How much does it cost to adopt a child?
Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to adopt a child?

Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to adopt a child?

$30,000 – $60,000cost of private agency adoption
$25,000 – $50,000cost of international adoption
$500 – $3,000cost to adopt a child through foster care

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$30,000 – $60,000 cost of private agency adoption

$25,000 – $50,000 cost of international adoption

$500 – $3,000 cost to adopt a child through foster care

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Kristen Cramer
Written by
Kristen Cramer
Edited by
Tamatha Hazen
Fact-checked by
Tara Farmer

Average cost to adopt a child

The average cost to adopt a child is $30,000 to $60,000 if adopting through a private agency in the U.S. International adoption costs $25,000 to $50,000, depending on the country you're adopting from. The most affordable way to adopt is through the foster care system, with costs often totaling less than $1,000.

Average cost of adoption
Adoption method Average cost
Private agency adoption (U.S.) $30,000 – $60,000
Independent adoption (U.S.) $25,000 – $45,000
International adoption $25,000 – $50,000
Foster care / public agency adoption $500 – $3,000
Stepparent adoption $1,000 – $3,000

Private agency adoption

Adoption costs $30,000 to $60,000 with a private agency. This is the most common type of adoption in the U.S. and involves expectant parents voluntarily placing their child with adoptive parents through the help of an agency.

The private agency adoption fee typically includes all the legal expenses, a home study, search fees, pre-adoption training, post-placement fees, and other costs involved in the adoption process. Most agency fees also cover birthing parent expenses.

Independent adoption

Independent adoption costs $25,000 to $45,000 and involves an attorney working with the adoptive parents and expectant parents to arrange the adoption. The cost covers legal fees, a home study, and the birth mother's medical expenses. Advertising to find expectant parents can increase the total cost.

In an independent adoption, the adoptive parents often take an active role in finding a child they hope to adopt or a birth mother to work with. The adoption attorney may assist with this search, and other adoption facilitators involved in the process may include physicians or clergy members.

International adoption

Adopting a child from another country costs $25,000 to $50,000. Costs vary significantly depending on the country and type of organization you work with—a government agency, private agency, orphanage, nonprofit organization, attorney, adoption facilitator, or a combination of those.

International adoption comes with added costs for immigration documents, medical exams, and more. Depending on the country and agency, there may be additional fees for:

  • Child's passport, Visa, and Visa medical exam

  • Escort fees if you can't travel abroad to accompany the child to the U.S.

  • Translation fees

  • Foreign attorney and foreign agency fees

  • Medical care or treatment for the child

  • Counseling and support after adoption

Happy couple with their adopted baby
Happy couple with their adopted baby

Public agency adoption / foster-to-adopt

Adopting a child through the foster care system costs $500 to $3,000, depending on the state. Because the public child welfare system maintains official custody until the adoption is finalized, state and local agencies pay most of the adoption fees.

Most states require you to foster the child for at least 6 months before adopting. As part of the adoption process, you must undergo a home study and complete a pre-adoption training course. After the adoption, a social worker will visit multiple times a year to ensure the child is safe and well cared for.

Stepparent adoption

Stepparent adoption costs $1,000 to $3,000 and involves the legal adoption of the child by the spouse of one of their biological parents. Both biological parents must give consent for the stepparent to adopt the child, and in some states, the child must also give consent if they've reached a certain age.

Stepparent adoption is typically faster and easier than other types of adoption. Some states do not require the same extensive screening procedures that are required for other adoptions, especially if the child is already living with the stepparent.

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Adoption costs

The process of adopting a child involves several steps, each of which comes with its own costs. Private adoption agencies often include these expenses in their adoption fee. If you adopt a child from foster care, many states provide reimbursement for most of the expenses.

Adoption costs
Adoption expenses Average cost
Home study $1,000 – $4,000
Pre-adoption education & training $400 – $800
Post-placement fees $1,500 – $2,000
Legal fees $4,000 – $15,000
Search / advertising fees $2,500 – $7,000
Birthing parent expenses $3,000 – $8,000
Travel expenses $1,000 – $3,000 (domestic adoption)
$6,000 – $10,000 (international adoption)

Home study

A home study is a critical part of every adoption to ensure the adoptive family can provide the child with a safe, loving home. A home study costs $1,000 to $4,000 and is typically included in the agency's or attorney's adoption fee. For foster care adoptions, many states waive or reimburse this fee.

As part of the home study, adoptive parents must submit financial, medical, and employment records. A social worker or agency representative will conduct background checks and interview family members to learn about their values, parenting style, and reasons for adoption. They'll also visit the home to evaluate its safety and suitability.

Adoption agency representative visiting a happy couple and their adopted baby
Adoption agency representative visiting a happy couple and their adopted baby

Pre-adoption education & training

Most agencies require prospective parents to complete pre-adoption education and training. Pre-adoption education costs $300 to $600 for the initial course. Parents can complete the additional training by reading qualifying books or completing online courses, which cost $100 to $200 per person.

Post-placement fees

After a child is placed with adoptive parents, there is a post-placement supervision period before the adoption is legalized. During this time, a social worker visits the family multiple times to confirm the child's safety and well-being and see how the family is adjusting.

The number of post-placement visits varies by state. After the last visit, the social worker submits a report to the adoption agency or attorney for use at the adoption finalization hearing. Post-placement fees are $1,500 to $2,000.

Legal fees range from $4,000 to $15,000 for a private agency or independent adoption. These fees cover the cost of court documentation preparation and filings, terminating the rights of birth parents, negotiating birth parent expenses, and finalizing the adoption after the post-placement period.

Legal fees make up a significant portion of the cost of an independent adoption. Most private adoption agencies include legal expenses in their overall adoption fee.

The expenses involved in finding a birth mother make up a large portion of the total fee for private agency and independent adoptions. This process may involve advertising, networking online or in person, or hiring a consultant to handle the search and arrange meetings with expectant mothers for you.

These search fees range from $2,500 to $7,000+. Most private agencies include this service in their adoption fee, but you'll typically have to pay for it separately if pursuing independent adoption.

Birthing parent expenses

When adopting a newborn, the adoptive parents cover the birth mother’s cost to have a baby. This can include prenatal and hospital expenses if the birth mother doesn't have medical coverage or Medicaid. Other birthing parent expenses may include counseling, legal fees, travel, and some living expenses. Total costs range from $3,000 to $8,000.

Travel expenses

Travel expenses range from $1,000 to $3,000 for domestic adoptions and $6,000 to $10,000+ for international adoptions. These costs may include airfare, hotel accommodations, and transportation, depending on the distance.

  • A domestic adoption may require several trips to meet the expectant parents, take custody of the child, and finalize the adoption. Adoptive families must stay in town while awaiting the birth mother's written consent, which can take a few hours to a week, depending on local laws.

  • When adopting from out of state, prospective parents must remain in the birth mother's state until receiving their Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) clearance, which can take up to 10 business days.

  • An international adoption can require extensive travel, often involving multiple visits and long stays in the other country.

Additional expenses

When adopting a child, remember to budget for additional expenses like clothing, diapers, furniture for the child's new room, formula or baby food, child care, and medical care.

  • The average cost of a baby in the first year is $12,600 to $30,500, not including maternity and childbirth costs.

  • Child care costs $400 to $1,500+ per month at a daycare center, while a nanny costs $2,300 to $4,300 per month.

  • Child therapy costs $60 to $150 per session. Many adopted children can benefit from sessions with a family therapist or child psychologist to help them adjust to their new home.

A happy family with adopted children
A happy family with adopted children

Adoption assistance programs

Adoption can be expensive, and many families are surprised at the high costs involved. However, there are several options available to offset these costs and help prospective parents afford adoption:

  • Federal Adoption Tax Credit (ATC): The federal government provides a tax credit of up to $15,950 for qualified adoption expenses, including adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses, and other expenses directly related to the adoption process. The total credit available depends on your adjusted gross income.

  • Grants: Many non-profit organizations and adoption agencies offer grants for families who qualify. Each organization sets specific requirements or criteria for grant eligibility, such as adopting a child from a particular country or adopting a special needs child.

  • Military benefits: Members of the U.S. Armed Forces can receive a subsidy of up to $2,000 per child for a maximum of $5,000 per year per family as reimbursement for qualifying adoption expenses. To be eligible, the adoption must be arranged by a qualified state, local, or non-profit agency, and service members must be on active duty when the adoption is finalized.

  • AdoptTogether: Sponsored by the Hoping Hearts Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, AdoptTogether is a non-profit crowdfunding platform that allows prospective families to post profiles with their story, photos, and fundraising goal. Contributions made by their families and friends to their adoption fund are tax-deductible.

  • Employer adoption assistance: Some employers offer financial assistance or reimburse employees for specific adoption-related expenses. Check with your employer to see if they offer this benefit.

Child adoption FAQs

Why is adoption so expensive?

Adoption is expensive because the process involves multiple specialists working together, including agency representatives or social workers, attorneys, government officials, and medical professionals.

In addition to legal fees, pre-adoption training, and travel costs, adoptive parents typically pay for the expectant parents' pre-natal and medical expenses. Adoptive families also pay for an in-depth home study involving interviews, background checks, in-home evaluations, and reviews of their financial, medical, and employment records.

Can a single man or woman adopt a child?

Many adoption agencies allow single men and women to adopt a child. However, some countries and agencies have restrictions on which children single men and women can adopt, and there are still many agencies that only work with married couples.

What will disqualify you from adopting a child?

Adoption agencies have high standards to ensure prospective parents are qualified, prepared, and committed to raising a child. The child's safety and well-being are their top priority. Adoptive parents must undergo a thorough vetting process, and these factors may disqualify you from adopting a child:

  • Criminal history, especially incidents involving violence or sexual misconduct

  • Conviction or allegations of child abuse or neglect

  • A history of substance abuse, including alcohol or drug addiction

  • Unstable financial situation

  • Unstable living situation or an overcrowded or unsuitable home

  • Health issues that could hinder your ability to care for the child

  • Being too young or too old

  • Lies or omissions on the adoption paperwork or during the home study process

Do you get money for adopting a child?

Most adoptive parents spend money to adopt a child, as private agency adoptions are expensive. Parents who adopt a child through the foster care system may qualify for a subsidy from the state. However, this payment is meant to supplement the cost of caring for the child, and adoptive parents should not put that money toward anything else.

How hard is it to adopt a child?

Adopting a child is difficult because the adoption agencies, social workers, and other professionals involved must take every precaution to ensure the child is placed in a healthy, stable, loving environment. The adoption process involves extensive screening, interviews, background checks, multiple home visits, and more.

  • Adopting a baby is harder than adopting an older child and often involves lengthy wait times.

  • Adopting a child in foster care is the least expensive option and typically has a shorter wait time than other adoption methods. However, many foster children needing permanent homes are older.

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