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Throughout the United States, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) estimates that nearly 100 million people have been impacted by adoption in some form or another. This could be one of the more than 110,000 children adopted each year or the parents, family members, or friends of parents who decide to add a member to their family squad. Adoption can be a beautiful experience for both the child and the family, but it comes with a variety of considerations, particularly on the financial side.
Raising a child, whether adopted or not, comes with several costs. Paying for childcare, health expenses, and saving for their future all add up to a significant amount. The most recent data from the US Department of Agriculture estimates the total cost of raising a child at more than $233,000. Going through the adoption process adds to the overall expense, making it necessary to prepare for adoption in advance. Knowing the costs of various types of adoptions and the financing options available can help ease the financial burden of adopting a child.
Types of Adoption and the Costs Involved
Several different types of adoptions are available to parents looking to add to their family. Each carries its own cost as well as specific processes to follow, all which should be considered as prospective adoptive parents.
Adoption from Foster Care
Foster care adoption is the process of legally adopting a child who is currently under the state’s care. Some foster care children are orphans, or they are removed from their parents for other reasons, such as safety and security concerns. Adoption from foster care can involve a child as young as an infant to a teenager, and the process heavily consists of the state to ensure the foster parents are ready to adopt the child.
- Home study to ensure the parents are ready to adopt, which costs between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on the state
- Attorney’s fees may apply if parents use an attorney to help with the adoption process. Fees can range from a few to several thousand.
- Agency fees may also apply, ranging from a few to several hundred dollars. In some cases, the agency fees are covered by the state.
Private Agency Adoption
Through a private agency adoption, parents work with an adoption agency and often an attorney to adopt a child. The process involves several steps, from identifying a child to adopt domestically or internationally, from foster care or elsewhere, and an application that includes detailed information about the parents’ employment, residence, background, and finances. There may also be parent training as well as pre- and post-adoption counseling for the birth parents. The expenses involved in a private agency adoption may include:
- Home study fees: $1,500 to $2,500
- Documentation and court costs: $1,000 to $1,500
- Agency application and program fees: $5,000 to $20,000
- Birth family counseling: $500 to $1,000
- Expenses for the birth mother: $3,000 to $5,000
Through an independent adoption, adoptive parents do not work with an agency directly but instead use an attorney to complete the process of finding a potential child to adopt. The attorney along with the adoptive parents navigate the process with the birth mother and family to go through the adoption. These costs can range significantly, but most often they include:
- Attorney’s fees: $4,000 to $40,000, with an average of $10,000 to $15,000
- Home study: $1,500 to $2,500
- Birth mother’s medical expenses: $3,000 to $5,000
- Advertising for expectant parent search: $500 - $2,500
As you can see, the total cost of adopting a child, through foster care, agency, or independent adoption can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are a handful of financing options available for prospective adoptive parents. Each has its own benefits and downsides which should be considered before making a selection.
Adoption Tax Credit
The adoption tax credit is a tax benefit offered by the federal government to adoptive parents. The adoption tax credit is available to offset some qualified adoption expenses, including:
- Reasonable and necessary adoption fees
- Attorney fees and legal costs
- Traveling expenses
- Other costs related to the legal adoption of an eligible child
The adoption tax credit is as high as $13,810 per child, but it is limited to the parents’ tax liability for the year. Fortunately, an excess tax credit not used in the year the adoption took place can be carried forward, helping reduce the out-of-pocket expense of adoption.
Personal loans are another way to offset the financial burden of adoption. With a personal loan, parents can receive a lump sum between $5,000 and $40,000 from most lenders, with a fixed interest rate and set monthly payments. A personal loan can help extend the repayment of adoption costs over time, since most personal loans stretch repayment over three, five, or seven years.
Because a personal loan offers a fixed interest rate, adoptive parents have a predictable monthly payment and a lower cost of borrowing for adoption than comparable credit cards. However, it is crucial to ensure you have sufficient cash flow to repay the loan, and that you can qualify based on your credit score and income.
Employee Benefit Programs
Some employers offer adoption benefits to their employees which can be incredibly helpful in covering a portion of adoption expenses. These programs are employer-funded and voluntary, and available for parents who adopt through foster care, a private agency, or independent adoption.
Employer benefits for adoption may involve a reimbursement program, up to certain limits, for adoption-related expenses. Other companies may provide additional paid time off for activities related to the adoption process as well as bringing the child home. Check with your employer to see if adoption benefits are available and to what extent you may be reimbursed or provided leave if they are.
Several grants exist to help prospective adopting parents reduce or cover the cost of an adoption. Grants can be beneficial because they do not need to be repaid, and they may be available regardless of the type of adoption or the financial status of the parents. A few of the more well-known grants include the following:
Gift of Adoption – This non-profit organization offers adoption grants to eligible parents, up to $15,000. The average grant awarded is $3,702, helping cover expenses such as attorney and legal fees, home studies, and child-parent matching. Gift of Adoption has a stringent application process, with submission accepted from parents regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion, age, or sexual orientation.
Show Hope – Show Hope is another non-profit providing adoption assistance to families in need. This organization’s focus is on orphaned children, many of whom are outside the United States. Show Hope helps hundreds of families each year with adoption grants, based on the financial need and their connection with the church.
Sowing Roots – Another grant option for adoptive parents is Sowing Roots. This non-profit organization offers grants to families looking to adopt orphan children or those in the foster care system. The application process is stringent, and the organization reviews a new application only three times each year. The amount of the grant available to an eligible family depends on the expenses associated with their specific adoption.
Adoption can be, and typically is, an expensive process from start to finish. The financial strain of adopting a child can stop prospective adoptive parents in their tracks, but there are several ways to help offset these costs. Understanding your financing options makes adoption more tangible for parents who want to help a child in need.