Money·5 min read

Considering Adoption? Here’s How Much It Actually Costs

Two women playing with a child
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Sep 16, 2022

Adding a bundle of joy to the family can be pricey. Example: Childbirth alone costs families around $18,000. And depending on the path you take, adoption can be even more expensive. That’s why it’s so important to build a baby budget as soon as possible. If you’re hoping to adopt, we did the math to figure out just how much you’ll need to make it happen.

How much does it cost to adopt a child in the US?

The average cost of adoption falls between $20,000 and $50,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. But costs can vary depending on the type of adoption you choose.

What are the different types of adoption?

There are several different routes you can take to adopt a child. But first, you’ll need to decide if you want to adopt a child in the US (aka domestic adoption) or abroad (aka intercountry adoption). From there, you’ll determine if you plan to use a private agency, public agency, or go through an independent adoption. While using a public agency is the more common route for intercountry adoption, private and independent adoption are both possible if you plan on adopting internationally. Hint: There can be a major price difference depending on your choice. Here’s a breakdown of what’s usually included in adoption fees. 

Design: theSkimm

Costs of adoption through a public agency

Aka the foster care system. This is the most budget-friendly option, with an average max cost of $3,000 per child. Costs are lower because adoptive parents of foster children usually receive a government subsidy and have Medicaid coverage. You’ll still have to cover the costs of must-haves upfront. Like a home study, which is when a social worker reviews your criminal and financial records, and interviews you/tours your home. But you can get reimbursed. 

FYI: Foster children are usually older, so working with a public agency might not be the best route for you if you’re looking to adopt a newborn or toddler. If you’re interested in public agency adoption, start with a resource like Adopt Us Kids

Costs of adoption through a private agency

Every agency is different, but private adoption costs usually range from $30,000 to $60,000 per child. That typically includes a home study, legal fees, counseling, parenting classes (hint: classes that teach new parents how to integrate their new addition into the family), medical expenses, and social work services. But you should always check with the agency to get the details of what the fee covers. If the price doesn’t include everything you’re looking for, you can always research other options through The National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search.

Costs of independent adoption

Think: Getting help from an individual adoption attorney instead of an agency after you’ve found a birth mother interested in the adoption process. Meaning, it’ll require you to do some of the leg work.Average costs for independent adoption usually fall between $25,000 and $45,000, which usually includes costs like the birth mother’s medical expenses, the home study, and legal fees.

How much does it cost to adopt a child through intercountry adoption?

Prices vary. But typically you should budget between $20,000 and $50,000 for this adoption route. That usually includes court costs, medical treatment for children, parenting classes, counseling for children, and translation fees.  

Any strategies for cutting down adoption costs?

You might be able to shave down the cost of adoption with a little research. Because you might be able to…

Get help from your employer

There’s a chance your employee benefits package includes adoption cost assistance. If you aren’t sure, have a conversation with HR

Take advantage of tax credits

You might be able to cash in on tax credits of up to $14,440 per child to help cover adoption costs if you meet IRS income requirements. And those credits could be used to cover legal fees, adoption fees, and even the meals you have to buy if you’re traveling for adoption reasons.

Apply for grants

Some organizations offer financial assistance, while others help families find grants that cover adoption expenses. Like the National Adoption Foundation, which can help you pay for every stage of the adoption process. Or the Gift of Adoption Fund, which offers adoption assistance grants for families adopting vulnerable children who may have experienced neglect or abuse in the past. 

Adjust your budget

Now that you have an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside to cover adoption costs, you can build it into your budget as a savings goal. Here’s how to make more room in your budget if you’re feeling stuck. The key: the right savings account can help you get to your goal easier…with less anxiety.


Adoption can be a great way to grow your family. But it’s something you’ll need to account for in your budget. The good news: There are a number of ways to adopt without emptying your bank account. You got this.

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