When first beginning the adoption journey, there are many things to consider. Is domestic adoption, international adoption, or adoption from foster care right for you and your family? What does each process look like and how long will it take? And how much does each program cost? Though domestic adoption costs can vary widely, for families pursuing international adoption, much of the costs are set and published on agencies’ websites, thanks to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Still, international adoption cost can range from $20,000-$50,000, which is a fairly large span. Much depends on which country a family chooses and travel costs through agency fees, documentation preparation, and visa and legal fees can also affect costs. Here is a breakdown of most of the costs you can expect when pursuing an international adoption.
The first fee families can expect to pay is the application fee to an agency. This fee covers administrative costs and is due at the time a family submits their initial paperwork to the adoption agency for consideration. The agency will review the family’s information and compare that information to specific country requirements. Each country is able to set its eligibility requirements for intercountry adoption, so after review, the agency will advise the family from which countries they are able to adopt. Most agency application fees range from $300-$500.
Though it is possible to adopt independently, families may only do so from a non-Hague Convention country. Most of the top countries to adopt from in 2019 were China, Colombia, Haiti, India, and South Korea. All of these were Hague Convention countries, but for South Korea who is not a signatory of the Hague but still follows Hague Convention guidelines on intercountry adoption. To adopt from a Hague Convention country, a Hague accredited U.S.-based adoption agency must be used to facilitate the adoption. The reason for this restriction is to reduce the risk of child trafficking and to ensure that every intercountry adoption is completed with the utmost ethical standards.
Home Study and Post-Placement Fees
Once a family has been accepted by an agency, the next step in the international adoption process will be to complete a home study. A home study is a report written by a state-licensed social worker which provides a brief overview of the family and what life would be like for the adoptive child with that family. Home studies include copies of birth and marriage certificates, driving records, physicals, letters from employers, financial statements, and background clearances. Fingerprinting and background clearances typically cost between $60-$85 per person over 18 in the family. Most documents in the home study will need to be notarized, so some families may pay a bit for this as well as co-pays for doctors’ visits for physicals. Adoption agencies charge between $2,000-$4,000 to conduct a home study. This fee covers the in-person meetings with the social worker as well as the compilation and writing of the home study document. Many agencies use a sliding scale for their home study fees based on a family’s net income. Home study updates are required every 12 months. Because many international adoptions take over a year, and sometimes more, to complete, a home study update of $500-$1,000 may apply.
In addition to the home study fee, the post-placement fee must be included in the international adoption cost. Post-placement fees apply to all adoptions, domestic, international, or from foster care. The post-placement fee covers the cost of a state-licensed social worker meeting with the family at least three times once the child returns home. The social worker will write a report after each of these visits and submit that report to both the state of residency of the adoptive parents and to the central adoption authority in the child’s country of origin. Additionally, most agencies charge a post-placement report deposit to ensure that families complete their post-placement reports as many countries allow self post-placement reporting after the first year or two. Because some countries require post-placement reports for 2, 3, 5, and even up until the child is 18 years of age, the post-placement deposit helps agencies ensure that families will continue to report on the well-being of their adoptive child, even after the agency is no longer facilitating the post-reporting. Post-placement reporting typically costs $1,5000 with an additional $1,000 due for a deposit. Once families complete all country-specific post-placement reports, the agency will return the deposit to the family.
At the same time, a family is compiling the documents necessary for their home study, they will begin their pre-adoption education training. All states require a certain amount of training, typically 20 hours, and intercountry adoptions typically require at least 30 hours. The purpose of this training is to prepare prospective adoptive parents for some of the intricacies and challenges of adoptive parenting. Topics include social and emotional development, attachment issues, feeding and sleep challenges, transracial parenting, becoming a transcultural household, parenting through trauma, and travel tips. Most agencies offer a course (of typically 8-10 hours) which prospective adoptive parents must take. The rest of the hours may be made up through online courses, reading books, or watching videos. Together with the agency trainings, families can expect to pay roughly $500 for pre-adoption education.
Upon home study approval, a family is eligible to be accepted into a country program. Once a country is chosen, families will typically pay a coordinator fee. The coordinator fee covers an agency’s facilitation of the family’s adoption both within the United States and the family’s country of choice. Facilitation includes helping a family compile their dossier, translating the dossier, and submitting the dossier for approval to the central adoption authority of the child’s country of origin. The fee also covers communication with and support for domestic interaction within the family’s country of choice. This includes communicating with local lawyers, the embassy, and the central adoption authority of the child’s country of origin. Coordinator fees typically run between $5,000-$8,000. These fees are set by the agency and are typically spread out in two installments, with one installment being due at the time the family’s home study is completed and the second due at the time of referral acceptance.
Another international adoption cost is the document compilation, notarization, and apostilization fees associated with a family’s dossier. A dossier is a collection of documents designed to highlight a family’s lifestyle, assets, and to provide a snapshot of what life with the adoptive parents would be like for the prospective adoptive child. The documents contained in a dossier are very similar to those contained in a home study and many families may experience a sense of déjà vu. It is possible to pay a third party to compile these documents, but costs run between $800-$1,000. Once all the necessary documents have been compiled, they must be submitted for authentication to the state from which they originated. States typically charge between $20-$25 per document and most dossiers contain around 20-30 documents. Once the documents have been apostilled on the state level they will then need to be apostilled on the federal level, from the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Department of State charges $8 per document. The cost to compile a dossier is between $600-$1,000 including postage fees, such as FedEx and/or certified mail.
Country Program Fees
At the time of dossier submission, typically agencies will charge families a country fee. All agencies charge country fees, but agencies may differ in their timelines for the collection of these fees. Country program fees make up the bulk of international adoption cost and program fees vary widely. Some countries, such as China and India, have lower country program fees, typically between $8,000-$12,000 respectively. Other countries, such as South Korea, have higher country program fees, typically around $25,000. Country program fees include the costs to obtain updates about the children in country, the cost of personnel, both in the child’s country of origin and within the United States, legal services, and the care of the children. Care of the children includes costs for food, clothing, medical care, shelter, and support for foster care providers and orphanage staff. In China, this last cost, the care of the children, was made optional, effective December 2017.
Once a family has been logged into the central adoption authority, they are eligible to receive a referral. Some families, however, may identify a child ahead of time through their agency’s website or a child advocacy group, such as RainbowKids.com. Receiving a referral after the long sludge through paperwork may feel like finding the golden ticket in the adoption world, but before saying yes to a referral, it is important to thoroughly review the child’s file to ensure the family and the child are the best fit for one another. Thanks to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, each child who is adopted from a Hague Convention country will have as complete a medical and social history as possible. When families receive a referral they receive all of this information, but it can be hard to read between the lines. As such, many agencies highly recommend that families have an international adoption doctor review their prospective adoptive child’s file before moving forward or declining the referral. The fee to review those files is typically between $400-$800.
USCIS and Visa Fees
Upon accepting a referral, the next step in the international adoption process is to apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring that child into the United States. Families will already have obtained an I-800 (which is a document citing the family’s eligibility to adopt a child internationally) and this, along with the submission of the DS-260, is a final step. At this time, families will pay USCIS about $775 to process their adoptive child’s application.
At the same time, families will need to obtain visas to enter their child’s country of origin and will need to obtain a visa from the child’s country of origin to enter the United States. Visas for both the adoptive child and the adoptive parent(s) cost between $400-$600 per person. If one of the parents or anyone traveling to meet the child needs a U.S. passport, there is an additional fee of $110 to obtain a U.S. passport. The child’s passport will be processed in-country and the child will travel to the United States with a passport from their country of origin.
Like the country program fee, another range of fees in the overall international adoption cost can be found in the price of travel. Depending on which country a family chooses, and sometimes in what state or province the child is located, a family may need to travel once, twice, and sometimes even more to meet their child, stand before court, and to bring their child home. Most agencies report a fee of $2,000 per person per trip. As adoption travel is often last minute, airfare is seldom affordable. In-country transit, such as private cars, buses, and sometimes additional flights, typically cost $500 per person. Lodging costs vary depending on the child’s country of origin as do day-to-day costs. Typically, families can expect to remain in-country for two to three weeks, but in some instances, and countries, this time frame may be longer. As such, it is important to learn country travel requirements before choosing a country. Most families report spending $10,000-$15,000 on travel.
The final cost in international adoption is the readoption of the child. For Hague Convention countries, readoption is not a requirement, but for non-Hague countries, such as South Korea, the readoption must be completed. Though not necessary, many families choose to readopt their children when they return to the United States as the readoption provides an additional safety net for inheritance laws and provides a state-issued birth certificate, which can prove particularly useful as the child ages. The cost of readoption is around $2,000.
Though the international adoption cost may range widely from $20,00-$50,000 it is important to remember that some fees are flexible and most importantly not all fees are due at once. Adoption can be expensive but there are several grants and adoption loans available for families in need. Additionally, many families take advantage of the adoption tax credit which allows families to claim tax credit on adoption-related expenses. For international adoptive families, the adoption must be finalized before the claim may be made, though families have up to five years to claim the full $13, 810.