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What is the average cost of adoption?

minute read

    Adoption may be a fulfilling way to start or expand a loving family.

    Read on to understand the unique expenses associated with adoption, so you may plan the best way to save for your family’s future.

    What typical expenses are associated with adoption?

    The cost of adoption may vary from situation to situation because the specific expenses you may encounter may change depending on your circumstances. That said, common types of adoption costs may 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 conclude the process with a child, they are usually still responsible for any costs incurred that were agreed upon beforehand.

    Types of adoption and their costs

    Prospective adoptive parents may choose to adopt several different ways, each with 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 and 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. Keep in mind that independent adoption is not legal in all states.

    This type of option often involves fees incurred 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: $25,000-45,000

    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: open and closed. In the former arrangement, the birth parents select the adoptive parents; in the latter, the agency selects the adoptive parents, and no identifying information is shared between the adoptive and birth 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 may vary greatly based on these factors and what financial assistance adoptive parents decide to pursue.

    Average Cost Range: $30,000-$60,000; 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-$50,000

    Budgeting for adoption costs

    Prospective parents may have access to resources to help with adoption costs. These resources may vary by employer or agency, so researching the options available to you 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 may 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.

    Adding a child to the family may bring great joy, but the costs involved may be overwhelming. A financial professional may help you navigate the various saving and budgeting options, so you may make the best decision for your growing family.


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