Wondering about the cost to adopt a child? Thinking about pursuing adoption? Here are some tips and numbers to answer your questions.

Cost to Adopt a Child

A paper pregnancy comes with a lot more red tape than a biological pregnancy. Nobody walked into your house after your first pregnancy announcement, tested your fridge temperature, checked for outlet covers, and ensured any alcohol was padlocked in a cabinet. Yet, in exchange, adoption may not necessarily induce heat flashes, swollen ankles, or cravings (Although I can definitely attest to some major late night snacking as I filled out grant paperwork and searched for missing I-800 documents).

Nevertheless, there are so many beautiful ways to love a child and introduce them into a family. If you feel inclined to join the wonderful, and sometimes chaotic, world of adoption, welcome! You are stepping into a new culture and lifestyle, with a large facet of it being financial readiness.

Somewhere in or before the process, you inevitably run into the big question: how much does it cost to adopt a child? Many prospective adoptive families stop short with this question, presuming they are unqualified and ill-equipped for such an undertaking. If you are here and wondering how people ever come up with the money for lawyers, travel, visas, and every other seemingly obscure charge, then hopefully, this article provides clear answers and resources for any possible questions. 

Adoption has many different areas of focus which makes the inquiry itself incredibly hard to address and reference any sort of reliable material. When my family embarked on our international adoption journey, one of the foremost questions we received was, “How much does it cost to adopt a child?” Between adoption loans, grants, church support, fundraisers, and everything in between, we were still confused as to just how much financial commitment we were up against. Breaking down how much it costs to adopt a child is no small task, but if you are concerned as to whether you have the funds for adoption it’s definitely a necessary project.


In condensed terminology, adoption costs everything: papercuts, court dates, anxiety, substantial risks, vulnerability, and heartache. Adopting a child through any process is signing a “Do Not Resuscitate” on your prior expectations. It’s full of change, redemption, wholeness, and incomprehensible joy. Your comfortable, clean, normal way of life will never be the same, and I am so excited for you (as sadistic as it may seem).

Adoption cost me the bliss of unawareness. It changed the convenience and comfort I had taken for granted. I cannot possibly fathom a more beautiful reality, no matter how unpredictable adoption costs and paths may be. Yet, as far as financials go, it’s a little easier to quantify.

Dividing adoption into its many subsections helps break down the discussion of expenses into a format far easier to understand. Adoption varies greatly depending on several factors, including state regulations, adoption agencies, and country policies.  Travel costs, international fees, health care, stipends, and agency costs, all vary greatly. Although a comprehensive list may not be possible, each subsection will tackle the big cost factors in adoption by each common category.

International Adoption

This is probably the most commonly discussed and referenced way to adopt a child. Cost of adoption all depends on what country you’re adopting from and how many children you choose to adopt. If your family brings a sibling group into your home, there are a few additional fees associated. However, contrary to popular belief, the situation is not nearly as expensive as adopting on two separate occasions. Within international adoption, the government and several legal teams are involved. There’s an adoption agency within your home country and partners in your future child’s native land.

According to the Child Welfare Agency, an international adoption can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the child’s needs, country, along with the necessary services for their care and transition. Wading through an international adoption process requires endurance and patience. Every adoption is unique. If your heart is set on a country that allows for your age range and lifestyle to adopt, then cost may not truly be the biggest issue.

Grants and adoption loans are not commonly advertised, yet they do exist for passionate families waiting to bring a child home. Don’t allow the bottom-line to dismiss your passion. A more expensive adoption does not guarantee a shorter time frame and some cost-efficient options offer less reliability and accountability. There really isn’t a clear-cut bottom line because each agency is different. The cost to adopt a child from Colombia or Uganda must factor in or additionally budget for travel costs. Additionally, I will acknowledge, no matter the plan, there is no expected route through adoption and sometimes the answer is simple: we have no idea. It’s an unpredictable adventure but a beautiful one at that.

Domestic Adoption

Domestic Adoption generally refers to an infant adoption within your native home country. Now, there are several types of domestic adoption and options. Whether you meet an expectant mother or adopt your child with no prior knowledge, everything factors into expenses. Cost, timeline, and other factors are all determined through your adoption agency or attorney’s protocol. If you are matched with an expectant mother, your agency contract may involve caring for her needs. It also depends on where the child is born, the hotel or travel costs for your family, and legal fees. All of which are fairly consistent. Additionally, agency fees will generally cover a home study and post-adoptive services. Depending on the agency and adoption terms, you may be asked for other fees and stipends.

Overall, despite all the questions surrounding domestic adoption, it is a fairly straightforward process! Domestic adoption allows for the greatest amount of contact between families, as questions are often brought to the table and negotiated through a lawyer. Other situations generally operate through a government agency or international mediator. All things considered, the cost of domestic adoption ranges anywhere from $15,000-$45,000 depending on if the adoption is private through an agency or independent with an adoption attorney.

Foster to Adopt

A specialized branch of foster care offers a beautiful opportunity for economically concerned families. Costs can run from non-existent to $2,500 for a home study and adoption fees. Although the goal of foster care is rehabilitation and reunification, when the termination of parental rights occurs, the foster to adopt parents step in. Fostering to adopt is a relatively straightforward financial process. Hopeful couples or individuals essentially become certified as foster parents and are only homed with children who will become a member of their family through adoption.

Receiving certification begins with foster care classes within your county and following state guidelines, which may involve minimal costs for childproofing materials and your parental education. According to a study based on data from 2017, there were 123,437 children waiting to be adopted in the foster care system. One hundred twenty-three thousand, four hundred thirty-seven children went to bed without a parent in 2017. Is that number not incredibly overwhelming? My heart breaks for each of them, especially when so many families are yearning for more children. Fostering to adopt offers a far more certain pathway than traditional fostering routes as the former does not wrestle with the early stages of questions and family dynamics. You can find out more information here, and check in with local agencies to start your journey.

Foster Care

Jennifer Galan said, “The path to getting certified to be a foster parent may cost a little, but most foster parents actually receive money once they are licensed and have a child placed for care in the home. Depending on your area, you may find that you have to spend out of pocket for licensing costs like fingerprinting fees and background check fees. In addition, you may need to spend money to ready your home for a child to live there—a crib or twin bed, dresser, high chair, fire extinguisher, blankets, etc.”  

Overall, becoming a foster parent is essentially free. There is no expense (beyond caring for your child) as you walk into parenthood through traditional foster care. In addition to hosting no monetary cost, you may also find a stipend and certain allotment for basic necessities.

However, foster care is not an explicitly defined adoption trail. It is parenting for what may only be a season. If your only goal is a low-cost adoption, the system is not easy. It requires trust and patience for the right time and situation. However, if you have a passion for children and a heart for families in need, I’d encourage you to think about it and heavily consider joining the foster care community. It’s an intense obligation with, yes, the possibility of heartache as there is no guarantee you’ll become the forever family. Yet, I truly believe the vulnerability frees both the parent and child.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” -C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

My dear friend, foster care is emotionally, physically, and mentally expensive. The love and attachment you develop are paid for in experience and growth. It is an incredible experience and if you’ve been putting off adoption for cost-related reasons, this may present the opportunity of a lifetime.

Leaving Cost Out of the Equation

Adoptions, and experience in general, have a way of shattering expectations, expanding perspectives, and breaking hearts. The cost for one truly makes you evaluate the priorities in your life. It, paradoxically, expands your capacity for knowledge in joy, heartache, blessing, and suffering. I thoroughly believe adoption is worth any cost as my family would be incomplete without it. Yet not everyone is set for a specific path. After the previous year, I don’t know that I am cut out for another international adoption, yet my heart yearns to find a forever family for the children within foster care. Different pathways, different expenses, one revolutionary goal. If we can acknowledge the enormous need at hand, we can tackle it hands on.

How much does it cost to adopt a child and bring them into your family? Absolutely everything, including your comfort, occasionally your peace, and some money. Yet that child is priceless beyond measure and couldn’t be replaced with anything in the world. If you feel like your desire to adopt is hindered by a lack of funds, grants and scholarships are available plus adoption fairly low cost or cost-free opportunities exist. We constantly tend to look at our limitations and stop at their shoreline instead of bursting against self-imposed confines while seeing the opportunity for growth and love. It truly is a mission field, and you will be shocked by the amount of sadness and pleasure you’ll encounter by the widening of previously inconspicuous horizons.

Evaluating which adoption route best fits your family can be a formidable task, but you are up for the challenge. Our expectations are often far from reality and you may find adopting isn’t a far cry from your family’s actual capabilities.

 As a praying woman, I pray you do not weigh the cost of adoption as one of a dollar sign but as one of unimaginable importance. May your heartstrings feel the weight of responsibility and the joy of what’s to come. We are accountable for the making of a revolution that gives every child a home. Today, I ask you to consider what it cost your future child to wake up without a parent this morning. The cost of life without a family is far too expensive for any child to pay.

Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

Katala Peterson

Katala Peterson is pursuing a career as a psychologist and has a passion for family of all kinds. She comes from a large adoptive family and has years of foster care experience. In her spare time, Katala enjoys hiking with her dog and experimenting with new recipes.