Costs of Adopting a Child

Costs To Adopt a Child

Last Updated on December 24, 2022 | Written by CPA Alec Pow
First Published on May 29, 2014 | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popivker

A lot of people ask themselves what is the real cost of adopting a child and what are the common expenses related to adding a child to your family through adoption. People usually expect this process to be simple, straightforward, and cheap. But, due to the fact that there are a few ways in which you can adopt a child, you can’t come up with a single, simple answer. In the US the average cost to adopt a child is close to $35,000, but this average won’t help you all that much, as the adoption process and price will be influenced by many other factors.

How Much Does Domestic Infant Adoption Cost?

Using an adoption lawyer, or an adoption agency you can opt for a private domestic infant adoption (when a birth mother is relinquished). Adoption costs may vary depending on the birth mother’s expenses, including failed adoption matches, medical costs for the expectant woman, travel, adoption agency/adoption attorney fees, etc. The range for an adoption agency adoption is from $5,000 to over $45,000, with almost 60% falling within $10,000 and $35,000, and the average being around $28,000. You can find some adoption agencies that will have a sliding fee scale, where the adoption process will have a price based on your income.

The average newborn adoption through an adoption attorney will cost $28,000, while the cost can vary between $10,000 and $35,000. If you opt for an adoption lawyer, the adoption cost will be slightly less than the prices of the adoption agency, but that’s because the adoption lawyer can only finalize the adoption papers, while the adoption agency will also make it possible for the birth mother and the adoptive family to meet each other. Another aspect to take into consideration is the fact that attorneys do not provide pre-adoption or post-adoption education and support, which makes spending a little more for the agency worth the money.

How Much Does International Adoption Cost

An average cost for an international adoption won’t help you in any way. Each country has its own prices for the process. The Adoption Country Charts at Creating a Family will be your best choice. The cost will be set by how much the country will charge for the process, airfare expenses and how long will you stay abroad. The top three sending countries for overseas adoption have average costs as seen below:


  • South Korea- The range of cost for adopting from South Korea prior to mid-2013 was $20,000 to $40,000, with the average being slightly more than $30,000. Not enough families have adopted from South Korea since Korea began requiring families to spend a substantially longer period of time in the country. This will add substantially to the cost of adopting from Korea since living expenses in Seoul are high, to say nothing of the cost of lost wages.
  • Ethiopia- The range of costs for adopting from Ethiopia is $20,000 to $40,000, with the average being slightly less than $30,000.
  • China-The range of costs for adopting from China is $20,000 to $40,000, with the average being around $30,000.

How Much Does Foster Care Adoption Cost

Something you can notice is that adopting from foster care is almost free. There aren’t a lot of families that pay more than $2,000 and a lot of them won’t pay anything at all. People that adopt from foster care even receive a monthly subsidy, as a help to raise their kids.

Common expenses to prepare for when adopting a child

Home study

The adoption process will actually start with a home study.

Prospective parents, as well as their family members, will be checked out during a home study, to make sure that the house getting the child will be able to offer them a loving and safe place. During a home study, you will be asked to get documents like employment records, financial statements, and even a written document from your doctor about your latest physical. You’d also have to go through interviews and background checks just so that everyone is safe. You will usually spend anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 at this stage alone, according to The Gladney Center for Adoption, which is a popular adoption agency from Fort Worth, Texas. Depending on your family’s income, this particular expense might differ.

This step will also involve both training and education. This service might be provided by the state agency that will administer the home study, in which case you should expect a price between $300 and $600. You might need some additional training which you would have to go about on your own using online courses or books. These can cost about $100 to $250 per person.

As a final state of the home study, you will be required to agree on post-placement reporting. People that live in the United States should expect multiple visits from a social worker within a six-month period after the child has reached the home of the new family. Post-placement reporting will usually cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

Search fees

A major expense you will have to consider when working with an attorney or a private agency will be the process of searching for and then matching with the mother. Any advertising or expenses related to a consultant might be waived or rolled into the overall fee when working with an adoption agency. But you are likely to pay for these services when dealing with an independent adoption, and the actual price will depend on how you choose to advertise. Some adoption centers estimate around $3,000 and $7,500 in fees for advertising and consulting when going for an independent adoption.

Birth mother expenses

Depending on your agreement with the future birth mother, you might have to pay the mother’s expenses before you can adopt the newborn. This won’t mean just living expenses or medical bills, but also travel, legal fees, and even counseling, if necessary. Some estimates put these expenses between $6,500 and $8,500 when going for private adoption.

Legal fees

You surely understand that adding a new member to your family through adoption also means a lot of legal requirements, including negotiating birth mother expenses, court filings, and terminating the rights of the birth parents. You will also have to finalize the adoption once the post-placement reporting period is over. When dealing with an adoption agency, you might be waived these fees or they might be added to your overall cost.

An independent adoption will usually have legal fees between $7,500 and $17,000, which is a big part of the final cost.

Don’t Forget the Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Credit was made permanent in 2013, but is no longer refundable, which means that you have to earn enough to actually owe federal taxes in order to benefit from the Adoption Tax Credit. However, you can carry over the credit for five years, which gives you a total of six years to use the credit. The maximum adoption credit is $12,970 per child and begins to phase out for families with incomes above $194,580. (Creating a Family has tons of resources on the Adoption Tax Credit.)

Before actually considering adopting a child, check out 5 things you should know:

Should the average working family adopt a child?

If you are in one of the many families that can’t have children for one reason or another or if you feel like a child is missing from your life, then adopting one will be a great choice. It’s always better for children to grow up inside a family, rather than in a foster home. The only thing to consider is that you shouldn’t adopt a child on a whim. You should only make this step if you have a strong need to give a better life and raise a living, breathing person. A child comes with a lot of responsibilities and expenses so be sure you are prepared to offer them the best life possible.

Alec Pow
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