How to Pay for Adopting a Child

Single black mother packing her small son for school.

Are you hoping to adopt a child? Get ready for sleepless nights, heart-melting joy and some expenses you may not have considered. From legal fees to medical expenses, the cost of adoption can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Let's go over what you should expect to pay and some of the best ways to cover the cost.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

Cost can vary widely depending on the type of adoption you're considering. Creating a Family, a national nonprofit that supports adoption, puts the average cost of private adoption through an adoption attorney or agency at $35,000 to $45,000. Adoption from three countries that are among those sending the most children to the U.S.—China, Ukraine and South Korea—ranges in cost from $25,000 to $48,000. Adopting a child from U.S. foster care is a much more affordable option, with costs ranging from free to $2,500 or so, because the state pays most of the costs.

Private adoption expenses may include counseling for both birth parents and adoptive parents, medical care for the birth mother, interim child care, travel to pick up the child, post-placement supervision until the adoption is final, and the home study—a visit to assess your suitability as an adoptive parent. Court documents can cost from $500 to $2,000, while legal representation costs can range from $1,500 to $4,000.

If you're adopting through an attorney, you may need to place advertisements seeking expectant parents, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000. Creating a professionally designed "adoption profile" to market yourself to birth parents can range from $500 to $1,500.

International adoptions must be done through an accredited adoption agency; in addition to the agency's fees, expect to pay for multiple trips to the country from which you're adopting.

Ways to Pay for Adopting a Child

If you don't have enough savings to pay for your child's adoption, there are other ways to cover the cost.

  • Sliding scale agency: Some private adoption agencies operate on a sliding scale, adjusting their fees based on your ability to pay. This can greatly reduce the cost of adoption.
  • Employer benefits: A growing number of employers offer benefits to help employees with adoption expenses. These benefits may cover a range of costs, including legal, medical and agency fees.
  • State subsidies: Although available benefits will vary depending on your state, most provide financial assistance for adopting and raising foster children. These typically include monthly cash stipends, medical care for the child and payment of adoption expenses. Some states offer additional subsidies for adopting a child who has special needs or has been in the foster care system for a long time.
  • Tax credits: You may receive a federal tax credit for qualified adoption expenses; for 2021, the maximum tax credit was $14,440 per child. The tax credit can be taken in the year the adoption is finalized. In addition, some employer-provided adoption assistance can be excluded from your income at tax time.
  • Family and friends: If they have the means, family and friends may be able to provide loans or donations to help you cover the cost of adoption.
  • Fundraising: You can use crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe or fundraise in your community to help pay for adopting a child.
  • Military benefits: Active-duty military personnel can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per child (up to a maximum of $5,000 per year) for qualifying adoption expenses.
  • Grants: Search online for grants to help with the cost of adoption. Gift of Adoption Grants, Help Us Adopt, New Beginnings and the National Adoption Foundation are a few places to start. You may also find specialized grants targeting certain religious faiths, LGBTQ parents or international adoptions.
  • Loans: A new addition to the family will mean new expenses long after the adoption fees have been paid, so be careful of taking on too much debt. However, a loan can help you bridge the gap until you're reimbursed for your upfront costs by your employer or a tax credit. In fact, a survey by Creating A Family reports loans are the most common way parents pay for adoption. Options include a personal loan, a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. No matter what type of loan you seek, you'll generally qualify for better loan terms if you have a good credit score. Before applying for a loan, check your credit report and credit score for free. If your credit score needs improvement, paying down debt and bringing your accounts current can help.
  • Tighten your budget: If you can't find financial assistance, you may need to delay adoption until you save up enough money to pay for it. Look for ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income (such as getting a side job) and build up an adoption fund.

Be Sure You're Financially Ready to Raise a Child

The cost of adoption is only the beginning of the expenses you'll incur as a parent. From diapers to clothing to food, raising a child costs an average of $13,000 annually, so it's important to prepare financially for your new family member. Create a budget including the new expenses you'll face, such as childcare so you can keep working. Assess your current expenses to see what you can cut. Parenthood requires sacrifices—including financial ones—but the rewards make it all worthwhile.