The Real Cost of Adoption

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Couples choose to adopt a child for a variety of reasons. California residents Brentt Hoover and his wife Christy, for example, decided to adopt back in 2004 when they wanted a guarantee that their family would grow.

“Adoption gave us a clear outcome,” Hoover says, explaining that he and his wife wanted to avoid the uncertainty associated with fertility clinics. Their decision to adopt ultimately united them with three beautiful children, two boys and a girl, ages 6, 4 and ten months.

Admittedly, there were costs -- costs that Hoover, a financial planner at MetLife, now helps other adopting families to understand.

So, how much exactly does it cost to adopt a child?

A 2010 survey conducted by Adoptive Families, a national adoption magazine, showed that on average, most U.S. families must finance between $20,000 and $25,000 during the process. However, according to Jeanne Tate, spokesperson for Heart of Adoption, the cost can climb much higher.  

“The price of adoption is wide-ranging,” Tate says. “It could cost you between $0 and $50,000 to adopt domestically depending on what kind of adoption you pursue.”

The costs also may vary depending on an adopted child’s age, gender, race or ethnicity. Younger girls tend to cost more and it is particularly troubling to learn that, according to one study, adopting a black child in America tends to cost about $8,000 less than a white one.  That’s a subject which we will tackle for in depth in a future story.

International adoptions, in particular, carry a heavier price tag than domestic ones as travel expenses get added on to the initial price tag.  Additionally, costs can vary internationally depending on the child’s country of origin. For example, according to the Adoptive Families survey, adopting a child from Russia costs new parents $53,702 in total, while adopting a child from China is $26,531. You can check out the surveys full results for more specifics here.

Similarly, newbornes typically cost more, not only because they are in higher demand, but because adoptive parents will likely pay the medical expenses associated with the birth. They may also have to provide food, clothing and accommodations for the birth mother during her pregnancy if the mother's current living conditions could be a detriment to the baby.

The exact term and conditions of the adoption will be worked out throughout the entire adoption process. As such, it’s important that you chose your method of adoption wisely. According to Tate, there are four major avenues parents take when starting the process:

  • Independent Adoption: Prospective parents locate a birth mother on their own
  • Adoption through an Agency: The birth mother relinquishes her rights to the agency who then places the child with an adoptive family. Agencies are approved by and regulated through the state.
  • Adoption through a Facilitator: Prospective parents enlist the help of an independent third party in order to find a birth mother. While many adoption facilitators are licensed, they, unlike agencies, are not approved and regulated by the state.
  • Adoption through the Foster Care System: Prospective parents essentially adopt through their state’s Department of Social Services.


Generally speaking, agency and facilitator adoptions are more expensive than independent or foster ones. As illustrated in the survey, adoption through a U.S. agency costs parents, on average, $35,503. Adoption through a foster care costs $8,326.

The biggest difference in costs comes from the fee that you have to pay to the agency, or facilitator, for their services. According to Hoover, who used a facilitator when adopting all three of his children, this fee is usually between $8,000 and $9,000. Hoover did point out that these third parties do not recoup this fee until the child has been successfully placed in your home. Moreover, as professionals, they are good about controlling costs once the initial terms and conditions between birth and adoptive parents have been set.

Those choosing to forego an agency or facilitator’s services should not forego hiring an attorney. In fact, a lawyer should be employed no matter what route you take.

“Families that don’t use a lawyer end up on Lifetime,” Hoover cautions. He estimates that lawyer fees typically account for about 4,000 of the process’ total cost. Adoptive parents may have to pay for a state social worker to provide legal advisement to the birth mother as well, which Hoover says usually costs around $1,000.  

Another cost contributor is the state-sanctioned home inspection that must take place in almost all adoptions before a child will be permitted to move into your home. Hoover, who consulted his own records when helping us price out the charges, says that inspections vary from state to state, but can cost as much as $4,500.

Admittedly, these costs may seem daunting. However, those who are looking to adoption as a means to build their family should know that financial aid is out there. For starters, the federal government offers a $13,000 tax credit for “qualified adoption expenses.” These include agency or facilitator fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses (including meals and lodging while away from home), and other expenses directly related to the legal adoption of an eligible child. For more specifics about the tax credit, you can check out this explanation on the Internal Revenue Services website.

Additionally, many employers, including Comcast, Citizen Financial Group, and Wendy’s, offer adoption benefits that help parents finance the process. You can check out The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s list of the 2009 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces to get a better idea of what corporations offer. Hoover, for example, was able to get funding for his last adoption through his employer Met-Life. That and the help from federal government helped bring down the price of all three of his adoptions down collectively from around $75,000 to “about $10,000.”

Tate points out that there are other loan and grant options that prospective parents can pursue. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, for example, issues grants through the Adopt America Network, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institution, the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.  You can check here for  more information on adoption resources.

However, Hoover cautions, as both the federal tax credit and most grants don’t kick in until after the adoption has taken place, parents often have to float the costs.

“You have to be able to write the checks,” he explains. Hoover also points out that it’s important to consider the financial costs associated with adding a new member of family. Clothes. Food. iPods. Kids, adopted or not, are expensive.

“A birth parent is looking for someone that they think is going to do a better job of providing for their child,” Hoover says, adding that adoptive parents should ask themselves if they can, in fact, put the child in a better position financially. “By adopting, you are saying ‘we accept this request.’”

Just how much does it cost to raise a child? Check out this MainStreet article to find out.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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