Finances & Money

Why does adoption cost so much?

In my earlier post about adoption, Dimples asks (via a comment):

Why is adoption so expensive? Do you know the breakdown of the costs associated? I am just confused why so much money is needed to adopt when there are so many children in the system that need a loving home. I am pretty sure that there are many folks out there who aren’t able to conceive and would probably welcome the adoption option with open arms but don’t have $10-$20K just lying around.

Answer, sort of: Dimples, Some agencies have a sliding scale based on your income levels, but for us and the agency we’re interested in, we’d have to pay $15,000 to adopt domestically. Your results may vary based on your income, state of residence, and the adoption agency.

For newborn infant adoptions, someone has to reimburse the costs of the birth mother and the birth itself. If you ever saw your real bill for a natural birth, you’d be looking at $10,000-15,000 plus. The adoption agency:

1. Performs the required home study with you (paying for the social worker)
2. Does the background checks and paperwork
3. Has to pay its workers
4. Has to pay its rent and other bills

You can probably do a private adoption (directly with the birth parents through a lawyer) for less money, but you want to choose an established attorney with years of adoption experience.

I agree and totally sympathize with you that because there are so many orphans in the system the process should be much simpler and less expensive. We can have our own children with no state or federal interference on a whim, no matter how qualified we may be as parents, but it takes months and months (even years) to finally bring home an adopted child. However, I am glad that at least SOMEONE is checking people to make sure they can handle a child.

Take heart that many employers offer reimbursements towards adoptions (mine doesn’t, but my wife’s does), and you can get a federal tax credit for up to about $11,000 of your adoption expenses. Also, your state might provide a tax credit. Keep in mind that a credit is actual cash back on the taxes you paid, whereas a deduction just reduces your taxable income.

Lastly, we found out we can pay the agency the $15,000 with a credit card! Nothing like charging up our next son or daughter on Discover and earning cashback rewards! (and rest assured I won’t tell that joke too much…or to our child).

Disclaimer: We are just beginning the adoption process ourselves, so we’re also asking many of these same questions. I’m giving the adoption agencies the benefit of the doubt on this one for now. You should expect an itemized report from ANY agency you work with to show the breakdown of their charges. When we get to that point in the process, we’ll post the information for your consumption.

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Clever Dude


  • Thanks for the breakdown. LOL @ cashback rewards.

    I had no clue you had to reimburse the costs of the birth mother and/or the birth itself. I’m a single mother and I did happen to catch a glimpse of the hospital bill for the birth of my daughter (had a minor heart attack when I did…lol). So that alone would explain the high cost of adoption. Thats good that there are tax credit and employer reimbursements available. So in the end you will have spent a minimal amount and gained so much more. Good luck with everything and God Bless.

  • Interestingly in the UK, adoption is generally cheap (a few hundred pounds) but private adoption is illegal. It helps that healthcare is free anyway, and in addition, the local authority will pay for the cost of the home study. You can go through a voluntary agency also, they are paid through government grants and they also fundraise.

  • My wife and I adopted our children many years ago, and so we know first-hand just how expensive the process is. One thought I wanted to add to the discussion is that the adoption of special needs children and/or older children can be a lot less expensive. Of course, this may not be want you want, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  • One of the reasons that adoptions do cost a lot is because there aren’t enough adoptions happening. An agency has a certain amount of fixed costs that get divided for things like buildings, salary, bills, adoption training at hospitals, advertising, etc. This fixed budget is covered through donations and through the adoptions costs from what I can tell. The more adoptions they would have to offset the costs with, the cheaper they could make this portion of the bill. Without working at an agency, I don’t think I could give an accurate breakdown of those types of costs though.

    Generally, the adoption tax credit covers 60-100% of the costs, but this is set to expire in 2010.

  • Sorry, I have to comment. I am just sickened that I can’t have one more child. I have been trying since she was 6 mos. old (my daughter is 8). Even IVF several times, which by the way, my insurance covered at 100%. I only had to pay very small copays. So when that doesn’t work, I can’t adopt because I can’t afford it!!! With so many kids to adopt!! It really hurts to think I have an only child just because of a money issue. I understand there are costs for the birthing mother, but it cost me all of $50 to have my little girl.

  • @FrustratedinTX: I’m learning from friends, and your situation, that it’s difficult for many parents to draw the line on when to end IVF attempts and when to commit to adoption. It sounds like if you would have known the success/failure rates for your own situation, you would have attempted adoption earlier.

    Keep in mind, though, that many of the costs are up front, but you can recoup much of it from federal and state (depending on your state) credits and deductions. That $10,000 or $20,000 sounds like a lot, but depending on your tax situation, you could get all or most of it back.

  • Because it’s a profit for the agencies plain and simple. Birth costs don’t count: As an adoptive parent you are saving the life of a child and bailing out the birth parent from her responsibilities.
    Consider that Foster parents get paid and go through so much less I think it is absolutely criminal.

  • My sister is trying to adopt in Utah, using 2 agencies and either one is costing her $20k to $40k depending on the RACE of the child. I am so sickened that there is price difference for black or white babies and that a so called “non-profit” organization charges average $30k PLUS medical. Really? what is the $30 for? Frustrated

  • The fact that a couple should pay so much for an adoption is sickening. It shows how sad our society has really become. I just spoke to a “Catholic” agency who told me domestic adoption would cost me $35 to $40 K. I just can’t afford anywhere near this. Does that mean I shouldn’t have a child because I’m not rich? Me and my husband have good jobs and are good people. Let me say what I believe this is really about. This is about taking money from people by pulling on their heart strings. “If you really wanted a child, you’d come up with the money. You must not really want to be parents.” By the way, recouping losses doesn’t make up anything. I find that this is untrue to most situations. These agencies are usually charities or state funded. The costs should not be anywhere near this amount.

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