Why does adoption cost so much?

I often hear people ask, “Why does adoption cost so much?” Well for starters let me break down the costs involved with domestic adoption since that is the road that we choose. While I don’t appreciate the high cost of adoption I do kind of understand how it all adds up.

For starters anyone adopting in the United States needs a home study. For those of you not familiar with adoption a home study is a paper chase involving a family’s vital records, finances, marriage, and nitty gritty followed by a visit or visits with a social worker who will interview you about your life and house and then write a report approving you to adopt. So, rightfully so someone should pay the social worker and the agency overseeing the home study for this service. In domestic adoption the next step is creating your family’s profile. In our case, our agency requires a paper profile as well as an on-line profile which includes a professionally created video. You heard the words professionally created, right? Well, that translates to paying this professional company to make you a masterpiece. The hope is that your family will come alive on the video and birth families will be able to relate and visualize how a child would be raised in that family.

A very big part of domestic adoption is advertising. The agencies that get the most birth moms pay the most in advertising. That cost is then passed on to the families adopting through that agency. Wait times for a match are affected by the amount of birth mothers an agency is working with at any given time. That is a topic for another day. Then there are agency fees. And being an adoption professional I understand why there need to be agency fees to cover running the agency, the building, the copier, the mailings, and of course and paying someone like me. Let me also point out that most adoption agencies are non-profit or not-for-profit and so there should be a certain amount of checks and balances already in place because of this status.

The next category of adoption expenses involve fees associated with the birth mother. I am a big cheerleader for taking good care of the birth mom; after all, she is giving a family something they cannot otherwise have. There are state laws that mandate what is allowed and what is not allowed when it comes to birth mom expenses. Some states don’t allow any expenses and others allow everything from her portion of the rent, utilities, food, transportation to medical appointments and/or maternity clothes. I don’t want to get on my soap box here, but I have heard too many people have negative things to say about these expenses. Let’s just say that placing a child for adoption is no easy thing and if all that precious woman is getting in return for this selfless act is living expenses paid for a few months then I hardly can say that shouldn’t happen! In most cases this is a very small portion of the overall cost of adoption and is usually in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. Sometimes an adoptive family needs to pay for medical expenses for pre-natal care, labor and delivery. If the birth mom didn’t have insurance the agency can help her get insurance, but some things still won’t be covered. For example, sometimes only one ultrasound is covered and if you want to make sure everything is going well (and have a chance to find out the gender) like you would if you were pregnant, then the adoptive family will need to pay for an extra ultrasound. After the baby is born sometimes you will need to pay for care in the hospital. In our case, we needed to pay for our son’s newborn hearing test.

Don’t forget travel costs. Adoptive families need to be ready to jump on a plane at an unforeseen time to fly to an unforeseen place for an unforeseen length of time – usually 2 to 3 weeks total. Because you typically can’t plan this too far in advance or wait for that sale on airfare, it can be very costly.

Lastly, but very importantly there are legal fees. Every successful adoption requires a good adoption attorney, even for families working with an agency (and in that case it is often provided through the agency). If you don’t have a reputable adoption attorney your adoption may not be as legally safe as it should be, and that is a recipe for potential heartache and disaster. The attorney will handle all aspects of termination of the birth parents rights, birth father searches and advertising, and finalization of the adoption.

Overall, the average domestic adoption costs between $30,000 and $45,000. No, you did not read that wrong. There are some instances where it could cost less, or could cost more. There are a lot of numbers out there but this is what I feel accurately reflects the real total costs from start to finish. For international adoption the fees structure may include orphanage donations, immigration costs both for the U.S. and the child’s country of origin, higher cost of travel and many other miscellaneous fees depending on what country you adopt from. Because so I am a mom by the gift of adoption and an adoption professional, I really have a desire to educate people about adoption. Please feel free to ask me any questions and I will do my best to give you an educated answer or guess.


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