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. 
One of the biggest hurdles many prospective adoptive parents face is the cost of adoption. A poll of family and friends revealed the perceived cost of adoption to be between $5,000 and $10,000. The reality is private-agency domestic adoption ranges from $20,000 to $45,000, and international adoption ranges from $20,000 to $50,000. With so many children in need of forever homes, you have to wonder: Why is adoption so expensive?

I will advise you that this article is written from my own personal experience and research, please do not take it as legal advice. Please contact your local adoption agency or attorney for more information regarding how expense adoption is in your area. But for now, this article will contain basic information on how expensive adoption is and what you may expect. 
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.

Are you creative, crafty, or crazy good in the kitchen? Consider selling your handywork to promote your hopes to adopt and raising funds to help afford it. It can be a lot easier for some to financially assist your adoption when they receive something in return. Sharing your talent is a great way to fundraise for your adoption.  We held a weekly bake sale all summer and raised $2,000.


This is a tax credit offered to adoptive parents to encourage their adoption. The United States International Revenue code offers a credit for “qualified adoption expenses” paid or incurred by individual taxpayers. The credit apply’s for all types of adoption except step-parent adoption and is available in the  year the adoption is finalized. In 2017, the maximum adoption tax credit was $13,570 per child. The amount changes year over year due to inflation. Talk with your tax adviser to understand more about the Adoption Tax Credit and how it can work for you. The Adoption Tax Credit is not refundable, but it does provide financial assistance to many families each year.
Birth Parent Expenses: Birth parent expenses are not an obligation, but an agency can help coordinate prospective adoptive parents pay, as a matter of charity, actual pregnancy related living expenses, including housing, food, transportation, personal items, clothing, and activities provided to the birth mother prior to delivery. Such payments must be permissible by applicable state adoption laws. The amount paid depends on the needs of the birth parents and will be discussed fully with prospective adoptive parents.
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.

Adoption agencies do not expect the entire cost of an adoption to be paid "up front." For example, an agency might divide payment into three portions, with one-third of the total amount to be paid when filing the initial application, one- third at completion of the homestudy process, and one- third when the child is placed and the post placement supervision period begins. Budgeted over time, these costs will not make such a big dent in money you may be saving for the costs of raising a child. When fees are linked to a specific service or part of the process, the family is also in a better position when something unexpected happens, such as an agency suddenly going out of business. Ask specific agencies about their payment plans when you are selecting an agency.
Non-identifying details about the birth parents (including their general background, education, employment, armed services history; social or medical risk factors, drug usage, medical and mental health history, other children, and extended birth family history). Also inquire about the birth mother’s care during pregnancy, and any risk factors for the child due to the mother’s experiences during pregnancy or complications during delivery.

 – Travel Expenses – As seems to be the theme of this article, this number will depend on what country you are adopting from. Some countries require more than one visit before you are able to complete your adoption. Some countries require longer stays than others. Again, make sure to discuss with your agency what travel will be expected of you before deciding on what country you wish to adopt from. Travel costs can range from $5,000 to $10,000. 
Millions of children are orphaned every year (the number is so high and changes with such rapidity that it's hard for government organizations to even keep track). There are other options for adoption (like through foster care or the adoption of a family member) and each process yields a beautiful and unique family. It's important to all of us that these children find good homes. Their lives matter.
I know this is a lot of information and certainly can be overwhelming. However, I hope it somewhat answered your question, how expensive is adoption. If for nothing at all, it at least got you thinking about adoption and what the costs might be. I urge you to contact a local adoption agency to get more specific cost information from them and start the process today! It really is a journey and one that is quite rewarding if I do say so myself.
According to Ellison, another resource many people don't even think to investigate is their own employer. Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DFTA) publishes a list every year of the 100 most adoption-friendly workplaces, but even if your company's not on the list, it's still worth asking your HR department. According to the DTFA, 52 percent of companies surveyed offer a financial adoption benefit. (And if you want to establish adoption benefits at your company, DTFA offers a free kit to do so.) There are also grants available, ranging from $1,000 to $15,000. Ellison says that many of these are faith-based, based on financial need, or for adopting children with special needs. These grants tend to be incredibly competitive, with "literally hundreds of families applying for the same money." You can start applying at Helpusadopt.org, Resources 4 Adoption, or International Adoption Center, or see if your agency partners with Your Adoption Finance Coach.
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If you are new to the topic of adoption or are currently in the beginning stages of your adoption process, a question that has most likely crossed your mind is, “Why is the adoption process so expensive?” If there are millions of waiting children in the world, why must it often cost tens of thousands of dollars to help bring them into the love and protection of a family?
When asked a question that feels too personal or improper, you have the right not to answer it -- particularly if it compromises your child's, the birth mother's, or your own privacy. But sometimes you can find a way to respond to a question that's in the best interest of your family and offers some important information about adoption. For instance, when asked "How much did you pay for your baby?" you can explain that the fees you paid your agency and/or orphanage (you don't have to disclose the amount) went toward the facilitation of your adoption and to the early care of your child. In a sense, they're similar to what a pregnant woman pays to her doctor and hospital, you can add.
7. Most people, when they inquire about your children, really do have good intentions.  Some are just curious.  Some are considering adoption.  Some have already adopted.  Some are grandparents awaiting a grandchild through adoption (we meet a lot of these).  Some are from your child’s country of origin.  Many are innocently curious children.  Be kind.  Give them the benefit of the doubt when they are asking questions—until they have proven that their intentions are not good.
There are many ways to locate a child to adopt, and this is an area where you can control the expenses. The least expensive way to find a child or pregnant woman is by word of mouth networking. Tell everyone you know you are looking to adopt. Hand out business type cards. Free newspapers are another way to go; then there are other newspaper publications. Some people use the Internet, posting profiles and creating their own website. The most expensive way to go is to use a consultant who designs and executes your networking campaign.
The simplest answer is twofold. First of all, there are a boatload of professionals involved in the adoption of a child, and those professionals need to be paid. This is a big change from the early 20 century, when adoptions were often arranged more informally. In an interview with Romper, Katie Foley, Associate Director of Outreach for Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children, says, “In over 100 years, we've seen the professionals necessary to facilitate an adoption change as [the] practice has changed. For example, 100 years ago, a doctor might be the primary professional in making an adoption happen,” perhaps connecting a pregnant patient with an infertile one. But in 2016, all that has changed.
Asking friends and family to donate to your garage sale can be an amazing way to raise funds for your adoption. Hosting online actions on social media can also help you reach a larger crowd. You can ask your friends who have services or items they create or sell to donate to your auction and appreciate the free marketing and advertising you provide on their behalf with their items and services. For our Yard Sales, we asked all of our friends and family to donate unwanted items that they no longer needed.  We had an outpouring of donations.  We also asked friends and family to donate baked goods and had a bake sale at our Yard Sale.  On the same day of our Yard Sale, we advertised for a car wash at a local grocery store.  Between both events we raised almost $6,000 in one day.  I set up a Square account and people gave/donated more because they could use a debt/credit card.

Adoption touches the lives of everyone involved and that could include your coworkers, friends, family, and even pets! If you have a spouse or partner, make sure that they are on the same page and have the same level of commitment as you. If you have other children, it is important to introduce the topic and consider their feelings towards a new addition.

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.


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.
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