Intercountry Adoption Costs

Intercountry adoption can be faster than adoption within the United States (domestic adoption), especially compared to private adoption.

Many hopeful parents considering different types of adoption find international adoption to be an attractive option. 

Many foreign countries have adoption programs that allow U.S. citizens to adopt. However, international adoption can be expensive, especially when you factor in the additional costs such as travel to a foreign country, country fees, and visa requirements.

Here are the intercountry adoption costs to consider if you are thinking about international adoption:

Intercountry Adoption Costs: Agency Fees

Many adoption agencies provide international adoption services. According to a 2022 report, fees range between $20,000 and $50,000.

International adoption generally includes costs for:

  • Agency fees, such as the application fee
  • Documentation, including marriage and divorce certificates and health records (often called the "dossier")
  • Adoption education
  • Immigration processing
  • Legal fees

In some cases, there is an expectation for adoptive parents to donate to the foreign foster care system orphanage or agency.

Additionally, adoptive parents must undergo a home study. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires adoption home studies. Home studies ensure the safety of the home for the adoptee. Adoption home studies generally cost about $1,500 to $3,000.

The organization responsible for placing the adoptive child—such as the government agency, orphanage, charitable foundation, attorney, or facilitator—may affect adoption expenses.

Depending on the country, there may be additional adoption fees, such as:

  • Child foster care (usually in South and Central American adoptions)
  • The adoptive parents' travel expenses and in-country stay(s) to process the adoption abroad
  • Escort fees—a fee charged when adoptive families do not travel but instead hire escorts to accompany the adoptee on the flight
  • The child's medical care and treatment, especially if the child has special needs
  • Translation fees
  • Foreign legal fees
  • Foreign attorney fees
  • Foreign agency fees
  • Passport fees
  • Visa processing fees and costs of visa medical examination

Domestic adoptions often involve the payment of birth mother or birth parent expenses. International adoptions rarely involve those costs.

Parental Leave and Financial Assistance

Taking time away from work to adopt a child from another country can be a hidden cost of intercountry adoption. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newly adopted child.

There also is help with adoption financing. There are state and federal tax credits. The federal tax credit for qualified adoption expenses for 2022 is $14,890. The credit increases to $15,950 for the 2023 tax year. State tax credits vary from state to state.

Some employers offer adoption benefits. This employee perk ranges from $500 to $25,300. The average is $8,000 and five weeks of paid leave. If your employer offers these benefits, find out if they are paid before or after the finalization process.

Some organizations provide adoption grants.

Finalizing International Adoptions in U.S. Court

Some intercountry adoptions require finalization in a court in the United States. Others are finalized in the child's country of origin.

As a result, although not often required, adoptive parents often also choose to finalize the placement in a U.S. court. One of the major advantages of finalizing an international adoption in a U.S. court is that the adoptive child will receive a state-issued birth certificate.

All these post-placement procedures incur a cost. The average cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000. The cost for legal representation may range from $2,500 to $12,000 or more in some states.

In some jurisdictions, adoption finalization can happen without representation by an attorney.

There may be other post-placement services that add to the total cost of international adoption. For example, many countries require that adoptive families submit post-placement reports. The reports are often prepared by a licensed social worker. In some instances, however, adoptive parents can prepare and submit the reports. The reports focus on the child's adjustment to their new home. Post-placement adoption reports generally cost around $2,000.

How Much Does Intercountry Adoption Cost? Ask an Attorney

Intercountry adoption can be complicated and daunting, with various factors to consider, such as foreign adoption laws, Hague Convention adoption requirements, parental rights, special needs and older child adoption considerations, and adoption referrals. An adoption professional can help ensure your legal rights and properly establish and secure the rights of your child.

If you need help with your international adoption journey, an adoption attorney can help with the adoption process and provide sound adoption information.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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