Finances & Money

Is Adoption for You? Costs, Choices and Decisions

(I originally posted this article as a guest-post at and gave an update on our progress here):

Since we began dating, my wife Stacie and I have agreed that, if possible, we would adopt a child and also give birth to a biological child. However, we never decided in what order or when. Now that we’ve been married for a number of years, we think we’re almost ready for children. But we’re not heading into parenthood in the normal way.

We’re researching adoption before we know whether we can conceive a child.

Normally, prospective parents only think about getting pregnant, and actually think it’s very strange to want to adopt before knowing whether they can “have their own.” They think it’s just a “last resort” when they find out one or both of the parents is infertile. For us, however, we both feel “called to adopt,” and we’re glad we’re on the same page. But we’re also facing quite a few pressures and complications heading into the adoption process.

Knowing if Adoption is Right for You:

Adoption isn’t for everyone. If you’d like to know whether adoption CAN be right for you, I highly recommend reading “Is Adoption for You: The Information You Need to Make the Right Choice” by Christine Adamec. The book was written in 1998, but the only outdated references were regarding adoption credits and tax deductions (they’re much higher now). The book lets you know many of the things you can expect from the adoption process, as well as what parenting an adopted child can be like.

Basically, you need to be patient. Perhaps even more patient than if you two were pregnant, because the process of applying for, and then WAITING for, a placement can be a substantial endeavor. It could take 3 months from starting the process, or it could take years. Most agencies will warn you that the average time to adopt is 1.5 to 2 years. That’s quite a bit longer than 9 months, isn’t it! Most adoptive parents will tell you that the most difficult process of adopting is “The Waiting Game”. You never know when that next phone call will be the agency or lawyer with a placement for you.

The Costs of Adoption:

In addition to patience, another difficult hurdle for most prospective adoptive parents is the cost of adopting. My insurance fully covers all pregnancy and birth costs, and many of your healthcare programs probably cover 80-100% as well. For a normal pregnancy and birth, that 20% would probably run you under $5,000, and that’s before any out-of-pocket maximums set in. How much does adoption cost?

Private adoptions, or adoptions directly through a lawyer and birth parents, cost under $10,000. Domestic adoptions through agencies run between $10,000 and $15,000 (give or take a few grand). International adoptions run between $15,000-$50,000, depending on the country AND your adoption agency. The cheapest countries currently are in Latin America, but mostly due to the lower costs of travel. However, some other countries have low “country fees,” or fees charged directly by the country’s government, that decrease the total cost of adoption (e.g., Ethiopia and the Philippines). But keep in mind that governments can change their policies and programs at any time, so always request the most recent materials from your agency.

However, don’t let the costs of adoption make you throw out your desire to adopt. You have numerous financial benefits at your fingertips. For example, the current federal adoption CREDIT is just shy of $11,000. That’s money that comes directly out of the federal taxes you’ve paid, and it can span multiple years. Additionally, many states now offer CREDITS or DEDUCTIONS against your state taxes, such as here in Maryland. Just expect to do a bit of digging to find your applicable state tax laws.

Lastly, more and more employers are offering adoption reimbursements. My first employer paid up to $10,000 towards adoptions (too bad I left!), and my wife’s current employer offers $7,500 towards each adoption. There are also state grants, special loans, and private programs available to help with adoption expenses. This all means that we could do a domestic or low cost international adoption before just a few grand out of pocket. And now my final point of discussion…

Choosing an Adoption Type and Agency:

By “Adoption Type,” I mean some of the following:

  • Domestic or International
  • Special Needs (i.e., physical, mental or emotional)
  • Open, Semi-Open, or Closed
  • Race (caucasian, bi-racial, African American)
  • Age (infant, under 1 year, toddler, older child)

After thinking about the type of adoption you’d like to pursue (notice I didn’t say “decide the type”), you need to begin researching adoption agencies. Agencies come in all sizes and flavors. There are agencies that look out for your interests first, agencies that look out for the child’s interests first, agencies that look out for the birth parents’ interests first, and then there’s agencies that just look out for their own interests first. There are secular agencies, state agencies, Christian agencies, and more.

There are so many agencies available, but there are a few key things to look for in an agency:

  • Are they licensed/certfied to operate in the state in which you live?
  • Do they match the “type of adoption” for which you’re looking?
  • Are they experienced? Can they prove it with reliable numbers?
  • Are they cost effective? (see previous section)
  • Do they provide an itemized pricesheet? (very important)
  • Do they provide the adoption choices you want?


Adoption is a daunting process, but that does not mean you shouldn’t push forward with your desire to adopt. Don’t let money and time hold you back, because once you feel that urge to have a child, it’s almost impossible to hide from. Also, don’t think adoption needs to be your last resort. I highly recommend looking into the process now, so that you’re fully informed when you’re ready to meet with an agency or attorney. Use your bookstore and local library for research. Talk to others who have already adopted, or plan to adopt. Attend information sessions and conferences. Join discussion forums.

And talk with your spouse. Do what you feel is right for your future family.

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Clever Dude


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