Cost of Adoption: A factsheet for Families
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3. Adoption-Specific Expenses

In addition to the costs common to every adoption, adoptive parents generally incur costs specific to their type of adoption. The costs for three types of adoption are described here: foster care, domestic infant, and intercountry. These expenses are in addition to the universal expenses described above in most cases.

Foster care adoption costs: $0 to $2,500. Most public agencies in the foster care system place children with special needs only, a category that is defined differently in each State but may refer to children who must be placed with siblings, who are older or in a minority group, or those with disabilities. Up-front fees and expenses may range from $0 to $2,500, including attorney's fees and travel expenses. In foster care adoptions, fees often are kept to a minimum or even waived, so that final costs to parents are negligible. In some cases, the child may even be eligible for government subsidy payments (often called adoption assistance), Supplemental Security Income, or Medicaid coverage. (These resources are described at the end of this factsheet.)

Domestic infant adoption costs: $5,000 to $40,000. These vary widely according the type of agency used and, sometimes, the individual adoption circumstances. It is important for prospective parents to fully understand what is included in agency and attorney fees. In some cases, the cost of the home study is included, 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 and may 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. The fees charged by licensed agencies are generally predictable, and some even have sliding fee scales based on family income. In addition, some agencies may offer reduced fees to prospective parents who locate a birth parent on their own but who need the agency for counseling, facilitation, home study, and supervision services.

Independent adoption costs: $8,000 to $40,000 (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), as well as separate legal fees for representing adoptive and birth parents, and any allowable fees for advertising. Additional medical expenses may be required in situations in which there are birth complications.

State laws restrict many of these costs, including any reimbursements to the birth mother. Restrictions may also exist regarding advertisements seeking expectant parents. Where allowed, such advertising expenses may range from $500 to $5,000. The NAIC publication Statutes-at-a-Glance: Regulation of Adoption Expenses has more information about State laws regulating these types of adoption expenses.

Compared to licensed agency adoptions, the costs of independent adoptions may be less predictable. In addition, costs may not be reimbursable in cases in which a birth mother changes her mind and chooses to parent her child.

Facilitated/unlicensed agency adoption costs: $5,000 to $40,000. These costs are generally the same as costs of licensed agencies. However, in States that allow adoptive placements by facilitators these placements are largely unregulated. Prospective parents may have no recourse if the adoption does not proceed as expected.

Intercountry adoption costs: $7,000 to $30,000. 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. In some cases, 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 that is responsible for placing the child (e.g., government agency, government orphanage, charitable foundation, attorney, facilitator, or some combination thereof). Many intercountry adoption agencies offer a sliding fee scale.

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

  • Child foster care (usually in South and Central American adoptions)
  • Parents' travel and in-country stay(s) to process the adoption abroad
  • Escorting fees, charged when parents do not travel but instead hire escorts to accompany the child on the flight
  • Child's medical care and treatment (occasionally in South and Central America)
  • Translation fees
  • Foreign attorney fees
  • Foreign agency fees
  • Passport fees
  • Visa processing fees and costs of visa medical examination

Source:  The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC)