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.
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.
I admit that I didn’t read the comments, so maybe this has already come up, but…one thing you didn’t mention in the original post is that part of the LARGE fee goes toward the actual care of the child. We’re talking about 2+years in many cases. It’s not just the care of the child from referral to placement; it’s from the time the child came into care. Medical care, food, clothing, housing, counseling in many cases, language teachers, etc.
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.
Usually, a shelter has already attended to the spay/neuter, the initial shots, and a veterinary clearance exam. If the cat's original situation left it with any medical challenges due to poor nutrition or neglect, these have usually already begun to be addressed by the shelter. You may get to play a final role in nursing your rescue back to full health, creating an initial bond between you both.