What Are the Different Adoption Expenses?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2019
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Adoption expenses in the U.S. can encompass a variety of costs, depending on how and where the adoption originates. International adoptions incur expenses that are different from the costs that arise in a domestic adoption. Adoption costs also vary according to whether the adoption occurs independently, through the foster care system, or through a private agency. Additional adoption expenses can accrue in special circumstances based on the immediate needs of the child. In general, adopting parents can expect preliminary expenses in addition to adoption expenses that occur during and after the child's placement in the new home.

For families in the U.S. who seek to adopt a child, a home study is generally required to assess the family's fitness for placement. The home study process is also commonly required in other countries, such as Canada and New Zealand. Home studies must be updated if a certain amount of time has passed, typically one year; thus, families who wait several years for a placement could have to pay for home study updates even if the initial study fee was included in their agency fee agreement. Those who adopt a child from the foster care system might find that their home study costs can be waived or reimbursed based on local regulations.


An international or intercountry adoption might be an option for prospective parents, although some countries such as Argentina offer provisions only for domestic adoptions. International adoptions lead to additional expenses, including legal paperwork in the child's country of origin, travel between countries, lodging, court fees, immunizations, and fees for citizenship. In the U.S., as well as in Australia and other countries, parents of children adopted outside of the country of residence must complete legal paperwork to obtain citizenship for the child. Prospective parents might have to pay for the services of multiple agencies and attorneys. When parents do not speak the native language of the child's country of origin, translation fees could also be necessary.

Independent adoptions, in which prospective parents interact directly with a birth parent rather than an agency, require a greater total amount of adoption expenses. Depending on state, provincial, or regional regulations, the adoptive parents are typically required to cover the cost of a home study, legal expenses, costs related to pregnancy and childbirth, counseling expenses, and the birth mother's living costs during pregnancy. Prospective parents also incur costs in searching for a birth mother, such as in the use of newspaper ads where this practice is legal. Some choose to purchase adoption insurance to guard against financial loss in case the birth mother does not complete the process. Not every U.S. jurisdiction allows independent adoptions, so it is best to employ an adoption attorney when using this method.

Private adoption agencies in the U.S. are typically able to set their own fee schedule for adoption expenses, based on state regulations. These fees, which could be collectively referenced by the agency as adoption fees, generally include specific services including finding a child who is a good match for the family, home study costs, family counseling before adoption, fees for child placement, and follow-up visits after placement. Some services could require additional fees. Private agencies exist in some other countries but might be called by different names, such as in parts of Canada where they are known as licensees.

Prospective parents can expect a variety of incidental adoption expenses. These minor costs can vary depending on the type and location of the adoption process. Some examples of miscellaneous expenses include travel costs, paperwork fees, or unpaid time away from a job due to adoption-related meetings and interviews.

Post-placement expenses relate to the cost of caring for the child after adoption. Adoptive parents will need to add the child to their health insurance and obtain legal paperwork, such as a Social Security number for the child in the U.S. In addition, typical child-rearing expenses range from food, clothing, and shelter to educational and medical costs, transportation, and other ongoing expenses. Adopted children also sometimes require counseling, special tutoring, or other services.


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