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How much does adopting a child cost? – Nerd Wallet

Bringing a child into your family is a big decision, emotionally and financially. The process can be lengthy and cost anywhere from under $1,000 to over $50,000. Here’s a breakdown of the different ways you can grow your family through adoption — and how much you can expect to spend.

How much does adoption cost?

The cost of adoption depends on the type of adoption you are pursuing. When thinking about how you might want to move forward, keep in mind that there are many ways to pay to adoptfundraising and personal loan grants.

Adoption by a public body

How it works: Adopting children through the welfare system often means starting out as a foster parent. Each state has its own agency, which oversees licensing, education, placement and support for adoptive families.

What it costs: Foster adoption is an inexpensive option for parents. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau under the Federal Bureau of Administration for Children and Families, calls foster adoption “virtually free.” The majority of foster adoptions cost less than $1,000, according to Adoptive Families magazine’s most recent adoption cost survey conducted in 2016-2017.

This path to adoption is inexpensive due to state and federal adoption assistance programs put in place to make it more accessible and attractive to adopt children who are in foster care. These children are often older and may have suffered trauma or have special needs.

Private adoption

How it works: Parents can work with an adoption agency or attorney to find and adopt children in the United States. Generally, the process of adopting a child is similar whether you work through a private agency or independently with the help of an attorney. This involves home study, placement, counselling, training, and legal documentation.

What it costs: The cost of a private adoption varies. Working with an agency, you can expect to spend between $30,000 and $60,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. It is slightly cheaper to pursue an independent adoption, which involves working with an attorney. This process costs between $25,000 and $45,000. Private adoptions are more likely to involve newborns. This means that in addition to paying for the adoption process, you will also cover the biological mother’s medical and other expenses.

International adoption

How it works: This path involves working with private or public adoption agencies in countries other than the United States. The process and fees vary by country and depend on the organization you are working with, which may be a government office, agency, orphanage, non-profit organization, or an individual such as a lawyer. Some aspects of the process are unique. You will need to go through the immigration process, including applying for passports and travel visas, and navigating foreign legal systems. The road can be long. Child Welfare Information Gateway estimates that international adoption can take one to five years.

What it costs: On average, international adoption costs between $20,000 and $50,000.

Costs that may arise when adopting a child

home study

A home study marks the beginning of the adoption process.

During a home study, intended parents – and their family members – are screened to ensure that they would provide a safe and loving place for a child. A home study requires you to produce documents, including financial statements, employment records, and a letter from your doctor regarding your last physical exam. You would also be subject to background checks and interviews. This assessment phase can cost between $2,000 and $4,000, according to The Gladney Center for Adoption, an adoption agency based in Fort Worth, Texas. This price can be adjusted according to your family’s income.

This stage of the process also includes education and training. Some of these may be provided by the state agency administering the home study at a cost ranging from $300 to $600. Additional hours of training are likely required and would be done on your own through books or online courses, which can cost $100-200 per person.

Finally, during the home study, you commit to a post-internship report phase. In the United States, a social worker visits the family several times over a period of six months after the child has been placed in the home. Post placement report fees can range from $1,500 to $2,000.

Research costs

When working with a private agency or attorney, a significant expense in the process is finding and matching with a birth mother. Consultant and advertising fees can be incorporated into an adoption agency’s overall costs. But if you’re looking for independent adoption, you’ll likely pay for these services separately, and costs can vary more widely, depending on how and where you want to advertise. The Gladney Center estimates that counseling and advertising can cost between $3,000 and $7,000 for an independent adoption.

Biological mother’s expenses

People adopting a newborn will be responsible for paying the biological mother’s expenses. This may include medical expenses and some living expenses, as well as counselling, legal fees and travel. The Gladney Center estimates that these expenses can cost between $6,000 and $8,000 for parents pursuing a private adoption.

Legal fees

There are many legal requirements for adoption, including termination of the birth parents’ rights, court filings, negotiation of the birth mother’s expenses, and finalizing the adoption after the post-placement reporting period. . An adoption agency may include some of these expenses in their overall fees.

If you are seeking an independent adoption, legal fees will make up the bulk of your expenses, costing between $7,000 and $15,000.


Travel costs may arise for domestic adoptions, although they are more significant in international adoptions. Distance is a key factor in how much you will pay for a trip. Another is time. You could wait days or weeks for final legal approval to bring a child home, especially when crossing state or country lines.

For private domestic adoptions, you could pay up to $3,000 in travel costs, according to the Gladney Center. (You might consider getting a travel credit card to offset some of these expenses.)

Estimates vary for travel related to international adoption. The cost may depend on the country where the child lives and the organization you work with. In a cost estimate on its website, New Beginnings – a New York-based international adoption agency – says adopting a child from South Korea could include $6,000 to $9,000 in travel costs. The Child Welfare Information Gateway noted in a September 2020 international adoption guide that adoptive parents often need to be in the child’s country to finalize the adoption. This may require several extended visits.

raise a child

Adoption itself can be a long and expensive process, but it’s only a precursor to the total cost of raising a child. New parents need to budget for these expenses, which can exceed $21,000 in the first year alone.

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