Costs of Adopting: Fact Sheet for Families
By Lisa Burden, J.D. | Legally reviewed by John Mascolo, Esq. | Last reviewed May 26, 2023
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The financial costs of adopting an infant or child can be concerning. Not everyone can meet these expenses. While becoming a parent is rarely cheap, adoptive parents often face adoption fees that can seem quite challenging.
However, with planning and with knowledge about the different types of adoptions and resources available, prospective adoptive parents should be able to develop a budget that includes most of the adoption expenses.
The Costs of Adopting a Child
The total cost of adopting varies from $0 to more than $40,000, depending on many factors. The information below outlines some general categories of adoption and costs associated with the services provided. The wide range reflects the multitude of factors that may affect costs, including the type of adoption, the type of placement agency or facilitator, and the child's age and circumstances.
Those considering adoption are encouraged to check with the agencies they are looking at to learn more about costs for their specific circumstances. Hague-accredited adoption agencies often post a list of costs on their website. The Hague Convention is an international treaty establishing safeguards for children and parents involved in intercountry adoptions. Hague accreditation requires adoption agencies to provide prospective adoptive parents with a detailed list of expected fees and expenses for the intercountry adoption process. This occurs before the adoption has begun.
Range of Adoption Costs
- Foster Care Adoptions: $0 - $2,500
- Licensed Private Agency Adoptions: $5,000 - $40,000+
- Independent Adoptions: $8,000 - $40,000+
- Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions: $5,000 - $40,000+
- Intercountry Adoptions: $7,000 - $30,000
Everyone who adopts a child incurs universal expenses. These expenses include home study expenses and court costs.
Home Study Expenses: All prospective parents must complete a home study, no matter what type of adoption they intend to pursue. The purpose of the home study is to evaluate the parent and their home. The prospective parents generally pay the cost of the adoption home study. There may be no charge for the home study in a foster care adoption.
However, when adopting a foster child, parents may have to pay for medical and psychological evaluations. With other types of adoption, the private agency or certified (or licensed) social worker may charge $1,000 to $3,000 for the home study. In some cases, the overall agency fee may include the fee for the adoption home study.
Legal Fees: A court in the United States must finalize all domestic adoptions and some intercountry adoptions. Some intercountry adoptions are finalized in the child's country of origin. Parents often choose also to finalize the placement in a U.S. court to provide additional protection of their child's legal status. But this is not required.
All these procedures incur a cost. The cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, while the cost for legal representation may range from $2,500 to $12,000 or more in some states.
Costs of Adopting for Certain Types of Adoption
In addition to the costs common to every adoption, adoptive parents generally incur costs specific to their type of adoption. Here are descriptions of the costs for two types of adoption: domestic infant and intercountry. In most cases, these expenses are in addition to the universal expenses described above.
Domestic Infant Adoption Costs
Costs for a domestic infant adoption range from $5,000 to $40,000. They vary widely according to the type of agency and, sometimes, the individual adoption circumstances. It is important for prospective parents to understand what is included in agency and attorney fees. In some cases, these fees include the cost of the home study rather than broken out separately. Domestic infant adoptions fall into three general categories, each with its own attendant costs:
- Licensed private agency adoption costs: $5,000 to $40,000. Costs for this type of adoption include a fee charged by the agency. It may also include the cost of the home study, birth parent counseling, adoptive parent preparation and training, and social work services involved in matching a child to a prospective family.
- Independent adoption costs: $8,000 to $40,000 (the average is $10,000-$15,000). Independent adoptions handled by an attorney generally result in costs that may include medical expenses for the birth mother (as allowed by law), separate legal fees for representing adoptive and birth parents, and any allowable fees for advertising.
- Facilitated/unlicensed agency adoption costs: $5,000 to $40,000. These costs are generally the same as the costs of licensed agencies.
Intercountry Adoption Costs
Agencies that provide intercountry adoption services charge fees that range from $7,000 to $30,000. These fees generally include dossier and immigration processing and court costs. Sometimes, they may include a required donation to the foreign orphanage or agency. Overall costs may be affected by the type of entity in the foreign country responsible for placing the child (e.g., government agency, government orphanage, charitable foundation, attorney, or facilitator).
Some providers offer reduced fees for adopting special needs children regardless of whether it is an adoption from the foster care system, private adoption, or international adoption.
Adoption Assistance Programs
Adoptive parents can reduce the expenses associated with adopting. They can take advantage of the financial assistance available for the adoption of a child. There are several ways for parents to reduce the average cost of adoption fees:
- Adoption tax credits: The federal government and many state governments offer adoption tax credits. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal adoption tax credit for 2022 is $14,890. That credit will increase to $15,950 in 2023. Eligibility for the federal adoption benefit depends on your modified adjusted gross income. State adoption benefits vary.
- Adoption subsidy: Many employers provide a subsidy for adoption. The amount varies from $500 to $25,300. The employer adoption subsidy averages $8,000 and five weeks of paid leave. The U.S. military also offers prospective adoptive families a subsidy for adopting.
- Adoption grants: Several organizations offer grants to help with adoption funding. The grants range from $500 to $15,000 and are available for domestic and international adoptions. In many instances, the grants offer financial assistance, services, and support for families before, during, and after the finalization of the adoption.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides additional information on obtaining help with adoption costs. Local social services agencies may also have information on reimbursement for adoption costs, including Medicaid eligibility.
Concerned About the Costs of Adopting? Talk to an Attorney Today
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to children is planning for the future. There's simply no way to predict the costs of raising your children, especially as health care and education costs continue to rise. On the flip side, there's also no way to quantify the richness they can add to your life. What is a little easier to predict are the costs of adoption.
Each state has its own established adoption process, so speak with a local adoption law attorney before you start the process. An adoption attorney can provide essential information on adoption. They can explain the rights of the adopted child and parental rights, such as those of the biological parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.