How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

Dawn Davenport


Oh, how I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone ask “how much does it really cost to adopt a child?” They want a short and sweet answer, and preferably an affordable answer. Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer because there isn’t just one type of adoption process.

Information on the costs of the various types of adoption

The average cost of adoption in the US is in the range of $30,000, but the actual cost depends on so many factors that an average is not all that helpful.

How Much Does Domestic Infant Adoption Cost?

For private domestic infant adoption (birth mother relinquishment) you can adopt through an adoption agency or through an adoption lawyer. Adoption costs vary depending on birth mother expenses, including medical costs for the expectant woman, adoption agency/adoption attorney fees, travel, failed adoption matches, etc. The average cost to adopt from an adoption agency adoption is typically about $43,000. Some adoption agencies have a sliding fee scale where adoption costs are based on your income.

An independent adoption through an adoption attorney usually costs an average of $38,000. It is likely that this costs less than working with an agency because their average numbers include adoptions where the birth mother and adoptive family have found each other, and the adoption lawyer is simply finalizing the adoption. Also, some adoption attorneys do not provide as much pre-adoption education or post-adoption support, thus the cost is a little less than an adoption through an adoption agency.

How Much Does International Adoption Cost?

I hate to be wishy-washy but quoting an average international adoption cost is truly worthless. You need to look at each individual country. The best way to do this is to go to the Adoption Country Charts at Creating a Family. The cost of adopting from abroad varies depending on the expense of airfare, how long you have to stay in-country, and how much the country charges. The average cost for overseas adoption for the top three sending countries is:

      • China – The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Adoption Fees are $15,725.00 (not including travel or documentation fees). Total ranges from $25,000 to $35,000 generally.
      • Ukraine – The average cost to adopt from Ukraine is about $35,000  (with a wide range of variance due to travel requirements).
      • Colombia – The Median Adoption Service Provider Convention Adoption Fees are $14,410.00 (not including travel or documentation fees). Total ranges from $35,000 to $40,000 (with a wide range of variance for travel requirements and sibling group adoptions).

How Much Does Foster Care Adoption Cost?

I always say that adopting from foster care is virtually free. Very few families pay more than $5,000 and many pay nothing at all. The vast majority of families who adopt from foster care also receive a monthly subsidy to help defray the cost of raising their kids.

Don’t Forget the Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Credit was made permanent in 2013, but is no longer refundable, which means that you have to earn enough to actually owe federal taxes in order to benefit from the Adoption Tax Credit. However, you can carry over the credit for five years, which gives you a total of six years to use the credit.

The Adoption Tax Credit for 2019 is $14,080 per child. It will not cover self-employment tax, early pension distribution penalty, or first-time homebuyer payback.

Creating a Family has a wide variety of helpful resources for the adoption tax credit at our Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters.

SO, how much did your adoption cost?

Updated 9/16/20

06/11/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 66 Comments

66 Responses to How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

  1. Pingback: What if I Can't Have Biological Children? - Partners in Fire

  2. Avatar Elizabeth says:

    hello my ex coworker does not want to keep her baby she asked me if I wanted to adopt and my husband and I are more then happy to do so since we have been trying for I years… how much would that cost to adopt the baby????

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      You will need to consult an adoption attorney in your state to make sure that everything is done ethically and legally. You can learn more about what you will need and how to find the right attorney for your circumstances here:

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  19. Avatar Vanessa says:

    Hello I was wondering how much is it to adopt a baby or a little kid cause I haven’t been getting luck of having my own kids I did but my mom did abortion on me and I have been trying so many times and I haven’t got pregnant and I was just wondering how much is it

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  21. Avatar KW says:

    Say I want to give my child to a close friend who’s legally adopting it for financial purposes and all my medical expenses are already covered, would the adoption price go down for him?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      KW, I’m not sure I understand your question. If someone wants to adopt a baby and the expectant mom has agreed to place the child, then the adoption can likely be handled by an adoption attorney (depending on the laws in your state) and the cost would probably be less than an agency adoption. However, no mother can relinquish her parental rights before birth (nor should she) and she has the right to change her mind about placement after the birth. If you are only considering placing your child because of financial reasons, have you looked into what services are available to help you afford to raise your child. I would seriously urge you to consider counseling before you make this decision. Adoption is for life; your financial straights will likely not be.

  22. Avatar Danielle Salazar says:

    How is it right to pay to adopt a child? Why should two people who really want a child have to pay thousands on thousands of dollars first hand? Think about it this way the child is going to have money spent their whole life on them , that is if a couple adopts them , but why should the couple spend all that money firsthand for the child when they could use that money throughout the child’s life. Like you said the average amount two people spend is $5000 to $40000 or $10000 to $30000. All that money, Why? the understanding of paying for the birth-parents medical and etc bills is understandable but ask yourself this, the children who are in foster care , children who aren’t babies over the age of 5 , are they needed to have money spent on them firsthand? The expense is so large because you’re only selling babies. Babies, a child needs a home no matter where it is as long as its a stable safe home. The child does not car the expense spent on them but just one thing. Having a family and a home. I can relate because I ,myself was adopted at 5 and all I cared about was being able to come to what I call home and caring and loving for the people who now I call my parents.

    • Avatar Caren Camerna says:

      Yep. Its the middle man who wants to hike up the prices and get their share. Who’s paying for these children in foster care? They should be paying the parents to adopt this child and take care of them for the rest of their lives. Instead they are greedy and want 30k. Makes me sick.

    • Avatar chelby core says:

      30k to 40k who can actually afford that? I want to adopt a kid just to help them get out of a bad situation and into a good home but now I cannot I was expecting maybe 5k to 10k but this is bs.this is why kids never get adopted. they really make it that damn hard to adopt a child! unless you are rich your not gunna be able to adopt a child. 50 to 80% of those kids will never know what it feels like to have a family and will just go from fostercare to fostercare till their dead, turn 18 or get adopted. They pay the fostercare for taking care of kids who 50% of them abuse them. why not lower the costs or give a family who really wants to adopt a chance. NO ONE CAN AFFORD 30K TO 40K!! GREED GREED GREED,THATS ALL THIS WORLD IS MADE OF NOW! also why pay the mother for the child being born if the mother just gave up the child to adoption? what if shes a drug addict? you just fed her addiction worth 5k+. A mother who abandons her child for any reason(other then for being abusive,drug addict,to younge or not being able to afford the child.) should never get any money from doing so. I feel bad for all those kids not getting a chance at having a real family because of all this greed. ID say they should be ashamed of themselves but I know their not because of the money they get. just sad! those pore kids all thinking no body wants them but fact is no one can afford them not even two doctors working full time.

  23. Avatar Danielle says:

    This is really helpful. I mostly wonder about adopting Syrian Refugees who are orphans. Assuming the same goes as most are on foster care — 2k and $12k in tax refunds?

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  25. Avatar Savannah says:

    Where do all of these adoption costs and fees go? Is there any reason some of that money cant go back into the Foster care system to help pay for the living expenses of a foster child?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Savannah, each type of adoption is separate. Living expenses of foster children is covered by state and federal dollars.

  26. Avatar Kjackson says:

    Is there a way I can get my daughter back I gave her up for adoption in December of 2016

  27. Avatar Tiffany Eastham says:

    Much dose it’s cost now in 2016.we been looking for 3 years now butt nothing

  28. Avatar Thomas Bush says:

    As an adoptive parent of two beautiful babies who grew up to be great human beings, I can attest and testify to the Great joy adoption has brought to us.
    Yes- there are pitfalls but if there is honesty and transparency these are overcome without too much difficulty.

    We now have the pleasure of sharing in the nurturing of eight precious grand children. We are so grateful.

  29. Avatar jennifer says:

    How much does it coast to adopt a 23 year old? Can you?

  30. Avatar Angel Hensey says:

    I was forced to give my child up for adoption but have no proof. Can I still get my baby back it’s only been two years ago?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Angel, you will need to contact an adoption attorney in your state to ask her/him this question. Keep in mind that an adoption attorney is not the same as a family law attorney. Creating a Family has resources for helping you find a lawyer that specializes in adoption:

  31. Avatar LR says:

    Greg is right, nothing in life is free. But it would be nice if there were more tax breaks for such high expenses… when in the end all people/couples are trying to do is love a child and raise it as its own. Birth mother’s should definitely get support in this process as it is super painful… the kind of pain that lasts for life. I wish there were more programs/education to young women/men (so important for boys/men to get education young) so that children are not coming into the world unwanted/unexpected. And so that perhaps the young moms have alternatives to keep/raise their babies, rather than placing them up for adoption. When it does happen, there should also be support for the adopting individuals. Maybe there can be an medical insurance offered at reasonable cost to cover some of the medical expenses of the birth mother/baby.. It a life… not a commercial product.

  32. Avatar D Giaco says:

    I think in general, its a damn shame that adoptions cost so much money. For the average person, the average good person, who is struggling with finances but who can provide a loving nurturing home, it has to be that kind of road block. Here you are, taking this little precious life and making he/she your own and money gets in the way. They have pro-bono attorney’s for murderers and rapists but not for adoptions. Gee, I have a cure for cancer but i’ts going to cost you $500,000. I guess only the wealthy can be cured. Just like only the wealthy can adopt. What is wrong with this country?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      D Giaco, you are right that the cost of adoption can prevent some people from adopting. Keep in mind, however, that adoption from foster care is virtually free.

    • Avatar D Giaco says:

      I’m not sure what the percentage is of folks adopting from foster care as opposed to anything else. I guess I was just ranting bc I was angry. I have a dear friend who just got custody, with her partner, of a 1 year old and they basically saved this boy from her unfit birth mother. This kid will now grow up in a loving, caring home but they can’t afford to adopt bc they don’t make a whole lot of money – that is unfair. But I guess its like everything else in this country…high prescription charges, when people really need life saving medication. High hospital care, when people need life saving treatment. God forbid if there’s ever a cure for cancer or any other disease. Only the rich will survive. Although I do believe in my heart that there is but the pharmaceutical companies would be out of business and the rich can’t get richer. Profit and greed surpasses all things right. There…I’m done ranting again…

    • Avatar Erin Dropla says:

      I agree. It’s sad really. I can’t have children. And that is the one thing I regret not being able to give my husband. I have one child he had two of his own . We get one on the weekends and the other when she let’s us..
      But we will never have one of our own. Even if we could adopt it would be ours together.
      But we will never have 30,000 just to hand over. Wish we did though

      • Avatar Destiny says:

        I understand you so much. I myself have PCOS. I have always wanted more kids love kids. I have so much love to give I would love to give it to a child who needs it. I do not have money to adopt a child. Even if I had I am at single mother they would overlook me in a heartbeat . Really sad really I work hard for my money I own my own house I provide all I want is to give love to a child that doesn’t have it and be a mother. Do you have a child with me at so many kids need to be adopted and it’s really sad I can’t see that there’s actually people out there willing to give their heart and soul to a child instead they go through the system never adopted . I have it all wrong abortions are free but adoption cost so much money The rules cost child form having a loving home. makes no sense.

  33. Avatar Hossam salem says:

    Very informative. i really needed that !

  34. Avatar Justine Craig says:

    What if you are adopting from a family member? My little sister is pregnant again and I offered to adopt this baby instead of her going through with an abortion. She has two kids now and can’t handle another financially.

    • Justine, you will need to contact an attorney that specializes in adoption to handle the legal aspects. I would also strongly recommend paying for your sister to see a therapist that understands the issues facing a women considering placing her child for adoption. This counseling is crucial to make sure she is truly ready for this decision. That helps her, of course, but it is also in the best interest of the child and you, as well. This type of adoption, where you already have identified the expectant mother, is usually less expensive–sometimes considerably less expensive.

  35. Avatar marcella dunham says:

    I would like to do froster care and i love kids

    • Marcella. Call your local child welfare agency in your county and ask when their next foster care parent education class begins. It is usually free or very low cost. Takes about 30-35 hours.

  36. Avatar Anonymous says:

    My daughter is giving away her son. And its killing her. I haven’t heard any. Of you me tion the mom carrying the baby. And helping her out is necessary too

    • Anonymous, I am so sorry for your pain. In my experience there are usually many factors involved with why a woman or couple decide to place their baby for adoption. Finances is usually (but not always) one of the factors. If you feel that money is the only factor or the main factor motivating your daughter please get her information on the social services that are available to help parents. She may qualify for several. Or perhaps you could volunteer to raise the child–either for the long term or even just for several years while she sorts out her life and finances.

      Adoption is a lifetime decision and no one should want a mother to make it without all the facts. Again, I am truly sorry for the agony this is causing you.

  37. Avatar Jill says:

    It is all over the map. And in international don’t forget that each agency has different costs too so one family may be several hundred cheaper but another agency will be more. Also in international if you have to stay out of city center because the orphanage is out of the center you have translator transportation costs, lodging, etc.

  38. Avatar Louise says:

    If anyone has questions about the China adoption process and estimated costs, would be glad to share our experiences. Three of our children are adopted from China and I now advocate, thru our family adoption blog, for those still waiting for a family to call their own.

  39. Avatar Robyn says:

    You forgot to put facilitators in the domestic infant adoption camp. When you use a facilitator, you have to add a lawyer, an agency, or both. I actually posted the break down of how much our children’s adoptions cost:

    Also, the ATC isn’t enough. Adoption should be tax deductible, just like medical expenses (for pregnancy and infertility) are.

    • Robyn, adoptions that used a facilitator were figured into the average, but you raise a good point that in addition to looking at the average, you have to look at what factors make an adoption vary significantly from the average. Facilitator costs are one factor, and other major factors are advertising costs for finding an expectant woman who might be considering adoption, living expenses for the expectant mother during and immediately after her pregnancy, and especially medical costs for the expectant woman and birth costs. Each state and each adoption agency and adoption lawyer differs on if these costs are allowed and how to handle them.

  40. Avatar Jocelyne says:

    Some states, such as Washington, are moving towards agency facilitated foster care adoptions. We had to pay $10,000 in agency fees plus fingerprints, and covered $1600 in dental bills not covered by the state because they could not decide if they wanted to cover the costs or not. The fees had to be paid in a six month period. The adoption stipend we get is $200/month. When you take in a foster child, there is no longer a clothing allowance, just the monthly foster stipend that begins to show up 2 months after the child is placed in your home. Granted the foster stipend is $575 it goes to clothes, food, school supplies and school fees. We adopted a teen during a year long growth spurt (over 4 inches in 12 months) so we visited Goodwill every 3 months.

  41. Avatar Jocelyne says:

    Dawn Davenport, we will find out with our 2013 taxes if we get any back. The fees were paid in 2012. We are having issues with his SS# that have to be straightened out before tax season. The SS# given to us by the state belongs to another person, so we need to apply for a new number; we just got the revised birth certificate since the finalization in August.

  42. Avatar marilynn says:

    should cost nothing

    • But Marilynn, if adoptions cost nothing who would provide the pre and post adoption education and support that we know are so important to adoptive families? Who would pay for the counseling to expectant women who need to think through all their options? Who would pay for the legal work to make sure that the adoption follows all the laws? Are you suggesting that all adoptions should be through foster care?

  43. Avatar Greg says:

    Even if adoptions went through Foster Care there are costs involved that are picked up by the tax payers. And we see that Foster Care has lots of funding issues to begin with. Nothing in life is free.

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