How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child in the U.S.?

Family Adoption Costs

Having children is an expensive prospect. A recent USDA study calculated that it will cost new parents $235,000 to raise children from birth to age 18—and that figure does not include college costs.

Unfortunately, that number will be even higher if you become parents through adoption.

I’m sure you know there is a cost associated with adopting a child, but it may shock you to discover just how much you will need to have budgeted before you are able to bring your new family member home.

In honor of National Adoption Month, here is a break down of the costs associated with adopting a child.

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

On average, it will cost you between $10,000 and $30,000 to adopt a child in the U.S.. However, cost vary greatly based on the type of adoption you choose. Let’s dig into the details below.

Three Types of Adoption

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there are three ways to bring an adopted child home:

  1. public agency adoption, which generally works to place foster children into forever homes,
  2. private adoption, and
  3. inter-country adoption.

Each of these adoption methods has its own particular costs, although there are some costs you can expect to pay no matter what route you take to adoption.

Those universal adoption costs include home study expenses and legal fees.

Adoption Home Study Expenses

All prospective parents must go through a home evaluation or study before they can be put on the waiting list for a child.

These home studies help the adoption facilitator or social worker to determine if the prospective parents are qualified to take a child into their home.

Though completely necessary, this can be a frustrating process for adoptive parents—and an expensive one.

Home studies can cost parents between $1,000 and $3,000 for private and inter-country adoption.

If you are adopting through a public agency, the home study fee can be lower—around $500—or waived, since public agencies are generally trying to find homes for older foster children or kids with special needs.

Some private and inter-country adoption agencies will include the cost of the home study in the overall fees for the adoption.

Related: Can You Afford a Baby? [With 9 Expert Tips to Get Prepared]

Adoption Legal Fees

Nearly all adoptions must be finalized in court, and inter-country adoptions can have some legal requirements on the foreign end as well.

While some jurisdictions in America will allow adoptions to be finalized without an attorney, most adoptive parents will have to hire a lawyer for their legal needs.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway estimates legal fees will cost between $500 and $6,000:

“The cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, while the cost for representing adoptive parents in an uncontested adoption can range from $2,500 to $6,000.”

However, those parents who are adopting foster kids through public agencies will usually find that their state makes cost allowances for their legal fees. These cost allowances should cover most or all of their attorney fees.

Featured Resource: Need advice from a lawyer right now about adoption? Try Just Answer. Their legal experts are available 24/7.

Type 1: Public Agency Adoption Costs

These adoption agencies are usually working to place foster children, older children, or children with special needs, although some infants do get adopted through public agencies.

Since these agencies are working to find the best home for children who may be more difficult to find parents for, the costs associated with this type of adoption tend to be low or waived.

Public agencies do not want to put any obstacles in the way of these children finding homes.

However, there are still costs associated with this type of adoption, including travel expenses and lawyer’s fees. Altogether, parents adopting through a public agency can expect to spend $2,500 or less, including the home study expense and legal fees.

Related: Creating an Action Plan for the Future of Children with Special Needs

Type 2: Private Adoption Costs

There are two ways to go through a private adoption: through a private agency or independently.

If you use a private agency to adopt, you can expect that the agency will charge a fee of anywhere from about $5,000 to $40,000, which will cover the costs of the home study, counseling for the birth parent, adoptive parent training, and social work services.

Private agencies will sometimes offer a sliding scale of fees, dependent on the adoptive parents’ income.

Independent adoption is when adoptive parents locate a birth parent on their own and use an adoption lawyer to facilitate all of the necessary paperwork.

Costs for an independent private adoption can include everything from advertising (to find a birth parent) to allowable medical expenses for the birth mother to legal fees.

The laws of your state may prohibit or cap some of these expenses, as laws differ from state to state. Independent adoptions can cost between $8,000 and $40,000, although the average cost is between $10,000 and $15,000.

Independent adoption costs can fluctuate much more than those through a private agency, and adoptive parents may not have their costs reimbursed in the case of a birth mother changing her mind.

Related: Teaching Kids About Money [The Complete Guide]

Type 3: Inter-Country Adoption Costs

Adopting a child from another country adds more complexity to the paperwork you need to do in order to bring your child home.

International adoption agencies generally charge fees of approximately $15,000 to $30,000, although many international agencies also offer sliding fee scales.

The costs of inter-country adoptions can include:

  • immigration processing and court costs,
  • a required donation to the foreign orphanage,
  • parent travel expenses,
  • translation fees,
  • foreign legal fees,
  • foreign agency fees,
  • passport fees, and sometimes
  • medical and foster care of the child.

Summary of All Adoption Costs

FeesPublic AgencyPrivate AgencyInter-Country
Home Study Fees$0-$3,000$1,000-$3,000$1,000-$3,000
Legal Fees$500-$6000$500-$6000$500-$6000
Agency Fees$0-$2,500$8,000-$40,000$15,000-$30,000
Total$500-$11,500$9,500 to $49,000$16,500 to $39,000

In total,

  • public adoption agency total expenses: $500 to $11,500;
  • private adoption agency total expenses: $9,500 to $49,000; and
  • inter-country adoption agency total expenses: $16,500 to $39,000.

Ways to Finance Adoption

Now that you know the costs, let’s look at some ways to afford to adopt:

1. Save Your Money

Good ole fashioned savings. Put aside money each paycheck automatically until you have the funds to afford your adoption. This is the best strategy. You’ll be invested in the process and you’ll have time to think everything through without rushing into this life-changing decision.

2. Ask Your Employer

Your employer might actually have an employee benefit designed to help you afford adoption. Even if they don’t have a direct program, it’s wise to talk to someone in your human resources department about your decision to adopt.

Don’t have an employer? Check out these part-time jobs with benefits.

3. Ask Family & Friends

It takes a village. I’m positive your family and friends would love to chip in to help make the adoption happen. Invite everyone over for dinner and announce your plans. Start a raise campaign and allow them to give.

4. Start a Side-Hustle

Deliver pizzas, mow lawns, do ridesharing, etc. My friend Justin did family photography shoots to raise money for one of his international adoptions. Listen to my podcast interview with him.

More: 18 Side Hustle Ideas: Find Your Perfect One

5. Apply for Assistance has some nice resources listed for getting adoption assistance.

6. Take Out a Loan

This should be your last resort, but if done responsibly it can be a positive strategy to defray at least some of the costs.

Related: Is it Worth Going Into Insane Debt for In Vitro (or Adoption)?


What’s your take? Leave a comment with how much you paid for your adoption or how much you have budgeted…

Photo by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash

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One Comment

  1. True that adoption is not inexpensive. My wife and I adopted our four out of foster care with only $1,200 fees for all 4. We had 2 boys as guardians come to our home in their teens. We’re raising our granddaughter which we did not count on doing … as increasing numbers of grandparents are doing these days.There’s been a large cost of time as well as materials, using a business term.
    Prospective adoptive families should indeed consider the financial angle but also they may be the only chance that child has at a family life. That’s why churches and community organizations should respond to those who want to adopt children and find ways they can help. This is especially true for special needs children. For children who are not adopted, the state ends up paying through group homes. But the work that children truly need done is accomplished in the family setting.

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