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.

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.


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.
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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