“I would love to adopt, but it costs too much!” As hard as it is for me to admit, money often deters people from adopting. Many people have commented that while they have considered adoption, it is cost-prohibitive to do so. The “astronomical costs” associated with adoption cause people to sweep the idea of adoption right under the rug, never to be considered again. If you are reading this article, you are probably anxious to see if there is any possible way to adopt a child without going bankrupt! In a word, yes, and it helps to know what the expenses are.
How Much Is Adoption through Foster Care?
Foster care adoption is when a foster parent adopts their own foster child. This is a wonderful thing because when a foster parent adopts their own foster child, it is one less home that the child must move to and the adoptive parents already have a relationship with the child! The great thing about foster care is that, in most states, the cost of foster care is little to nothing! All the costs of adoption, including the application, the home study, the child-placing process, and the attorney’s fees, are all absorbed by the state. State taxes (and block grants from the Federal Government) cover the costs of all finalized adoptions of children who are wards of the state.
Having a “zero” price tag to adopt from foster care leaves the foster/adopt parents more time and resources to focus on the child. Foster children are in the system through no fault of their own and often due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Many foster children have undergone tremendous trauma that they need to recover from. Though many children in foster care are infants, the ones who need to be adopted the most are foster children who are older, have siblings, or live with special needs. All foster children in these categories especially need a forever family because the longer they stay in foster care, the longer it will take for them to recover from the trauma of not having a permanent family.
As of this month, there are over 400,000 children in foster care; over 100,000 of these children are available to adopt because their parents’ rights have been severed by the courts. Therefore, as many incentives as possible need to be offered in hopes that hopeful adoptive families will give these children a forever family. Foster care adoption is a win-win situation for all involved.
How Much Is Adoption of an Infant?
Domestic infant adoption, also known as private adoption, is what most people think of when they think of adoption. Private adoption is when a woman who may or may not be experiencing a crisis pregnancy, decides to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights and place her child in a loving adoptive home. “Giving up a child for adoption” miscommunicates what’s actually happening. A child is actually “being placed for adoption” in a loving home, and a child is often placed for adoption because of a birth parent’s humble, loving, and courageous admittance that they cannot raise their own child.
Domestic infant adoption can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 due to costs that can fit into two main categories.
- Adoption agency fees. Prospective adoptive parents may decide to use an adoption agency to complete an adoption. An adoption agency works wonders on several different levels. First, they can help develop an adoption profile to post on their website to represent you. This profile contains family photos and gives a summary of what your values and lifestyle are like. Second, they will conduct a home study to determine your suitability to adopt. Third, they will conduct a child search and child match on your behalf. This is necessary to make sure the child is placed in a home where he or she can thrive. A good adoption agency will also provide pre-service and ongoing training.
- Attorney’s fees. Surprise, surprise. You will need a lawyer to make your adoption legal. There is no way to avoid it, and you will need a good adoptive attorney. Your attorney guides you on what documents you need to complete, files these documents with the court, and advocates for you on your behalf. Some of the documents may include a Certification of Adoption, a Petition to Adopt, and an Order of Adoption. Another document that is becoming more popular is a Post Adoption Communication Agreement. This document outlines how a biological parent is permitted to keep in touch with their child who now resides in an adoptive home after an open adoption. All these documents need to be drafted and filed with the courts. This takes time and money, which is why attorneys and lawyers charge fees.
How Much Is Adoption Internationally?
An international adoption is when a citizen from one country adopts a child from another country. There is a lot of paperwork, background checks, and travel involved, so it is not a quick process. International adoption is more of a marathon, rather than a sprint. This unique type of adoption can cost upwards of $60,000! International adoption has become very expensive over the last few years due to deregulation and changes in the ways agencies do business. The most adoption-friendly nations are Ukraine, South Korea, Kenya, Mexico, and India. These nations have a friendly relationship with the US and do not have as many restrictions as other nations do. Historically, Russia used to be one of the prime nations to adopt from, however, the ever-changing political structure of the world and other hurdles have slowly caused adoptions from some nations (like Russia) to decrease significantly.
Holt International, an adoption agency that has been around since the 1950s, provides examples of costs that a typical couple could expect if they were to adopt from China. Costs and fees vary from agency to agency, but Holt should give you an idea of where costs will come from if you pursue an international adoption. Please note: these amounts are as of 2019 and are only averages. Also, this is only a sampling of some of the fee categories for China; actual fees are not included because they vary over time. Below are definitions of certain kinds of fees:
- Application fee. This is a non-refundable fee that accompanies the document that is usually the first one an adoption agency collects to determine whether applicants are appropriate adoptive parents. It is non-refundable because if an applicant cannot pass a background check, has “red flags” in their past, or simply cannot proceed in the process, the adoption agency will stop the adoption process. This application will generally request address history, employment and financial history, health and medical history, prior adoption history, criminal history, references, biographical history, and other items. Adoption agencies are under no obligation to accept every applicant and should be paid for the time they spend processing an application; hence, an application fee.
- Home study fee. An adoption home study is an in-depth written report that summarizes whether an applicant is qualified to be an adoptive parent. It is a compilation of information that can be presented in one nice package. This is reviewed by the US adoption agency, the foreign nation, the foreign adoption agency. and by a US judge who ultimately has the final say on an applicant’s suitability for adoption. Because the international adoption process takes so long, many states require an initial home study as well as an updated home study if there have been significant changes in the home. A home study includes not only house and property info, but also information on each household member, results of background checks, reference info, notes from family interviews, and even psychological evaluations if necessary. The home study is a permanent record and can be transferred from agency to agency, with proper releases.
- Dossier fee. A dossier is a compilation of all the documents needed to complete an international adoption. These documents include the adoption home study, references, photos, paystubs, criminal background checks, tax returns, immigration paperwork, etc. This is compiled by your adoption agency and reviewed by domestic and foreign entities.
- Attorney fees. You will need a lawyer to help you navigate the maze that of international adoption. They will help your file paperwork such as the I-800 or I-600, immigration paperwork, Certification of Adoption and Petition to Adopt, and much more. Having an experienced, competent attorney on your side is well worth the money.
- International travel fees. Depending on the state, the agency, and the nation you are traveling to, travel can be expensive. But if you can afford it, it is worth the price! There is no substitute for seeing and interacting with your child, seeing the environment in which he or she is being cared for, and asking their current caregivers questions about the child.
- USCIS fees. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the final entity through which your child will gain access to America!
There may be other fees involved, but this is a sampling of what to expect if you wish to adopt internationally. Of course, you do not need to have all finances available upfront; the process may take several months, if not years. It is doable if you have help. It is a good idea to have a good financing plan in place before you start the process. See below for some financing ideas.
Where to Get Help Raising Funds for Adoption
Yes, the costs of international and domestic adoptions may seem exorbitant, but do not be discouraged! There are ways to offset the cost of these adoptions. More and more people are realizing that even though they cannot adopt, they can help someone else who can.
- Grants/Scholarships. There are many companies that assist adoptive parents with funding. Show Hope, for example, helps by giving money to parents seeking to adopt.
- Loans. There may be loans available to people wanting to adopt. Of course, your credit history, assets, and financial resources will all be called into question when hoping to adopt, not to mention you will have to pay off the loan, regardless of what your financial situation is after the adoption is complete.
- Employer assistance. The Dave Thomas Foundation annually lists the 100 most adoption-friendly workplaces. What makes a workplace “adoption-friendly”? Many things, but among them is the quality of helping to pay for an adoption. It shows that a workplace values human life and values the family, no matter how the family comes to be.
- GoFundMe. This is probably the most popular way to raise funds since the explosion of social media. If you have a large social media presence, GoFundMe may be a good way to fundraise.
There are many benefits that states and the Federal Government put into place to assist adoptive parents in the process of adoption before, during, and after the adoption is completed. Take advantage of these benefits because it is in the child’s best interest that you do so. If you are so well-off that you do not need these benefits, get them anyway and deposit the money in a savings account for your child! When he or she reaches 18 years of age, your child will be grateful to have a little nest egg!
- Tax benefits. Your adoptive child may qualify as a dependent on your taxes if 1) the child has resided in your home for 6 months or more the previous year; 2) they are 18 y/o or less. You will need the child’s Full Name, Date of Birth, and valid Social Security number. Consult your tax advisor.
- Adoption tax credit. Many adoptive parents may be eligible for this benefit. If an adoption has taken place in one year, the adoption tax credit can be claimed the following year for a maximum credit of up to $13,000. Whether the adoption took place domestically or internationally, privately or through foster care, the credit goes against outstanding tax liability. It is not a tax refund; that is something different.
- Adoption subsidy. Many states allow for an adoption subsidy. This is a monthly stipend for adoptive parents to care for their adoptive child. Many states require documentation of the child’s special needs before giving a subsidy. The subsidy may be received by the adoptive family from the finalization of the adoption through the child’s eighteenth birthday. In some states, the subsidy may be received until the child’s twenty-first year, the eleventh month, if they are still in college.
- FMLA. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act that benefits families who are caring for a family member. It is not necessarily a financial benefit, but it does allow employees to take unpaid leave to care for a newly adopted child. It is like new parents who want to care for their newborn or employees who want to care for a sick family member. FMLA is a good idea because it allows parents to bond with a newly adopted child who may not have had that opportunity with their primary caregiver or biological family.
You do not need to go bankrupt to adopt a child! If you have a yearning to place another child into your home, you can find a way! The process may feel long and grueling, but at the end of the day, when that child is finally adopted and living in your own home with your last name, you will feel how worth it every effort was!