As families begin their adoption journey, it is vital to learn all that can be learned about the process. Families spend many months talking to other adoptive parents, reading adoption blogs, researching different countries, and preparing for the arrival of their new child. For many families, the financial aspect of preparation is the most daunting. Adoption often comes at a significant cost. Prospective parents field questions from family and friends who wonder “Why is adoption so expensive?” And, perhaps, in the midst of balancing the checkbook, they too begin to wonder, “Where does the money go?”
Understanding the Costs of Adoption
In 2010, Adoptive Families magazine estimated that the average adoption from China cost families $28,623. Many families engage in active fundraising for their adoptions, and the U.S. government offers tax credits to adoptive parents to offset the cost. Nevertheless, the choice to adopt is a significant investment. For many families embarking on an adoption, numbers like these can be staggering and beg the question:
“Where does all of the money go?”
The costs for adoption can be broken down into four basic categories:
- agency fees
- immigration fees
- country fees, and
- travel expenses
While the specific costs vary according to country, these fees are consistent across all international adoptions and all agencies. Simply put, they constitute the financial investment all families must make on their adoption journey.
First, all families, whether interested in domestic or international adoptions, pay fees to the agency with whom they work. These fees cover the required home study for the family and post-placement costs paid in trust. For families pursuing international adoption, this fee also includes the administrative and legal costs associated with preparing a dossier to be processed by the country from which the family wishes to adopt. These tasks require skilled professionals who have a deep understanding of the adoption process, from social workers and attorneys to health professionals and translators. All of these participants are coordinated by the agency and paid by them.
In the case of international adoptions, families pay not only for local costs (preparing documents in the U.S.) but for immigration and country expenses as well. Immigration fees are a significant portion of the adoption cost as they are paid to the U.S. government both here and abroad for the parents and the child.
Country fees include administrative and legal work to prepare adoption documents. Some countries also require families to give a lump sum to the orphanage from which they are adopting as a goodwill donation, helping to subsidize the cost of raising their child while in transition.
When all of the paperwork is complete, families see the final cost – travel expenses to meet their new child. Many countries require parents to remain in-country for a lengthy period (between 2 and 4 weeks, and in some cases longer). Adoption Travel expenses such as plane tickets, hotel stays and meals are included in this fee for families. A four week trip to Uganda isn’t a budget vacation!
To be sure, parents who embark on the adoption process make a huge investment. They offer their time, their emotions, and their finances to build the family for which they long. It is a significant act, one borne of selfless love and hope for the child who will become theirs. Adoption is a costly decision; but for children waiting for a forever family, it is a priceless one.