We often get asked questions about various aspects of adoption. And there is a LOT to learn when it comes to adopting a baby - about yourself, about the process, about creating an open adoption relationship, etc. I have decided to write an occasional post on here that is sort of more specifically geared toward answering some of the questions we have had ourselves going through the process or that others have asked us.
Today's topic: How much does it cost to adopt?
It largely depends on the agency and even then it depends on the specific adoption situation. The normal range is between $25,000 and $35,000, although adoptions (and I am only referring to domestic adoption - babies born in the U.S. only and adopted by U.S. couples) can regularly be up around the $45,000 to $55,000 range. Anything over that and from my perspective the agency or lawyer facilitating the adoption is probably unethical. But I have heard of adoptions costing around $75,000 (but again, that has got to be with an unethical agency or lawyer).
I know my jaw dropped when I first learned just how much adoption costs. Some adoptive couples take out loans to cover the fees or borrow from family. There is an adoption tax credit that can help out some families who qualify. Lots of adoptive families try to do fundraisers (Paul and I have done garage sales combined with bake sales, and I have done family photography where we earmark the money we've earned specifically for adoption. I might have to do a post about other fundraiser ideas in the future.) But the reality is that adoption is very expensive.
And that is just the cost of the agency/lawyer/adoption facilitator. There are often costs associated with traveling to the birthmom's location and staying there for a week or two or three while waiting for ICPC clearance (government permission to move a child from one state to another after a birthmom signs relinquishment papers) goes through. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and lots of eating out don't come cheap, especially when those are usually last minute reservations based on when a baby decides to be born.
But none of the cost mentioned above goes to the child's birthmom. It is illegal for a birthmom to receive any compensation for a child she places for adoption. Sometimes a part of the adoption fees can be used by the agency or facilitator to pay for her housing, food, or medical care during the pregnancy, but that's pretty much it.
Every agency breaks down adoption costs differently and it is hard to get a good grasp of exactly where the costs go, but it pays for homestudies, background checks, court costs, getting certified copies of all paperwork, marketing, post-placement supervision, birth parent counseling, etc. But I think that a big part of the cost is typically just an agency fee (i.e., profit to the agency) because they facilitated the connection between a birthmom and an adoptive couple.
The agency we used for Clara's adoption is largely subsidized by our church, which makes adoption much more financially feasible for couples who are hoping to adopt because they recognize that there are a lot of really great couples who have infertility issues that make pregnancy impossible but simply can't afford $25-50k for an adoption. LDS Family Services (our agency) does a sliding scale approach based on the couple's gross income but the cost is between $4,000 and $10,000. But due to the high number of couples who would like to adopt and the low number of babies placed for adoption, LDSFS has policies that only allow couples to use their services until they have two children, regardless of whether those children were adopted through LDSFS, some other agency, or the couple was able to have a child biologically. So we can use them for our next adoption, but after that we will have to pursue other avenues for adoption if we want to try to adopt a third child.
There are a number of downsides to using LDSFS though. Yes, the cost is much more manageable, but LDSFS doesn't "market" to birthmoms like a lot of private agencies do. My understanding is that usually birthmoms who go through LDSFS are directed there by word of mouth or because they are also members of our church. Another thing with LDSFS is that Paul and I don't move up a list of couples who get "priority" or anything like that whereas with some agencies, a couple essentially takes a place in line and knows that a match is likely to happen within a certain time-frame. I recently emailed with another adoptive mom who told me that with their first adoption, their agency charged a $54,000 adoption fee and they were told that they could expect a 6-9 month wait for a child. With LDSFS we could literally wait for years without ever having a successful adoption until we decide to pursue a different avenue.
The two other main paths to adoption are foster care and international adoption. I will probably do separate posts on each of them in the future because they are so different from domestic adoption, which is what we are familiar with. But cost-wise, foster care is the most "economical" option because in many cases the financial cost to adopt is almost nothing. And international adoption costs vary greatly depending not just on the agency used by also on the country of the adoption.
Some people are shocked or outraged when they learn about how much it costs. It is always mildly uncomfortable to talk about because we don't want to be perceived as "buying" a baby (because we certainly don't perceive it that way although there is a very large anti-adoption community online that does). I hope this post de-mystifies some of the financial aspects of adoption.