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Financing an Adoption

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Adoption is not cheap. The costs to adopt are considerably higher than those involved in having a birth child (without the need for infertility treatment, which is also quite expensive). Adoption costs vary depending on the type of adoption chosen. While it is illegal and immoral to buy or sell a child, that doesn't stop the variety of professionals and agencies involved in coordinating the adoption process from charging fees for their services. It is common for an adoption to involve five-figure sums paid out before the process is complete.

A private-agency domestic adoption will generally cost anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000. Up front costs generally include application and other fees (background checks, etc.) with the bulk of the money being due when placement occurs. In addition to the agency costs, lawyer fees can range anywhere from $500 up to $10,000 or more, depending on how involved the lawyer is in the adoption process. Finally, the birth mother's medical costs or other expenses may need to be negotiated.

In a case where a lawyer is brokering the arrangement between the adoptive parents and birth parents, costs can run from $8,000 to $30,000 and more. Fees in this scenario may include charges for the lawyer's time, advertising fees, birth mother medical expenses, court costs, etc.

State-arranged adoptions are much cheaper than agency adoptions and will usually only require court fees, out-of-state adoption fees (if relevant) and possible home study costs, which are sometimes by the state. An adoption of this type may cost anywhere between a few hundred to several thousand dollars to complete.

Fees vary widely for international adoptions depending on the country and agency chosen, but typically range from $7,000-$30,000. Extra costs associated with international adoption vs. domestic adoption include the cost of multiple non-optional extended trips to the adoption country, and/or the hiring of a native-speaking proxy (a lawyer or agent) to act on the adoptive parents' behalf within the adoption country. The standard costs of an adoption (administrative fees, home study costs, etc.) also apply.

Clearly, the costs to adopt can be prohibitive; however, people who are motivated to complete an adoption generally find a way to come up with the necessary money. Multiple ways of financing adoptions are considered by those people who cannot otherwise pay cash. Second mortgages (loans against equity built up in a home) or loans against retirement funds are popular means of gaining access to funds, as are appeals to family and friends for donations and assistance, taking on a part-time job, or giving up luxuries in favor of dedicated short-term savings goals. In determining how an adoption will be financed, couples should keep in mind that their finances will be scrutinized by adoption agencies. Couples that truly cannot come up with the money except by taking on crippling debt should think twice before proceeding with adoption. Beyond the costs of adoption, the costs to raise the child must also be weighed before a decision is made. No family should put their future financial well-being in jeopardy in order to adopt a child.