Adoption is expensive because the process to legally adopt a baby requires the involvement of attorneys, social workers, physicians, government administrators, adoption specialists, counselors and more. While the adoption journey is an emotional one for prospective birth mothers and adoptive families, the adoption process is a legal function. Adoptions completed by fully licensed agencies are held to high ethical standards, which can mean more paperwork and higher costs.
Prospective adoptive parents may be concerned about the costs of adopting a child and their ability to meet those costs. Becoming a parent is rarely free of expenses—pregnancy and childbirth can be expensive and even more so without adequate insurance—and adoptive parents may be faced with initial costs that seem challenging. However, with planning and knowledge about the different types of adoptions and available resources, they can develop a budget to include most of the foreseeable expenses. This factsheet explains these expenses so that prospective adoptive parents can make informed decisions throughout the adoption process.
Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.
These numbers include everything: travel, paperwork, agency, attorney, etc. China, Ethiopia, and South Korea are the only countries that AdoptiveFamilies.com publishes, because they are the most popular. While most other estimates for international adoption appear comparable, those numbers can sometimes go down significantly if a family is willing to adopt older children, sibling groups, or children with disabilities or medical needs. Here's how those expenses break down.
The question of “Why is adoption so expensive?” is simply answered with the knowledge that it takes many people and many processes to complete an adoption journey. The use of adoption professionals is crucial to ensure that an adoption is both legal and ethical. These services will cost in order to be sure that the best care is taken in the adoption process. As adoption laws are ever-changing and different adoption processes have different regulations, the costs of an adoption can vary greatly. These costs are many professional services combined that allow for adoption to protect all parties involved and to complete the due diligence needed to make the adoption as efficient as possible. Luckily, there are many ways to not only afford adoption, but also to recoup some of the fees through the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit is not a refund but will offset the tax obligation of adoptive parents. To find out more about the cost of adoption and ways to afford adoption even for those with limited income, you can read more at this link.
Attorney fees can range from pro bono to the moon. Other professionals involved in a private adoption might include a facilitator or consultant to connect the adoptive family with a birth mother, though 26 states “prohibit the payment of any fee for connecting an adoptive family with a pregnant woman or obtaining consent to adoption,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. And this is part of what you’re paying for when you pay an accredited agency: You know that they’re legitimate, not a profiteer merely claiming to be able to connect you with birth parents.
5. Your "baby book" may not begin at birth. If you're planning to be at your child's birth or to adopt her as a newborn, then you'll be fortunate enough to have some very early photos of your baby. In this case, your baby book may also include pictures of your child's birth mother and possibly her birth father. But if you're adopting an older baby, or perhaps an older child, you may not have access to many early baby pictures. (For instance, if you're adopting a child from overseas, you may have only the referral photo you were sent, and possibly one or two others.) On the other hand, your child's baby book will probably include lots of pictures from the day you adopted her and/or the day you brought her home and of the people who cared for her in a foster family or orphanage.
3. You may not have a baby shower until months after your baby is born. Since the adoption process is often filled with so much uncertainty, many prospective parents prefer to wait until after their baby is home before having a shower. Often, this is a practical course of action. For instance, if a family is adopting from overseas, they may not know their child's gender, size, or age until shortly before traveling to get him. (In some cases, their "baby" may be 15 or 16 months old!) However, once parents are home and settled into a routine, they'll have a better sense of what they need -- and of their baby's likes and dislikes.
The adoption cost in regards to domestic newborn adoption will include a variety of fees and expenses. There may be an application fee for the adoption agency that the prospective adoptive parents must pay. If an adoption attorney is used, he or she will often require a retainer for the services. These fees, again, will vary based on the agency or attorney used. The first expenses involved are related to ensuring that prospective adoptive parents are legally eligible to adopt a child. To ensure this, the prospective adoptive parents will need to go through an adoption home study. The home study will need to be done by a licensed adoption professional. The cost of this home study will vary based on the state and the adoption agency chosen. The average cost of a home study can range between $1,500-$3,000.
Breaking down the total cost into categorized expenses helps prospective parents understand what is involved and how to determine a predictable range for their costs. In some cases, understanding the costs associated with different types of adoption may help parents decide which type of adoption to pursue, or whether to pursue this approach to building a family.
Let’s now break down what the costs are in adoption, starting with intercountry (or international) adoption. The first step in nearly any adoption process is having a home study completed. For intercountry adoptions, you will need to make sure that the home study agency you choose is licensed to write home studies for the country you wish to adopt from. This may mean that you cannot use the least expensive agency, so be aware of that. A home study written for an international adoption is usually around $2,000 to $4,000 dollars. This is what you will pay your agency, but there are most costs as well. You will need to be fingerprinted, which can generally cost about $60 per person. (Your state will probably vary.) You will also need to have physicals and often a TB test done—which, depending on your insurance, will cost you out of pocket. If you live in a more rural area and use water from a well on your property, you will also have to pay to have your well water tested. Finally, if you live outside a certain distance from your adoption agency, you may also have to pay a travel reimbursement to your agency for your social worker’s travel costs.
One of the biggest ways to offset your adoption bill is with the tax credit. You can receive up to $13,460 per child in reimbursement for "qualified adoption expenses," and this number goes up every year. Also, you don't have to claim it all in one year; if you claimed $3,000 in 2014, then you can still claim the remaining $10,460 credit by 2018. Some states have tax credits as well. Ellison stresses the importance of finding an accountant or CPA who knows how to apply these credits. For instance, Bills Tax Service in Illinois specializes in this credit and will do taxes for families anywhere in the country. Active-duty members of the military can also receive reimbursement of up to $2,000 per child for adoption costs.
Whether the adoption is domestic or international, travel expense can usually be expected. Undoubtedly, travel for an international adoption can be quite expensive. In most international adoption cases, the family will visit the country and the child first. Then, once that country’s waiting period is over and the process is complete, the family will return to their child’s country of origin to complete the process and travel home with their child. The cost for this element of adoption varies widely based on time of travel and country of origin.