoption program fees, documentation and authentication, travel, legal requirements and home study.

Average Cost Range: $20,000–$40,000

Financing resources for adoption costs

Now that you have a sense of the cost of adoption for each type, you may need to explore financing resources for adoption costs. 

Prospective parents looking to ease the upfront costs of adoption without halting monthly cash flow can tap into several resources. These resources may vary by employer or agency. Researching the options available to you and exploring each option’s benefits is a helpful place to start. 

  • Parental leave: Companies with 50 or more employees are required to grant 12 weeks of paid family leave to eligible employees.
  • Tax credits: Potential parents can receive tax credits at the federal and state levels.
  • Adoption grants: An adoption grant is a lump sum given to adoptive parents to help cover adoption-related costs. Each grant requires adoptive parents to meet certain criteria.

Several personal financial tools are available to break the larger upfront expenses into smaller monthly payments that can better fit your financial timeline.

While ideal for small, one-off purchases, a credit card is not the best method to finance an adoption. Aside from potentially damaging your credit due to charging large sums of money, approved limits are generally too low to take into account the long-term costs of regulatory requirements and fees associated with adoption.

How should I finance an adoption?

A smart financing method can help adoptive parents pay for all the costs associated with adoption, such as legal and medical expenses, and beyond. Working with a financial professional can help you navigate the various financing options, ultimately enabling you to determine which method is best for your financial goals and obligations.

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