Elaine E. Schulte, MD, MPH, FAAP is a board certified pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. She is the Medical Director of the Adoption Program at Cleveland Clinic Children's and has cared for hundreds of families and children touched by adoption. She also provides pre-adoption consultation service through MyConsult. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Schulte sits on the Executive Committee of the Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care. She is the parent of two children adopted from China.
Secondly, adoption requires a lot of legal hoops, and for good reason. A lot of what you’re paying for is the peace of mind that the child you adopt is now fully and legally yours. If you don’t follow all the proper legal procedures, if the birth mother isn’t fully aware of her rights, if she doesn’t sign the right documents or isn’t told the right thing at the right time, if you haven’t dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s than the new child you adopted could be taken away. A judge could declare the adoption null and void and you lose. How much would that suck?
If you want to help change the system, join others who are already working in that area. Contact the parent groups in your area (find a database of groups at this link) to find out what they are doing or if they know of other advocacy groups you can get involved with. To report a specific problem, contact your adoption manager or the NACAC representative in your state. You may also want to contact one of AdoptUsKids’ Training and Technical Assistance consultants (a directory of staff and consultants is available at AdoptUsKids: Permanency - Tools and Resources).
I tend to think that particular laws and regulations have been less significant factors in the cost of domestic adoptions than broader technological, legal, and cultural changes, including the availability of effective contraception… the legalization of abortion… and the sexual revolution, all of which decreased the availability of adoptable children.
If you're looking to adopt, you'll have to pay an attorney, an agency, or both. The transfer of a human into your custody is a big deal with lots of paperwork, and you need a professional. Their average costs, according to Adoptive Families, are within spitting distance of each other: about $13,000 for attorney fees, and $17,000 for an agency (though these numbers change drastically depending on your state, agency/attorney, and situation). You also very well might be working with both an attorney and an agency concurrently, which means you'd pay both.
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Families who adopt from foster care usually adopt from a county, state, territory, or tribal public child welfare agency. Adopting a child from foster care is often funded by the state, and in most cases there are few or no fees. Parents may choose to hire a private agency to help them through this process. These families could incur out-of-pocket expenses, which they can typically recoup from federal or state programs after the adoption is finalized.

For certain organizations, there are limitations on who can adopt. Adoptive parents must be in good health and able to pass a background check, and some agencies require a significant age difference between the family and the adoptee. Certain agencies may have more stringent requirements than others, so be sure to contact multiple organizations before making a final decision.


I know these numbers seem staggering and you probably think you cannot afford to adopt a child, but there are ways to “offset” some of these expenses. As I mentioned earlier in the article, talk with a tax professional to discuss what options may be available for in regards to the adoption tax credit and/or adoption assistance programs. You may also be able to apply for grants. A simple Google search for “adoption grants” will result in hundreds of possibilities. Applying for grants takes time, however, it usually pays off in the end. You may also be able to apply for a no-interest or low-interest loan to cover your adoption expenses. There are several online resources for that as well. Get creative with fundraising. I know it seems silly to be asking people to help pay for a child, however, you will be surprised at how willing people are to help you. Have a garage sale. Have a bake sale. Create an online shop for something you make by hand. Start a 5k run/walk. Provide concessions at events. The possibilities really are endless, you just have to be willing to try. 
Also, each country has its own country fee (a flat amount set by that country for adopting from it), which varies wildly from country to country. For instance, South Africa has a country fee of $4,000 per child, while other country fees, like Colombia, can be upwards of $10,000. Then there’s the cost of the child’s passport, visa, and medical exam ($500-$1,500), including hiring a doctor with experience reading international medical records to review the child’s information. It all keeps adding up.
State law varies in regard to minor parents' rights; however, in no State could a child be placed for adoption without the minor parent's consent. In some States, minor parents are able to place their child for adoption without additional consent. In other States, the pregnant minor's parents or guardian would also need to consent to an adoption. The Child Welfare Information Gateway publication Consent to Adoption has more information. To determine how these laws would apply in a specific situation, it may be helpful to contact an attorney familiar with adoption law in your State.
2. You may not be able to breastfeed. Some adoptive mothers have been able to breastfeed their infants, by stimulating their breasts to produce milk. (Some take hormones, such as prolactin and oxytocin; others use more natural methods.) Not every adoptive mom will be able to do this, however. And even those who do breastfeed will still need to supplement their baby's diet with formula, since they won't be able to produce enough milk to meet their infant's nutritional needs. If you think you'll want to breastfeed, learn as much as you can before your baby arrives. Contact a lactation consultant at a local hospital or a representative from La Leche League (www.lalecheleague.org), or read a book on the topic, such as Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby by Debra Stewart Peterson.
After the legwork of adoption eligibility is completed, the adoption cost moving forward will largely depend on if the prospective adoptive parents are already matched or need to be matched. If the prospective adoptive parents need to be matched with a birth mother, the agency or attorney will often require a match fee. This fee allows for the agency or attorney to work, on the prospective adoptive parent’s behalf, to advertise them to expectant mothers as a potential placement for their child. There will also likely be birth mother expenses that prospective adoptive parents are obligated to pay under their state law. These expenses go towards pregnancy-related expenses such as medical care, maternity clothes, and some living expenses. The adoption cost related to birth mother expenses will be determined by the state and may be waived in some instances. Some states put a cap on the amount of birth parent expenses that are allowed. To see what birth mother expenses your state requires, you can review that information on this link.
These fees vary greatly depending on which agency and country you choose. Additionally, international adoption is often expensive due to the travel involved. You may have host fees, which include the expenses related to your adoption facilitator in-country, airline fees, hotel fees, and cab or driver fees. Once you return home, you may wish to readopt your child. Though your child is legally adopted in his or her country of origin, readoption refers to the legal process through which your child may be re-recognized as your legal child.
Kitten or adult cat. Kittens are hard to resist, and you might have your heart set on one. Just keep in mind that kittens are extremely energetic and require a lot of time and patience. A kitten's temperament can also be hard to predict, as it will change as the kitten matures into an adult. If you prefer a cat with specific temperament traits, it's best to choose one that is mature. Older shelter cats tend to be calmer and often have the advantage of already being litter box trained, socialized, and acclimated to being members of a household. Also, keep in mind that kittens grow up much more quickly than human babies. Most kittens will reach maturity and become an adult within a year's time.
While many feel by charging for adoption services “you are putting a price tag on a child,” there are real costs associated with adoption. Adoptions through foster care are paid for through taxes. The public institutions get state and sometimes federal monies to make adoption plans and provide needed services, including monthly stipends to adopting families whose children qualify. In a private domestic or international adoption, the adopting parents typically pay for all services permitted by state and federal regulations.
I think part of what’s so hard about the high cost of adoption is that it brings to mind the frightening idea of buying a child (especially when you see the catalogs of kids needing to be adopted, complete with pictures and descriptions). That’s not what’s happening here, and most agencies seem to go to great lengths to make that clear. The birth mother is not receiving a payment (though her medical bills, legal and counseling needs will be covered). The adoption agency is not getting rich (our agency pointed out that their nice new building was funded completely by donations–not a penny of adoption fees went to the construction costs).
International adoption is the adoption of a child born in another country than the one in which you reside. International adoption also has a very wide range of fees, as each country has their own fee scale and traveling to each country varies. The average international adoption can range from $30,000 to well over $50,000. Similar to the agency adoption costs above, international adoptions will require the following fees: 
 – Agency Fee/Program Fee – This number, of course, is one that varies by which country you are adopting from and what agency you are using. The costs can range from $10,000 to $15,000. For more specific information, contact a local adoption agency and discuss with them what their rates for international adoptions are and know what country you are interested in adopting from, as that will determine the cost. 
The adoption professional doing their part to make adoption more affordable do so in a variety of ways. Some attorneys will work pro bono or for a reduced rate. Some agencies offer graduated payment schedules, so that you only pay for services as they are rendered and not beforehand, and will connect families with resources. And Delta offers discount airfare for international adoption travel.
Home studies take three-six months to complete and run roughly $1,000-$3,000. This cost goes up if the home study is international, since more paperwork is involved to comply with international regulations; it shrinks to $300-500 if the child is being adopted from foster care. (This is because the social worker conducting the home study is being paid by a public agency in foster care cases, as opposed to a private agency or directly by the pre-adoptive parents.) Sometimes, if the social worker determines in the process of the home study that the prospective parents require additional training (courses aimed at handling adoption from a sensitive and informed place with your new family), that can cost another several hundred dollars.
After the legwork of adoption eligibility is completed, the adoption cost moving forward will largely depend on if the prospective adoptive parents are already matched or need to be matched. If the prospective adoptive parents need to be matched with a birth mother, the agency or attorney will often require a match fee. This fee allows for the agency or attorney to work, on the prospective adoptive parent’s behalf, to advertise them to expectant mothers as a potential placement for their child. There will also likely be birth mother expenses that prospective adoptive parents are obligated to pay under their state law. These expenses go towards pregnancy-related expenses such as medical care, maternity clothes, and some living expenses. The adoption cost related to birth mother expenses will be determined by the state and may be waived in some instances. Some states put a cap on the amount of birth parent expenses that are allowed. To see what birth mother expenses your state requires, you can review that information on this link. 
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