Why does adoption cost so much?

By Gayle Fidanzo | Executive Director of Choice Adoptions


As an adoptive mom, as well as the director of an adoption agency, I consider this to be a legitimate question that deserves an answer! I know a lot of parents who come to us and are considering adoption want to know, “Why does adoption cost so much?” And “What does it cost anyway?” So let’s talk about that!

The Department of Health and Human Services reports these averages for adoption in the United States:

Current overall average adoption fees in the United States

Adoption Fees at Choice Adoptions

Many agencies such as ours (Choice Adoptions) charge quite a bit less. At Choice Adoptions, we have two major programs: Our Infant Adoption Program and our Foster Child Adoption Program.


Our standard fees for a newborn infant adoption are $31,500. When we partner with another agency to match a family with an infant, those fees increase; costs can also be a bit more if there are special legal or medical expenses.


For a foster child adoption, our standard fees are $4,400, but families get the majority of those fees reimbursed by the state and eventually by the adoption tax credit.


In addition to these two programs, adoption agencies do home studies for families who need them. Families who do an independent adoption pay fees to an attorney. However, they are also required to have a home study, which a child placing agency such as ours would be able to do for them. Those studies range in cost from about $1980 to $2300 at Choice Adoptions, according to the type of adoption that the family is pursuing.

Choice Adoptions does not do inter-country adoptions, but there are many agencies who do.


Is There More $$$ Help for Families Adopting from Foster Care?

Yes! Many children in foster care are eligible for Adoption Assistance. Adoption Assistance is a program that helps make sure that a child’s needs are met, from emotional to psychological to physical by removing any financial barriers. Adoption Assistance may include medical assistance and monthly maintenance payments. Adoption assistance programs make it possible for more families to adopt a child from foster care and can be a one-time payment or monthly financial assistance.


Link: Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted from Foster Care



Why do adoptions cost so much?


So why do adoptions cost so much? The short answer is because it requires a lot of professional expertise to ensure that adoptions are both ethically and legally sound. Adoption professionals place a high priority on giving our clients the very best support, advocacy, and service they could possibly get. That takes a team of professionals, including social workers and counselors on staff who come alongside clients and help them through the adoption process. Some of the services these professionals provide for Pre-Adoptive Families are:

  • Meet with pre-adoptive families to answer their questions.

  • Screen families for preparedness to parent an adopted child.

  • Provide training and resources for parents to help make their adoption successful.

  • Interview parents in their homes and write a home study.

  • Support parents while they are waiting for a match with a child.

  • Connect and interact with caseworkers, birth families, and other community partners until a match is made.

  • Provide placement support.

  • Explain and execute legal documents before and at placement, including a Post-Placement Contact Agreement.

  • Conduct post-placement interviews and visits to support healthy transitions.

  • Encourage pre-adoptive families with practical help and counseling along the way.

  • Provide ongoing wrap-around support for families after the child is in the home.

Services provided to Expectant Parents include:

  • Decision-making support, including explaining all options available to expectant parents.

  • Referrals to needed medical and counseling services.

  • Help in finding an adoptive family.

  • Assess and arrange for pregnancy-related financial support.

  • Arrange and facilitate a match meeting with a pre-adoptive family.

  • Advocate with medical and hospital staff before, during and after delivery.

  • Provide friendship, counseling, and support 24/7.

In addition to these social services, many agencies spend funds on marketing in order to reach the populations that need their services. At Choice Adoptions, we want to make sure that people know that we have wonderful, ethical adoption programs to offer to young women with unexpected pregnancies who just cannot parent right now for whatever reason. We know they need nonjudgmental support -- not only emotional, but social, and financial support. Marketing and advertising is required, but that also comes with a cost.


Finally, licensed agencies are required to have an office, files, insurance, technical security, etc. etc. So overhead certainly comes into play.

Adoption agencies charge differing amounts, as they provide services unique to their agency. It’s up to the pre-adoptive family to check out agencies in their area. Appropriate questions about the cost include: “What are the adoption fees going for?” “What can we expect?” “When we contact you, how long will it take for you to respond?” Armed with this information, families can make a better decision about how to move forward. Families are encouraged to interview a few agencies and make sure that they are comfortable with the fees that are being charged and the processes which are in place to bring their child home to their family.


Adoption Tax Credit

I do want to mention the adoption tax credit. In 2020, the tax credit is $14,500 per child. If families were to adopt from foster care, this would more than cover the cost of adoption fees. For other types of adoptions, families would get a tax credit of $14,500 per child. The Adoption Tax Credit is definitely something families need to talk with their accountant about.


Will Adoption Fees Continue to Rise?

Adoption fees, just like everything else, have risen steadily over the past few decades. However, at Choice Adoptions we are looking into ways to freeze or even decrease our fees. Adoption can save a child’s life. Adoption can save the life of an expectant mom. It shouldn’t cost so much.


Cost of Adoption for Expectant Parents

If you are wondering about the cost of adoption and you are expecting a child, I want you to know that there is absolutely no cost to place your child through an adoption agency with an adoptive family. In fact the opposite is true. We will support you emotionally and give you all the information and resources that you could ever need. We’ll give you a ride to the doctor’s office. We’ll be by your side. We’ll pay your cell phone bill so that you can make doctor’s appointments and maintain contact. We can help with paying the rent. Best of all, if this is what you decide, we’ll help you find the perfect family for your baby.


You may decide adoption is not for you after all. “I feel stronger now. I think I can parent.” Or “I’m going to place my baby with a family member.” Wherever your journey leads you, just know that there is absolutely no cost to receiving our services, our counseling, our friendship, and also some financial support while you are making this very difficult decision. These services are free. So the cost of adoption for you, if you are thinking of placing your baby for adoption or just considering your options, is zero.


Do I have to be wealthy to adopt?

I also want to mention that when most pre-adoptive couples come to our agency and inquire about adoption, they don’t come with a ton of money in their pocket. Often they come with just enough funds to get the process started. They begin the home study process, and throughout the course of doing their paperwork and doing the home study interviews, they continue to save. They may apply for some grants, maybe even an adoption loan. Their extended family might step up to help them, or maybe their church has an adoption scholarship program that they can apply to that during the waiting time. Many families do fundraisers, garage sales, or sell home crafted items to save up for their adoption. By the time that they are through with the initial training and home study process and they are ready to be matched with a child, they have a plan. Either they have the money saved up by that time, or they have a contingency plan. They may have approached their mom and dad or others in their family, “Hey, we’re saving. We’re going to have the money by this date, but if we get matched before that can you help us out? We’ll pay you back on this date.”


There are all kinds of creative ways that people finance their adoption because it’s important to them. Growing their family is their priority and there’s nothing that’s going to stop them. We appreciate their courage. We understand that families may have spent a ton of money already on fertility treatments. We appreciate their dedication to building their family. We appreciate the fact that they are taking a lot of money that could be used in a whole lot of ways and they are paying adoption fees. We don’t take that lightly. We think it’s very very important to spend our pre-adoptive families’ money wisely; to be the very best support we can be to them, and to expectant parents. Most importantly, we strive to be the very best advocates we can be for children -- those who have been waiting way too long in foster care for their permanent family, and unborn and newborn infants who need a safe, stable home.


Is it possible that I can afford to be an adoptive parent?

Yes, it is possible. If you have a safe, stable, loving home and the desire to be a parent, we believe you will find a way. Children are not for sale, but the reality is that an adoption agency has expenses that must be covered. An adoption agency with a good reputation is often a family’s best safeguard against fraud, unethical practices, and heartbreak down the road. Independent adoption through an attorney is also a good option for some people, and can cut costs. And remember foster child adoption is virtually free, debunking the myth that adoption is too expensive.


If this discussion has helped, I’m so glad. If you have other questions, I encourage you to call your closest adoption agency and ask them how to get started.

You may also like to take a look at some of these great resources:


Why Adoption May Not Be For You

Are Adoptions Still Going Ahead?

What Does Allyship Mean?



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Choice adoptions rethink adoption