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What Is the Cost of Adoption?

Tue 24 May, 2016 / by / Adoption

Man stares into babies eyes

We are often asked the cost of adoption, and to compare the different ways to complete an adoption – and there are big differences: international, domestic, and from foster care, to name the main ways. Each is entirely unique in terms of challenges and cost. Your choices at the beginning can have a big impact on how much you pay, and how long you wait.

The most expensive and difficult route appears to be international; international adoptions are down, as reported widely in the media. 5,648 international adoptions happened in 2015, down 75% from the high in 2004 of 22,884. We talked about some of the potential reasons for this decline in this post back in February of 2015:

Recently, Adoptive Families completed a comprehensive survey, compiling statistics on the different types of adoption. Their entire article can be found here: by clicking here. Here’s some of their major findings on cost:

We would have to assume that the top two rows, “U.S. Newborn (Agency)” and “U.S. Newborn (Attorney)” blend intrastate adoption with interstate adoption. Those, too, can be very different in terms of cost. Interstate adoptions, which we term “ICPC” because of the regulations of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, are more costly because typically more work must be done, and there must be people in two states: the sending state and the receiving state – like a pitcher and a catcher. For example, the sending state would have a birth mother (or birth parents), and an attorney or agency there must gather together a lot of information, obtain consents, acknowledgements, waivers of law, and other requirements under the ICPC. Then both the sending state’s ICPC office and the receiving state’s ICPC office must approve the case before the child can leave. That’s a lot of work done in a hurry! Sometimes individual states have different requirements that must all be completed.

However, interstate or “ICPC” adoptions have one big advantage: looking around nationally for an infant makes it much easier to find one. There’s a greater price to be paid, but a successful case usually results in an infant being found and adopted more quickly. By contrast, intrastate adoptions, where everyone resides in the same state the adoption completes, is typically less costly – but also a much slower process.

If you sign with an agency around Central Illinois, there are no guarantees as to when you might be placed. Some get lucky and have an opportunity to adopt within several months to a year; others report waiting for years before an opportunity happens. When it does, though, the cost is certainly lower.

What stands out to us is that using an agency for domestic adoption, on average, costs $7,000 more than using attorneys. That’s a big difference! Most people seem unaware that there’s a choice involved. Agencies in your home state always need to complete a “Report,” which often is basically understood as a “home study.” So agencies are always involved to some degree- but attorneys can complete ICPC work, and in many cases, attorneys can also help birth mothers find adoptive parents (commonly called “matching”). However, as the article shows, adoption fees typically are higher when agencies complete all of the ICPC work in both states and have made the match between a birth mother and adoptive parents. Sometimes when couples find an agency as their first step, instead of consulting with an attorney as their first step, the agency selects an attorney. This can turn out well, or again in some cases, it could result in higher cost.

The article gets into these differences, and more, in different parts, explaining:

“The cost range is greatest for U.S. newborn adoptions. Adoption advertising expenses vary widely depending on the cost of matching with a potential birth mother. is cost may be minimal if the match takes place through word of mouth or a free service, or, alternatively, as much as $3,000, if the match occurs via newspaper advertising, costly online services, or a facilitator. Legal expenses may also vary widely, if the birth father must be located or contests the adoption, or if there are other unusual circumstances.”

“When families adopt independently, through an attorney rather than through an adoption agency, their expenses can vary greatly. For example, expenses may be quite low if they match through word of mouth, the expectant mother’s expenses are minimal, and the legal procedure is straightforward. On the other hand, a family’s expenses can be much higher if they use online services or pay a consultant or a facilitator* to work on their parent profile or find the match. Expectant mother expenses can be greater on a case-by-case basis, and some states have higher maximums. Legal expenses can run quite high if the expectant father must be notified or a birth family member contests the adoption.”

*Use of a facilitator is illegal in Illinois!

Foster care adoptions are obviously the least expensive route by far, but they often result in older ages for children being adopted. The article cites two years, but for Illinois the average juvenile court case takes over 3 years to reach permanency (such as adoption). Be prepared to wait, and also be prepared for the prospect that a placement may not result in adoption at all because the natural parents complete their services and rehabilitate themselves. For a year or more (in extreme cases, 5-8 years), foster homes seeking to adopt will not know whether the adoption is going to occur, or whether the child will be returned home. Some find this exercise in emotional limbo difficult to take.

One last takeaway: the article mentions two important ways an adoption’s cost can be reduced: the Adoption Tax Credit, which in 2016 is $13,477; and employer subsidies. If you work for a company, check with your HR Department before making an adoption plan. It may surprise you to learn that your company provides up to $5,000 or more in additional financial assistance. Locally, for example, Caterpillar will pay for up to $5,000 in adoption costs that are not otherwise paid by subsidies such as the tax credit.

As you can see, there are lots of pitfalls and different scenarios that can lead to an adoption. We understand it can be difficult to navigate. Indeed, it’s difficult to write a concise blog post about it and cover all of the different scenarios. Just know that we’re always happy to help you figure out your best options and planning as you make the tremendous decision to add to your family.