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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 The book was written in 1998, but the only outdated references were regarding adoption credits and tax deductions (they’re much higher now).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


  • Clever Dude, I think it is excellent that you are writing about this topic. I´m typing this comment from Guatemala, where more than 12 years ago my wife and I adopted our two children. We are back in Guatemala with our kids visiting the country, and the experience has been more than I can describe in this comment. As you note, adoption isn´t for everyone, but it has been nothing short of wonderful for us. Best, Dough Roller

  • Great article, Clever Dude. Adoption was ALWAYS my first choice (over birth to a biological child). We adopted our daughter (from China) one and a half years ago and she is the light of our lives. I think she’ll be comforted knowing that she, and adoption, was never our “last resort”. I say choose to adopt first!

    Another potential benefit with adoption (just one of many) can be financial. Choosing adoption allows you to turn off your ticking biological time clock. We chose to start our family at age 41, allowing us to take care of our retirement finances first. We were able to retire from work when our baby daughter came home from China. (Certainly not necessary, but it’s dreamy!)

    Feel free to email me directly if you have any questions. Thanks for sharing your well-researched post and good luck in your decision.

  • @MM: We might just tap you as a resource when the time comes. We’re waiting for some required information sessions to come around to look into international adoption. The next one isn’t until September.

    I do agree with your thinking about the biological clock. Honestly, my wife is just really worried about actually BEING pregnant and giving birth. It kind of scares her (she’s a pretty tiny lass). That’s not why we’re looking into adoption though, but it does affect our thinking about a biological child. We’ll keep you informed!

  • The subject is interesting and all a very personal choice matter, of course. There is no doubt in my mind that in nearly every town in this country there are plenty of kids just dying to be adopted by some caring people and that this can be done relatively quickly and probably not so expensively. I’m stymied by the chic and the beautiful (and some folks I know) who go globetrekking (China, Eastern Europe, etc., for instance) and spend thousands of bucks to bring home a baby when we have so many unwanted kids in this country. Shame on me for questioning folks’ motives, I guess.

  • Thank you for Sharing!
    I adopted by daughter 4 years ago from Guatemala and it has been the greatest gift I could have ever been given. To anyone out there who is thinking of adoption…..I can truely say that I know have purpose in my life and it is all because of my daughter!

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