How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

Last Updated on January 14, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Adoption can be an expensive process, but how much does it cost to adopt a child? This comprehensive guide breaks down the many factors that impact the cost of adoption and provides insights into making adoption more affordable.

Adopting a child is one of the most selfless ways to grow your family. While adoption costs can seem high, many families find creative ways to fund their adoptions through grants, fundraising, loans, and tax credits.

Highlights on Adoption Costs

  • Adopting a child can cost between $0 and $150,000, although the average cost of child adoption is between $20,000 and $50,000.
  • Foster care adoption costs very little and offers generous subsidies. Private agency adoptions are significantly more.
  • Domestic infant adoption is among the most expensive types of adoption. International adoption costs vary based on country.
  • Grants, fundraising, tax credits, and other cost reductions can lower total adoption expenses by $5,000 to $20,000.
  • Adopting a child with special needs or an older child costs considerably less than adopting an infant.
  • A second adoption typically costs $15,000 – $30,000 less than the first adoption due to reusing documents and resources.
  • With realistic expectations about costs and using creative funding options, most families can afford to adopt children into their loving families.

How Much Does Adoption Cost?

When looking at both domestic and international adoptions, through agencies, independently, and from foster care, the total cost to adopt a child can range from $0 to $150,000.

However, the average cost of adoption is often estimated to be between $20,000 – $50,000 when you account for all types of adoptions.

According to a survey by Adoptive Families Magazine, here is the breakdown of what adoptive families spent on adoption:

  • 15% spent $5,000 or less
  • 26% spent $5,001 to $15,000
  • 28% spent $15,001 to $25,000
  • 18% spent $25,001 to $35,000
  • 13% spent over $35,000

According to Parents.com, The Children’s Bureau estimates the costs of independent adoptions to be between $25,000 to $45,000 or more, including legal fees.

NerdWallet notes that adoption costs can range between $30,000 and $60,000 if you adopt through an agency. Pursuing an independent adoption, which involves working with an attorney, can range in cost from $25,000 to $45,000. Private adoptions, which are more likely to involve newborns, can cost between $15,000 and $40,000.

Today.com writes in an article that the average cost of adopting a child in the United States is between $20,000 and $45,000 for domestic adoption. International adoption costs can vary greatly, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.

According to AdoptUSKids.org, the cost of working with an attorney and not involving an agency for adoption may range from $8,000 to $40,000, with an average of $10,000 to $15,000. However, adoption from foster care usually costs little to nothing.

Adoption Network states that private domestic adoption costs vary, with agency fees ranging from $15,000 to $30,000. Additional costs for birth parent living expenses, legal counsel, and private placement related to adopting a baby can range from $25,000 to $50,000. International adoption may cost between $30,000 and $80,000.

Factors Affecting the Cost of The Adoption Process

Many factors influence how much it costs to adopt a child. The type of adoption, your home study fees, legal expenditures, and travel expenses all play a role. Here are some of the key considerations:

  • Domestic vs. International Adoption – Adopting from foster care in the U.S. is often less expensive than a private domestic adoption. International adoptions from certain countries can be more costly than domestic adoptions.
  • The Adoption Provider – Working with a private agency often costs more than an independent adoption coordinated by an attorney. Adoption agencies bundle services and have more overhead costs.
  • Consultant and Legal Fees – Attorney fees, court costs, and consulting fees can vary widely depending on your provider, location, and type of adoption.
  • Birth Mother Expenses – In a private domestic adoption, you may opt to cover medical expenses, counseling costs, and living expenses for the expectant mother.
  • Travel Expenses – For intercountry adoption, you’ll need to budget for travel accommodations, multiple trips to the child’s country, and visa costs.
  • Special Needs Adoptions – Adopting a child with special needs may qualify your family for subsidies and adoption assistance programs.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child from Foster Care?

Adopting a child from foster care can cost very little or even nothing at all. Many states offer adoption subsidies to families who adopt children from the public foster care system. This helps offset any fees associated with the adoption finalization. Here are some typical costs:

  • Home Study Fees: $1,500 – $3,000
  • Court Filing and Documentation Fees: $300 – $1,500
  • Post-Placement Supervisory Reports: $300 – $500
  • TOTAL: $2,100 – $5,000

The biggest benefit of foster care adoption is that states cover the costs for children in the child welfare system. Families who adopt from foster care may also receive monthly subsidies, Medicaid coverage, and other assistance. This makes foster care one of the most affordable ways to adopt.

You might also like our articles about the cost of adopting someone over 18 years old, employing a child support lawyer, or having a baby.

What Is the Cost of a Private Domestic Adoption?

Private domestic adoptions through an agency or attorney range greatly in cost depending on the services included. Typical costs may include:

  • Home Study: $2,000 – $4,000
  • Agency Fees: $15,000 – $40,000
  • Legal Fees: $5,000 – $10,000
  • Birth Parent Expenses: $5,000 – $50,000
  • Post-Placement Supervision: $1,500 – $5,000
  • TOTAL: $28,500 – $109,000

As you can see, the costs vary widely. Working independently with an attorney instead of going through an agency can reduce costs. Adopting an older child, a child with special needs, or a waiting child also lowers expenses.

What Does It Cost to Adopt an Infant Domestically?

Adopting a healthy newborn through a private agency is one of the most expensive adoptions. Here are typical newborn adoption costs:

  • Home Study: $2,000 – $4,000
  • Agency Fees: $25,000 – $50,000
  • Legal Fees: $5,000 – $10,000
  • Birth Parent Expenses: $20,000 – $50,000
  • Post-Placement Supervision: $1,500 – $5,000
  • TOTAL: $53,500 – $119,000

Note that birth parent expenses have a huge range here. Some adoptive parents opt to cover minimal living expenses, while others pay for rent, medical bills, transportation, maternity clothes, and counseling.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child Internationally?

Adopt BannerInternational adoptions can cost $20,000 to $50,000 based on the country and the adoption provider. Costs typically include:

  • Home Study: $2,000 – $4,000
  • Agency Fees: $15,000 – $30,000
  • Foreign Program Fees: $3,000 – $10,000
  • Translation & Document Expenses: $2,000 – $4,000
  • Legal Services & Visas: $5,000 – $10,000
  • Travel Expenses: $5,000 – $10,000
  • Post-Adoption Fees: $1,000 – $3,000
  • TOTAL: $33,000 – $71,000

Travel costs also add up quickly with international adoptions. Most countries require two trips – one to meet the child and another to complete the adoption. Travel expenses for hotels, meals, flights, and ground transportation vary by location.

How Can I Reduce Adoption Costs?

If those adoption price tags seem overwhelming, here are some ways to reduce your total expenses:

  • Apply for Grants – There are many adoption grants available through foundations, employers, churches, and states. These provide qualified families with funds to help offset adoption costs.
  • Fundraise – Crowdfunding sites make it easy to fundraise for adoption. Reach out to friends, family, co-workers, and community members for support.
  • Seek Donations – Ask vendors, service providers, hotels, and airlines for in-kind donations or discounts to help reduce adoption costs.
  • Maximize Tax Credits – The federal adoption tax credit offers up to $14,300 in reimbursement per child for qualified adoption expenses. Many states also offer adoption tax credits or deductions up to $10,000.
  • Pursue Low-Cost Options – Opting to adopt from foster care, through an attorney, or independently can reduce agency fees. Adding older child or special needs adoption also lowers costs.
  • Use Your Resources – If you already have a completed home study, this can save you $3,000 or more on a second adoption.

How Do I Budget for a Second Adoption?

Adopting again after your first child comes with ways to lower costs. You can reuse your original home study and court documentation. Travel expenses may be lower if you return to the same country. And you can reuse baby items, clothes, and toys.

On average, a second adoption costs $15,000 to $30,000 less than an initial adoption. Grant organizations also prioritize awarding funds to repeat adoptive families.

While each adoption journey is unique, most families can find ways to make adoption affordable through cost reductions, being flexible, fundraising, grants, and tax benefits. Focusing on the life-changing gift of a child helps families stay motivated when costs feel challenging. With patience and creativity, adoptions can be made possible.

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