Adoption Costs: Understanding Where Your Money Goes

Many couples considering adoption are surprised when they first hear what the cost of adoption will be. While adoption agencies usually try to keep fees as low as possible, both international and domestic adoption can cost a significant amount of money. While these costs may seem high, they reflect the expertise and effort that goes into placing children within loving forever families where they will thrive.

adoption costs

Professional Services

No adoption can take place without extensive professional services. In particular, every adoption involves the efforts of a social worker, who guides the adoptive and birth families through the adoption process and provides access to any resources they need. Their support is available for virtually every aspect of the adoption process, from completing the adoption profile to finalizing the adoption to offering post-adoption services.

In particular, social workers will conduct your home study, provide counseling services both before and after the adoption, assist with the termination of birth parent rights, and help you to compile the necessary paperwork and documents. The cost of their services is usually included in the fee you pay to the adoption agency.

In addition to the assistance of the social worker, some adoptive families also choose to pay for adoption consultants. These professionals help you to find the right adoption agency and offer advice and support throughout the adoption process. Their fee is typically a separate expense paid in addition to the adoption agency fee.

Legal Fees

Adoption, while it begins in the heart, is also a legal process. As a result, legal fees will apply regardless of whether you pursue a domestic adoption or an international adoption. The bulk of these fees come from the services of an attorney, who helps you to navigate the legal requirements of your specific adoption.

Examples of the legal steps needed to complete an adoption include legal requirements in your child’s country of origin if you are pursuing an international adoption, and the termination of birth parent rights if you are pursuing an infant domestic adoption. Other legal matters might include background checks, legal paperwork, and legal services for trickier adoptions. Legal fees are often included in the fee you pay to your adoption agency.

Birth Mother Support

Adoption agencies often provide birth mother support services that help them to navigate their pregnancies and the process of choosing whether or not to place their children for adoption. These services can include housing, medical care, transportation, maternity clothes, counseling services, and more.

Typically, many of these expenses become part of the adoption costs that adoptive families pay for infant domestic adoption. For instance, if you pursue infant domestic adoption, you can expect to pay for the birth mother’s medical bills, as well as for any other maternity-related expenses she has. These costs are usually also included in the fee you pay to the adoption agency.

Medical and Orphanage Expenses

Regardless of whether you pursue domestic or international adoption, you will probably also pay fees related to the care of your child before they come home to you. In an infant domestic adoption, these might include paying for the baby’s hospital stay after they are born, and paying for any additional medical care they may require. In an international adoption, they might include fees paid to the orphanage. These fees may or may not be included in the fee you pay your adoption agency.

Overhead Expenses

The fact is that running an organization requires a certain amount of overhead. These costs exist even for nonprofit adoption agencies. While donations can and do help to support the nonprofit adoption agency, they are typically not sufficient to defray all of the agency’s operating expenses. As a result, the cost of adopting through an adoption agency usually includes money that goes toward paying for the agency’s overhead.

An agency’s overhead can include staff salaries for people such as administrators and office managers. It can also include bills such as electricity, water, and Internet. Other overhead bills might include advertising, rent, and insurance. Anything that the adoption agency must pay in order to keep its doors open and its name in front of potential adoptive families may be paid for using part of the fee you pay to the agency.


Most adoptions, domestic or international, require at least some travel. As a result, your total cost of adoption should take into consideration the cost of any traveling you will need to do. For instance, in an infant domestic adoption, you may need to travel to the birth mother’s state for the birth, the hospital stay, and the finalization of the adoption. This means that you will need to budget for transportation, gas, housing, food, time off work, etc.

International adoptions typically require even more travel. Adoptive families typically have to visit the child’s country of origin at least once (and sometimes more). The cost of these trips can include airfare, transportation, housing, gifts, and more. Since you are traveling internationally, these costs are typically higher than they would be for a domestic adoption. When budgeting your adoption costs, you will need to add in travel expenses in addition to the fee you pay your adoption agency.

Adoption can sometimes seem expensive. The costs you incur, however, are necessary for the safe and successful completion of the adoption. Most adoption agencies, far from trying to make as much money as possible off of you, set fees that reflect the costs of paying for all of the expenses and services that are necessary for the adoption to take place. From professional services to legal fees, birth mother support, child care, overhead expenses, and travel, these services provide you with the support and guidance you need to bring your child home.

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