How to Pay for Adopting a Child

Quick Answer

Adopting a child can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you can help pay for adoption expenses by applying for government subsidies, claiming income tax credits, searching for grants or taking advantage of employer adoption benefits.

Happy mother talking to her small son while packing his books into a backpack.

Adopting a child can bring a lifetime of joy, but it typically comes at a significant financial cost. Adoption expenses such as legal fees, travel and medical bills can total tens of thousands of dollars. Costs vary depending on whether you adopt through a private adoption agency or attorney, internationally or through the foster care system.

Here are nine ways to pay for adoption, including government subsidies, tax credits, employer benefits and grants.

1. Get Government Subsidies

Parents adopting through the foster care system may be eligible for federal or state adoption subsidies. This assistance may include ongoing payments for the child's care as well as medical coverage, such as Medicaid. You may also qualify for a subsidy for one-time adoption-related expenses such as court costs.


  • Adoption subsidies for children in foster care typically continue until the child is 18 or 21. These ongoing payments go beyond the cost of adoption itself and can significantly offset the cost of raising a child.


  • Private or international adoptions aren't eligible for subsidies from the U.S. government.
  • Children in foster care must meet certain criteria to receive subsidies. Typically, children are eligible if they cannot return to their parents, are deemed difficult to place for adoption and previous attempts to place them without subsidies haven't succeeded.

Both state and federal adoption subsidies are administered by states. Contact your state department of social services for more information.

2. Investigate Employer Benefits

A growing number of employers offer benefits to help with the cost of adoption and other family planning services. Some 34% of employers provide paid adoption leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2023 Employee Benefits Survey. On average, employers who provide adoption benefits reimburse adoptive parents $16,422 and provide 9.6 weeks of paid leave, the 2024 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplace Survey reports.

Adoptive parents on active-duty military service may qualify for up to $5,000 in adoption expense reimbursement per calendar year (up to $2,000 per child).


  • The combination of expense reimbursement and paid adoption leave can significantly reduce the cost of adoption.
  • You may be able to exclude employer adoption benefits from your taxable income.


  • Not all employers offer adoption benefits.
  • Benefits may vary widely from one employer to another.

To find out more about employer adoption benefits, contact your job's human resources department.

3. Take Advantage of Tax Credits

Depending on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), you may qualify for a federal adoption tax credit. For adoptions finalized in 2024, the credit is up to $16,810 per adopted child.

If a child adopted from foster care qualifies for adoption subsidies, adoptive parents can take the adoption tax credit even if they don't incur adoption expenses. Parents choosing domestic private adoption or international adoption can also take the adoption tax credit, but must keep a record of qualified adoption-related expenses.

The amount of the adoption tax credit is limited to your annual tax liability. However, any excess credit can be carried forward up to five years.

In addition to the federal tax credit, many states offer adoption tax credits. For example, taxpayers in California may receive a state tax credit of 50% of qualified adoption costs, up to $2,500 per child per year.


  • Tax credits can reduce or eliminate your tax bill.
  • Adoptive parents of foster children can claim tax credits even if they paid no adoption expenses.


  • Since you can't claim a tax credit larger than the amount you owe, you may not recoup all your adoption expenses right away.

To see if you qualify for federal tax credits, complete IRS Form 8839. For information about state tax credits, contact your state tax agency.

4. Seek a Sliding Scale Adoption Agency

Adoptions through an adoption agency can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000. However, some private adoption agencies operate on a sliding scale, adjusting fees based on parents' ability to pay.


  • Fees based on your income level and financial resources can make paying for adoption more manageable.


  • Not all adoption agencies offer a sliding scale option.

5. Apply for Grants

Many organizations provide grants to help cover the cost of adoption. Some specialized grants target parents of certain religious faiths, LGBTQ parents or international adoptions.


  • Grants are free money you don't have to pay back.


Search online for adoption grants. Here are a few resources to get you started:

You can also contact groups you belong to, such as your house of worship or fraternal organizations, to see if they offer any grants.

6. Consider a Loan

A loan can tide you over until you claim a tax credit or receive reimbursement for adoption expenses from work. A personal loan or home equity loan provides a lump sum of money you can use for any purpose. A home equity line of credit offers the flexibility to borrow only what you need—useful if you're not sure of your final adoption costs.


  • Depending on your home equity, credit score and loan type, you may be able to borrow the full amount needed to finance adoption.


  • A home equity loan or line of credit could put your home at risk if you can't make payments.
  • Personal loans are less risky, but typically have higher interest rates than loans secured by home equity.

You can get loans from banks, credit unions and online marketplaces. Before applying for any loan, check your credit report and credit score. Work to improve your credit if necessary—good credit could qualify you for lower interest rates, saving money.

7. Try Fundraising

Some adoptive parents crowdfund donations for adoption expenses. You can use crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe or Adopt Together, a crowdfunding platform designed to finance adoptions. You can also seek donations offline from friends, family, or religious or community groups.


  • Money from crowdfunding is typically not taxable.
  • Online crowdfunding can help you raise more money than personal connections alone.


  • Potential donors may feel you shouldn't adopt a child if you can't pay for it on your own and bluntly communicate that belief.
  • Successful crowdfunding requires a lot of time and effort to promote your campaign.

8. Earn Extra Money

From start to finish, the adoption process typically can last anywhere from six months to several years. But there's a silver lining: This lengthy process gives you time to stockpile extra income. To earn extra money:

  • Take extra shifts at work
  • Get a second job
  • Sell unwanted items online
  • Hold garage sales
  • Start a side hustle such as driving for a ride-hail service, tutoring or freelancing


  • Extra income helps you pay for adoption without taking on debt.


  • Not everyone has the time, energy or skills for this option.

9. Go on a Strict Savings Plan

Stash extra cash by slashing nonessential spending. Try a bare-bones budget, which limits spending to necessities such as food, utilities, housing and transportation. Cut costs by shopping for lower-cost car insurance, negotiating with service providers to lower your bills and eliminating unused memberships or subscriptions.


  • Building up savings can help cover adoption costs without incurring debt.
  • Penny-pinching now prepares you for the additional expenses of parenting.


  • If you're already on a tight budget, you may not be able to save much.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Adoption can cost anywhere from zero to $60,000 or more, depending on the type of adoption. Here are some average costs, according to the nonprofit adoption organization Creating a Family:

    • Adoption from foster care: Free to $2,500
    • Adoption through an adoption agency: $25,000 to $60,000
    • Adoption through an adoption attorney: $35,000 to $50,000
    • International adoption from Colombia, India or South Korea (the three most popular international sources): $25,000 to $50,000 plus travel costs
  • Adoption from foster care is by far the most affordable option: It typically costs $2,500 at most, and many foster care adoptions cost nothing. Many adoptive foster parents also qualify for subsidies that help pay for raising the children to adulthood. Whether or not they paid adoption expenses, foster parents may be eligible for a federal adoption tax credit (up to $16,800 per child for adoptions finalized in 2024) and state tax credits.

  • Having debt won't disqualify you from adopting a child. However, both public and private adoption agencies want to see stable income and solid financial management skills. You'll typically be asked for financial information such as W-2 forms, paycheck stubs, income tax returns, bank or investment account statements, debts and insurance policies.

The Bottom Line

Adoption agencies usually ask about your debt; some check your credit score. Poor credit could make it harder to qualify for loans or credit cards to help pay for adoption. Bringing late accounts current, paying down debt and making timely payments can help improve your credit score, providing the financial flexibility needed to manage the expenses of parenthood. Experian's free credit monitoring service keeps tabs on your credit so you can spend more time with your new little one.