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Expanding your family can be an exciting adventure, but one that can come with a hefty price tag. The Child Welfare Information Gateway estimates that adoption costs can set you back by as much as $60,000. This may explain why out of the 37 percent of adults who’ve considered adopting, only one quarter have considered it “very seriously.”
Thankfully, there are a number of growing resources, including adoption loans, grants, state and federal assistance programs, that can lessen the financial impact on your pocket.
Domestic adoptions in the U.S. cost less than $2,800 if done through the foster care system or between $30,000 and $60,000 through an adoption agency.
Adoption cost statistics
- The most affordable way to adopt a child is through the U.S. foster care system. On average, it costs under $2,800 to adopt a child from foster care.
- Independent adoption through an attorney costs between $25,000 and $45,000.These estimates include fees for home study, the birth mother’s medical bills, as well as legal and court fees for all of the parties involved.
- Adopting through a private agency is the most convenient way to adopt, as the organization oversees the process from start to finish and also includes additional services like counseling. However, it’s also the most expensive way to adopt as it can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the agency.
- Intercountry adoption is the second most expensive way to adopt, as you’ll have to factor in additional expenses, like travel and accommodation, escort fees and the child’s passport and visa. On average, it costs between $20,000 and $50,000 to adopt a child abroad.
- Because they’re more cost effective, public adoptions (or adoptions through foster care) account for 58% of all domestic adoptions in the U.S.
“There are over 113,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system right now who are legally available for adoption and in need of a permanent, supported, and nurturing home and the process fees are typically less than $1,000 for that type of adoption,” Kristen Hamilton, director of Communication at the National Council for Adoption, says. “In addition, there are subsidies which many of these children will qualify for, that can help parents meet their needs after adoption. However, they should know that the subsidy process must be completed before finalizing the adoption.” Hamilton adds.
Financing an adoption
The average household income in the U.S. is just under $70,800. For many Americans, paying tens of thousands of dollars to expand their families is simply out of reach. That said, there are plenty of funding alternatives you can explore to reduce these costs, including the following.
An adoption loan is simply a type of personal loan used to fund the costs associated with adopting a child. These loans have interest rates ranging from 6.5 percent to 36 percent, depending on the lender, with repayment terms between two and seven years.
Taking out a personal loan to cover the costs of adopting a child can be a good idea if you have good credit and a stable source of income, as this will allow you to secure the best interest rates. Using a personal loan to cover the costs of adoption is also a good idea if you’re in a time crunch, as you’ll be able to get the funds fast — usually within the same week — so you can begin the process right away.
On the downside, since personal loans are issued based on creditworthiness, you may have a tough time getting a loan with less-than-perfect credit and — if you do — you’ll most likely end with a high interest rate. Added to this, if you default on the loan, you could damage your credit for up to seven years.
Adoption grants are a type of gift aid you can use to pay for adoption costs. Because grants don’t need to be repaid, they are one of the best ways to finance adoption costs. That said, grants are given out on a first come, first serve basis and some can take a while to process. That’s why the sooner you start your application the better.
Adoption grants are given by private organizations and sometimes by the adoption agencies themselves. Here are some of the most popular organizations that give out grants for adoption:
“Nearly all of those grants will require the family to have completed a home study in order to submit an application,” Hamilton says. “Some are tied to being further along in the process, but typically the grants are given so that the family can complete the adoption process and would be awarded well prior to finalization,” she adds. Besides that, some grants are limited to certain income thresholds, so make sure to read all the requirements in advance before you apply.
Each state has its own adoption assistance program, which offers out a monthly payment to families to help subsidize some of the costs. These amounts vary by state — and sometimes by county — and have limits based on the child’s age. Additionally, you’ll have to apply for these subsidies at the state where you adopt the child, regardless of where you live afterwards. You can learn more about each state’s assistance program by visiting the North American Council on Adoptable Children’s website.
A growing number of employers are also offering to help cover adoption costs as part of their benefits. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, in 2022, surveyed employers who offered to reimburse adoption costs as part of their benefits package gave employees an average reimbursement of $12,000.
Besides that, regardless of where you adopt your child from, you may also be eligible to claim the federal Adoption Tax Credit. This credit is issued to you as a refund and, in 2023, you could get up to $15,950.
Another way to finance adoption is through donations. Although this is a great option due to the fact that it’s money you don’t have to pay back, it can also take a while to reach your goal and you will have to be proactive for it to be successful. However, if this is something you’d like to explore, you can set up a donation campaign through websites like GoFundMe, AdoptTogether and Adoption Bridge. That said, it should be noted that some of these sites do charge a fee and, sometimes, if the goal isn’t reached by a certain date, you could lose some of the funds.
Frequently asked questions
Adopting a child can cost next to nothing but it can also cost thousands of dollars, depending on the pathway you choose. The most affordable way to adopt a child is to do so through the foster care system, as sometimes it can be completely free thanks to all the subsidies available.Here’s the cost breakdown of how much it can cost on average to adopt a child, depending on the method:
- Foster care/public adoption: Less than $2,800
- Independent adoption: $25,000 to $45,000
- Private agency adoption: $30,000 to $60,000
- Intercountry/international adoption: $20,000 to $50,000
The adoption process varies depending on the method you choose (i.e. adopting through the foster care system vs. through a private agency). However, some of the steps you’ll have to go through regardless are:
- Information session: this will highlight all the things you should know about adoption, including the costs, what you’ll need and what to expect.
- Courses and training: you will need to take a series of seminars in which you will gain tools to become a successful adoptive parent.
- A home study: once you complete your courses, you’ll be assigned a social worker. This person will determine your readiness for adoption based on factors such as your daily routines, the state of your home and background.
- Make a profile: upon passing the home study, the next step is to create a family profile to submit to the different adoption agencies.
- Wait for a match: the adoption agency will contact you if your profile matches one of the children available in the system.
To get a deeper understanding of how adoption works as a whole, visit the National Council for Adoption’s website.
Adopting a child can take several months to years, depending on the age range you wish to adopt, the country and adoption method. For instance, adopting a newborn can take between two and seven years, due to high demand. Likewise, domestic adoptions, especially those from foster care can be done in a matter of months, whereas adopting internationally can take up to five years due to all the legal paperwork.