According to the ASPCA, about 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the United States every year. It would be amazing if all of those animals could find forever homes, but there are numerous reasons why a rescue dog may not be the best option for your family. Before adopting, take the time to really think about what characteristics you want in your new pet.
While families often pay extremely high fees to adopt infants, whether independently or through a private agency, adopting a waiting child is one way to reduce the cost of adoption dramatically. If a family plans to adopt a U.S. child who is in foster care through a public agency, the public agency in the family's county or state will often complete the homestudy at no cost. Adoptive parent preparation classes may be provided as part of the homestudy process. If the waiting child resides in the same county or state as the family, the costs of post-placement supervision may also be covered by the family's agency.
In domestic adoption, each state regulates how much and which birth parent expenses an adoptive parent can pay. Counseling should be offered to the birth parent and varying amounts of counsel can be paid for by the adopting parent(s). In an international adoption, donations may be made to child welfare institutions or orphanages to help care for the children still in care.
Every birth parent should meet with an objective counselor who can discuss parenting and adoption options. If they decide on an adoption, they should be able to work with a counselor who will oversee their medical care, be the liaison with the adoptive parent’s counselor or attorney regarding the birth parent’s needs and provide ongoing emotional support to the birth parent.
Again, this all comes down to protection and fulfilling the sacred responsibility that comes with caring for someone else’s child. Imagine if you gave up your own child. Do you think you just hand the kid over and say, ‘OK, you can be the parent’? Should it be that simple? No, you owe it to yourself and to your child to make sure this is the right decision, to make sure the new parents are good for that child, to make sure you’re not going to change your mind and jerk the poor kid back and forth between parents.
If you network or adopt from out of state, there is a potential to make several trips to the other state—to meet the birth parent(s), take custody of your child and possibly to finalize the adoption. While you could stay with family or friends, if they live locally, most Adoptive Parents stay in hotels. By keeping your adoption local, you limit airfare, car expenses, hotel and other “away from home” costs.
Overall, it's clear that money plays a huge role in adoption. The Donaldson Adoption Institute recently released a presentation highlighting some of the problems with adoption today, including the role of privilege and money. According to this presentation, "more than two-thirds of the adoption community believe privilege and money distort adoption." (You can read more about the DAI's Let's Adopt Reform initiative, or sign their open letter, which aims to change the way we talk about adoption.)
Which professionals, and how much they get paid, depend upon whether the adoption is domestic, international, through an agency, private, or if it's a second-parent adoption, where the spouse or partner of a child's parent legally becomes the second parent. For the adoption of a child from foster care, a number of costs go down significantly or vanish altogether, because the costs are often absorbed by the public (state or government) agency that has legal custody of the child. In non-foster cases, the adoptive parents bear the burden of the cost.
These are a central factor to the question, “Why does adoption cost so much money?” Variable adoption costs are comprised of expenses that can change in each unique adoption situation. Typically, these are fees paid toward needs of the prospective birth mother. The amount of variable adoption costs incurred in a given adoption situation will be dependent on the birth mother’s unique needs, as well as what is allowed by the adoption laws in her state. Some of these costs can be things like:
1. You may need to look for a "baby basics" class. Most women who give birth learn about the care, feeding, and basic development of babies in their childbirth class or at a class for expectant parents. If you're adopting a baby, however, this particular option won't be available to you. Fortunately, though, some hospitals, adoption agencies, and adoption-support groups now offer infant care and parenting classes to adoptive moms and dads. Ask your agency, local hospital, local chapter of Resolve, or other parent-support group for information.
Anybody who wants to own a pet should adopt a dog from an animal shelter to save a life. But we've all seen those news of pets being treated poorly. There could be a number of reasons why that happens – not enough money, not enough time, or simply bad people. Sometimes, pet owners adopt a dog expecting different outcome, and then those dogs get returned, abandoned, given away or even abused.
You may be ready, but is everyone else on board? Just because you are mentally and emotionally prepared to adopt doesn’t mean your spouse feels the same way. If you’re married, now would be a great time to sit down and have a little chat about your relationship, adoption, kids, and your shared willingness to throw everything as you know it into the big blender known as parenthood. If you’re already a parent, consider how adoption will impact your biological child(ren). Ultimately, this decision will be yours and not theirs, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have feelings on the matter.
The average agency adoption can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. Now, before you get blown away by that number, let’s explore what costs are covered by this number. An agency adoption completes the entire adoption process from start to end. These individuals are licensed and trained in their field. They have experienced numerous different types of scenarios regarding adoption and are prepared to be with you every step of the way. However, let me urge you to know what costs are expected out of you upfront. Most adoption agencies will have a fee schedule notifying you of what to expect. This is usually laid out in one of your first meetings with your agency or through your informational/parenting classes that are required by your agency. I will also advise you to find an agency you feel comfortable working with. Adoption is a very personal experience and working with someone you can trust is very important. Again, I reiterate, find someone you feel comfortable with and trust and get a detailed description of the costs and fees associated with each adoption.
A few people have pointed out that nobody does background checks on parents giving birth, there’s no certification that natural parents have to go through. And that’s true. But that’s kind of an odd question. I can’t help but wonder if the people who ask that question want those kind of policies in place. Should we have an authoritarian system in place, one that would encroach on citizen’s rights even more so than China’s one-child policy? Starts to sound like 1984 or Brave New World.
The next big ticket item in international adoption cost is travel. This is a highly variable budget item because so much is dependent upon which country you are traveling to. In some countries, you only need to stay a few days while others require a parent to stay for weeks, and still, other countries require multiple trips. The cost within the countries will vary as well. I’ve seen travel quotes range from $3,500 to $4,000 for China, to $9,000 to $15,000 for Ukraine, and $7,000 to $9,000 for Colombia. Your travels costs will also depend on the type of hotel you stay in, how much you spend on food, and how much shopping you do.
One of the major steps in the adoption process is to choose an adoption agency and/or attorney who will help to facilitate your adoption. Depending upon what type of adoptive placement you are seeking (private, international, domestic, etc.), your agency or attorney will be involved in navigating the referral process and will help you process your legal documents. Agencies and attorneys often have fees that vary based on the program you are pursuing and how much legal help is needed to move through the process. Additionally, in the case of international adoptions, an attorney’s services are often needed in order to file “re-adoption” paperwork once your child is home. In all cases, your agency and/or attorney should be your best advocate as they guide you through extensive paperwork and necessary legal steps. The fees for this service can range broadly.
The price of providing a child with a forever home may seem expensive, but know that most of the fees involved go to the care and prenatal care of your prospective child and ensure the safety and well-being of that child. And there’s good news. For families open to foster care, the cost of foster-to-adopt is around $2,500, thanks to federal and state adoption assistance programs. Know too that there are a number of grants, subsidies, and tax credits available for qualifying adoptive families.
One of the biggest ticket items in the adoption cost of international adoption is the agency fee. This fee pays for the adoption agency to act as your liaison between you and the country you are adopting from. Their employees help to match you with your child, provide adoption education, help you to complete the needed paperwork, translate and submit it to the country you are working with, facilitate travel, and also keep their own licensing up to date. All of this comes with a fee. Most program fees (the costs paid to an agency for these services) run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the agency and which country you are adopting from, though sometimes agencies will quote up to $25,000 for their fee. It pays to do your research.
In any type of adoption where travel is needed, there will be travel expenses incurred above and beyond just transportation. Prospective adoptive parents will need to obtain lodging and food while they are away. In cases involving ICPC where prospective adoptive parents will need to stay in the child’s home state until they are cleared to go home, there is no set time line. Prospective adoptive parents do not know if they will need to find lodging and food for days or possibly weeks while they wait for ICPC to clear. The travel expenses incurred in adoption can easily enter thousands of dollars depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption.
Costs of adopting may be minimal or can total more than $40,000, depending on a number of factors. The chart below outlines some general categories of adoption and costs associated with the services provided. The wide range reflects the multitude of factors that can affect costs, including the type of adoption, type of placement agency or facilitator, and child’s age and circumstances. Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to check with the agencies they are considering to find out more about specific costs for their circumstances.
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.