May 31, 2023

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Father and child hugging and laughing

Adopting a child is a life-changing experience. Families often wait months to get matched with a child. And the journey leading up to the day when you finally meet your child can be an emotional one for everyone.

If you are thinking about adopting, you might be worried about the cost. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the average cost of adoption varies based on the type of adoption and the area where you live.1

“Ideally, you want to work with an agency (or multiple agencies) that has low upfront fees,” said Nicole Witt, executive director of The Adoption Consultancy.

Fortunately, no matter what age child you adopt, you can get financial support. Grants, tax credits, and help from your employer may cover some of your adoption costs. But you will probably have to budget for adoption fees. You’ll also have to plan for all the usual expenses that come with a new child, like furniture, clothes, and medical expenses.

You may want to start by exploring your financial options such as how a dedicated savings account or a personal loan might help.

Table of contents

How much does adoption cost?

The cost of adoption varies a lot. It could cost almost nothing, or it could cost tens of thousands of dollars. In the end, the total cost to adopt a child depends on many factors, including the type of adoption, the state where you live, and the agency you work with. The following is a breakdown of the most common kinds of adoption and their price ranges.

Foster care adoption cost: $0 – $3,000

More than 113,000 U.S. children were waiting to be adopted through state foster care agencies as of September 2021, according to the most recent Department of Health and Human Services report. The report further notes that of the children placed for adoption, about half were four years old or younger.2

Foster care adoptions can cost much less than other types of adoption. Public foster care systems may charge fees of about $2,000.1 But your state may cover those costs. Check the Child Welfare Information Gateway for more information. Typical costs paid by states may include legal fees, court costs, and home studies. A home study is a screening process used by the state to determine if you’re a good fit for adoption.

Independent adoption cost: $25,000-$45,000

Some families choose to bypass agencies and arrange adoptions on their own with the help of a lawyer. This is called independent adoption.

You won’t have to pay agency fees when adopting independently. But you may have to cover other expenses. For example, you may have to pay for counseling and medical care for the birth mother or the cost of an independent consultant. You will also have to pay for legal fees and court costs as with an agency adoption. If you promote your search, you may have to pay advertising fees.

International adoption cost: $20,000 – $50,000

Some families choose to adopt a child from outside the U.S. The cost for international adoption, also called intercountry adoption, varies by country.1

According to the U.S. Department of State’s fiscal year 2021 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, most adoptions that year came from Colombia, India, Bulgaria, and South Korea. If you decide to adopt from a foreign country, make sure to check with the Department of State to see if that country allows adoptions into the U.S.

Once you have a list of your preferred countries that allow adoption, be sure to budget for a few trips to and from that country in addition to the adoption costs. You may also want to plan for extra medical care and counseling. Counseling may help your child adjust to a new culture, new language, and new family.

Private agency adoption cost: $30,000 – $60,000

Why is it so expensive to adopt from a private agency? “Adopting through an agency almost always means adopting a newborn,” says Witt. “So, there are costs associated with the expectant mom’s pregnancy that you don’t have with foster care, such as medical expenses and making sure the expectant mother lives in safe housing.”

Application and program fees make up most of the cost of adopting through agencies.Home study fees, attorney fees, and counseling are also included in the total fee. And you may need to budget for travel expenses.  Because adoption costs vary by state, agency adoption costs will also vary by where you live.

When meeting with private agencies, ask plenty of questions about what their fees do and do not include. Some agencies may charge for every possible match while others only charge for matches that result in an adoption.

“You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars before you’re selected by an expectant mom.” You may also want to ask about costs associated with “false starts”: a situation where the birth mother changes her mind about adoption.

If you adopt through a private agency, you won’t have to pay the total fee all at once. Some agencies offer a sliding scale based on your income. Others allow payments over time. Knowing how fees are structured will help you budget for these costs.

How do I pay for adoption?

The costs that come with adopting a child may seem overwhelming. But take heart: There are several resources you can use to make adoption more affordable. Here are a few resources that might make it easier to pay for adoption.

Your employer. An easy first step is to contact your employer’s human resources department. Your company might cover agency, legal, and court fees. They may also give you time off for bonding.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s 2021 annual survey of employers found that survey participants offered $10,961 in financial reimbursement on average. They also gave employees an average of 7.69 weeks of paid leave.3

Tax credits. Through the Adoption Tax Credit the IRS provided a credit of up to $14,890 to cover adoption costs for tax year 2022. If your modified adjusted gross income was more than $223,410, the tax credit was less. You should always check with your financial advisor as each situation is unique and these credits can change.

Several states also offer tax credits and other help. Review this Adoption and Guardianship Assistance by State resource to see if you qualify for any state tax benefits.

Grants and subsidies. Several states also offer grants and other programs to support adoption. If you adopt a child from foster care, you may qualify for a monthly subsidy and medical care assistance. The type and amount of assistance depends on the child’s mental, emotional, and physical needs.

A personal loan. A personal loan may be another way to finance the cost of adoption. Discover offers personal loans of up to $40,000 and flexible repayment terms. And you can lock in a fixed rate with one set regular monthly payment that will never go up. This gives you a predictable way to pay for adoption while you budget for your child’s future.

Savings. If you know you want to adopt in the future, open a dedicated “new baby” savings account. “Start living now as if you already have a baby,” says Witt. “Put aside the money you would need to spend on diapers, formula, daycare, and other expenses.”

While your adoption savings fund will grow over time, you might need extra support if you want to adopt a child in the next year or two. If you save $500 a month, it will take almost six years to save $35,000.

Adoption financial assistance is available if you need it

You’ll probably have tons of questions and lots of feelings as you prepare for this next phase in your life. Talking to adoption experts and other adoptive parents about the process can give you peace of mind and help you figure out which path to adoption is right for you.

And don’t forget to take advantage of all the financial resources available to help you give your child the best life possible.

Learn more about the benefits of a personal loan from Discover.

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