adoption costs

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The Cost of Adopting
for USA Domestic,
Independent Adoptions,
International Adoptions

Adapted from Information from National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

Domestic public agency adoption: Zero to $2,500
Domestic private agency adoption: $4,000 to $30,000+
Domestic independent adoption: $8,000 to $30,000+
Intercountry private agency or independent adoption: $7,000 to $25,000

Estimates of Specific Adoption Costs
Resources to Help Defray Adoption Costs

Domestic Public Agency Adoptions
Most public agencies place only children with special needs, which is defined differently in each state. Up-front fees and expenses range form zero to $2,500, including travel and attorney's fees. Most states, under a federal match program, will reimburse non-recurring adoption expenses up to a set limit (which cannot exceed $2,000). Federal and state adoption subsidies may be available for the ongoing care of children with special physical, mental, or emotional needs; the adoption subsidy agreement must be negotiated and signed before the child's adoption is finalized. However, there is a process whereby adoption subsidy can be applied for or renegotiated after finalization, but only under certain conditions.

For more information, see  factsheet. "Subsidized Adoption."
For more information on adoption subsidy, contact NACAC's National
Adoption Assistance Training, Resource, and Information Network (NAATRIN)
The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) staffs a hotline (800/470-6665) for parents, social workers, administrators, and lawyers who have specific questions about Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.

Domestic Private Agency Adoptions
Licensed private agencies charge fees ranging from $4,000 to $30,000, which includes the costs for birth parent counseling, adoptive parent home study and preparation, child's birth expenses, post-placement supervision until the adoption is finalized, and a portion of agency costs for overhead and operating expenses. Some agencies have sliding fee scales based on the family income over the preceding one or more taxable
years. Families who locate their own birth parent and find an agency which will provide designated or identified adoption services (such as birth parent counseling and home study and supervision services only) often find this option is less costly.

Domestic Independent Adoptions
Adoptive families who pursue independent adoptions report spending $8,000 to $30,000 and more depending on several factors. Independent
adoptions are now allowed in most states, but advertising in newspapers, magazines, etc. seeking birth parents is not allowed in all states.
Costs for advertising for birth parents can be in the $5,000 range. Adoptive parents may find that they pay birth parent expenses for birth
parents who then change their mind and that money is not reimbursed. Some couples have had more than one arrangement with a birth parent
fall through. Some states require that adoptive parents pay for separate legal representation for birth parents, in addition to their own legal
representation. If the child has medical difficulties, birth expenses can be much higher.

Intercountry Private Agency or Independent Adoptions
Fees for intercountry adoption range from $7,000 to $25,000, including agency fees, dossier and immigration processing fees, and court costs. However, there may be additional costs for the following items which are usually not included in the fees:

Child foster care (usually in South and Central American adoptions).
Parents' travel and in-country stay to process the adoption abroad (length of stay or number of required trips varies).
Escorting fees, charged when parents do not travel, but instead hire escorts to accompany the child on the flight to the parents' country.
Child's medical care and treatment (occasionally in South and Central America).

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Estimates for Specific Adoption Costs

Domestic Adoption Costs

The figures listed below are general ranges; differences may be found depending on:

  • the type of adoption
  • the area of the United States where the adoption occurs
  • whether or not the agency charges a sliding-scale fee based on family income
  • the country of origin of a foreign-born child
  • the amount of State or Federal subsidy available for a child with special needs
  • Federal or State tax credits available for reimbursement of adoption expenses
  • employer adoption benefits
  • State reimbursement for non-recurring expenses for the adoption of a child with special needs.
Domestic Adoption Costs
  Low High

Agency fees


Application fee

$100.00 $500.00

Home study and preparation services

$700.00 $2,500.00

Post-placement supervision

$200.00 $1,500.00

Parent physical (each parent)

$35.00 $150.00

Psychiatric evaluation (each parent; if required)

$250.00 $400.00

Attorney fees


Document preparation

$500.00 $2,000.00

Petition and court representation to finalize placement

$2,500.00 $12,000.00


$500.00 $5,000.00

Birth parent expenses

Amount and type of expenses allowable for payment usually restricted by state law and subject to review by the court.

Medical expenses
(prenatal, birth/delivery, postnatal for mother; perinatal care for child)

$0.00 (insurance)

$10,000.00 - $20,000.00 (depending on difficulty of the delivery, etc.)

Living expenses
(rent, food, clothing, transportation, etc)

$500.00 $12,000.00

Legal representation

$500.00 $1,500.00


$500.00 $2,000.00

Intercountry Adoption Costs
Intercounty adoption costs vary accrding to the specific laws of the foreigh country from which you are adopting. Costs can vary according to many factors, including:

  • whether the placement entities in the foreign country are government agencies, government subsidized orphanages, charitable foundations, attorneys, facilitators, or any combination of these.
  • whether the foreign country requires translation and/or authentication of the dossier documents
  • whether the US agency requires a "donation" to the foreign orphanage or agency
  • whether the foreign requires one or both adoptive parents to travel to the country for interviews and court hearings; could be more than one or more trips of varying length
    Intercountry Adoption Costs
      Low INS/State Department fees High
    Filing fee: I-600, I-600A   $405.00  
    Filing fee: N-643   $125.00  
    Immigrant visa application fee   $260.00  
    Immigrant visa issuance fee   $60.00  
    Agency fees




    Because international adoption programs vary from country to country, we have listed a range for total costs that includes:

    US agency or attorney fees (for estimates, see Domestis Adoption Costs table above)
    INS/State Department visa application, processing and visa medical fees
    Homestudy and parent preparation
    Psychological evaluations (if required)
    Physical examinations
    Post-placement supervision (if required)
    Translation and authentication of adoption dossier documents (if required)
    Agency placement fee

    Fees in the foreign country
    Travel expenses (transportation, hotel, meals)
    Foreign agency placement fee
    Foreign attorney legal and placement fee
    Foster and medical care for the child
    Use of translation and escort services by US agency representative in the foreign country
    Foreign court filing fee and document fees (birth certificate and adoption decree)
    Required "donation" to orphanage or agency
    Translation services and escort services
    Passport office fees

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    Resources to Help Defray Adoption Costs

    Federal Tax Credit
    Effective January 1, 1997, there is a federal adoption tax credit of $5,000 per child, whether the adoption is domestic or international. Parents adopting a U.S. child with special needs qualify for a $6,000 tax credit. The tax credit for intercountry adoptions and for domestic non-special-needs adoptions will expire in 2002.

    At the Website, of the Internal Revenue Service, you will find information about tax rules and changes to those rules. You can link to this site for information about the IRS Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number, and for Publication 968, on the Adoption Tax Credit and Tax
    Exclusion. (
    Articles on Tax Credit

    State Tax Credits
    Several states have enacted state tax credits for families adopting children from the public child welfare system in that state. Contact your State Adoption Specialist; contact information can be found in our National Adoption Directory online.

    Adoption from the US Public Foster Care System
    If you are interested in adopting a child who is currently waiting in foster care, often not only are fees kept to a bare minimum or even waived, but many of the children will be eligible for federally-funded or state-funded adoption subsidy payments which help you meet the child's ongoing needs. In addition, some children qualify for SSI (Social Security Insurance) payments or Medicaid coverage because of their medical conditions.

    Adoption Subsidy
    Children with special needs may qualify for an adoption subsidy which is paid to adoptive families to help them pay for their child's need for ongoing therapies or treatment. Adoption subsidy agreements must be negotiated with the placing agency before the child's adoption is finalized.
    For more information see Subsidized Adoption or contact the North American Council for Adoptable Children at

    Non-Recurring Adoption Expense Reimbursement
    After families have finalized the adoption of a child with special needs from the public child welfare system, they may be able to apply for reimbursement of expenses they paid related to the adoption, which may include home study fees, travel expenses to meet the child, attorney fees, etc. Each state sets a maximum cap which cannot exceed $2,000 per adoption.

    Employer Benefits
    Many employers provide a range of benefits for families who adopt (including paid or unpaid leave when a child arrives in the home, reimbursement of some portion of adoption expenses, assistance with adoption information and referral services, etc.). Corporate human resource departments will provide employees with information about benefits available, if any. See our factsheet on Adoption Benefits for more information.

    Adoption Loans
    The National Adoption Foundation has established a $9 million revolving loan bank to provide unsecured loans to adoptive families. Your payments and interest then help other adoptive parents. NAF also has a home equity loan program. Both loan programs are financed through MBNA. The foundation has a limited program to provide grants,usually in the $2,500 range, to assist families with adoption costs. You can call the foundation to request that an application packet be sent to you.
    National Adoption Foundation
    100 Mill Plain Road
    Danbury, CT 06811
    (203) 791-3811.

    Adoption Cancellation Insurance...***This option is not currently available (6-01-00)
    Some insurance underwriters offer adoption cancellation insurance coverage for purchase by prospective adoptive families who are working with agencies or attorneys pre-approved by the underwriter to insure against the financial loss of expenses paid for birthparent expenses in cases where birthparents change their mind after the birth of the child and decide to parent the child rather than place the baby for adoption. .

    For More Information...
    The National Endowment for Financial Education has prepared a 78 page booklet, "How to Make Adoption an Affordable Option," to instruct adoptive parents about the range of financial assistance options that may be available. The booklet is available at no cost through NAIC, or you may download the booklet at the NEFE Website at .

  • National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
    330 C Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20447
    (703) 352-3488 | (888) 251-0075
    (703) 385-3206 (fax)

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