We hear it all the time: How much does adoption cost? It’s one of the first factors families consider when discussing adoption and choosing an adoption professional, and rightfully so. A private domestic adoption can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000; that’s a big financial commitment. It can also be confusing to potential adoptive families. Why does adoption cost so much?
There’s a lot that goes into an adoption — physically, emotionally and legally. When you’re dealing with infant adoption, there are a lot of services you’re going to need that come with their own specific adoption fees. Those specific adoption costs may vary depending on which adoption professional you talk to, but be wary. Low cost estimates may actually be a red flag when dealing with an adoption agency; this could mean you’re speaking with a professional who isn’t being upfront about hidden or recurring fees.
Here’s a breakdown of the services that may be very important to you in adoption, and which you’ll want to make sure your professional includes in their total adoption cost estimate.
- Counseling and Education
Adoption is an extremely emotional process. Counseling is going to be key for pregnant women considering adoption in particular; this may be the hardest thing they ever have to do. There’s a lot to decide, and a lot to talk through. Some agencies offer 24/7 hotlines for potential birth moms, because pregnancy isn’t exactly a nine-to-five business. That round-the-clock support does, of course, add to the cost of adoption, but the more comfortable a potential birth mom feels with her decision, the less likely a family will experience an adoption disruption.
Education is also extremely important for hopeful adoptive parents. An agency should provide an adoption specialist to every adoptive family to work with them through every step of the process. This means that specialist will be dedicated to helping them become a family, from the paperwork stage to learning how to communicate effectively with birth parents after a match has occurred.
- Matching Process
The matching process is one of the most important services an agency can offer. It’s the way in which birth parents choose an adoptive family for their child. Ideally, an agency should help adoptive families create profiles to be shown to birth parents. Some agencies even offer video profiles, which give birth parents a better sense of who the adoptive family is and whether or not they’re the right one for their child.
There’s a lot that goes into these profiles. They have to be edited and designed, and the agency needs to have people who are working with the adoptive families to help them show themselves in their best light. If the professional you work with doesn’t include matching fees in their estimated cost of adoption, that final price tag can grow very quickly.
Common sense dictates that, for an adoption agency to be successful, they need to be working with both prospective birth mothers and adoptive families at all times. This is going to require some advertising to both demographics. When doing your research about potential adoption agencies, you may want to ask how extensively they do this and through what mediums. All of the other adoption fees will be pointless if there are no prospective birth parents for you to match with.
Before a family is eligible to adopt, they must have a completed home study. This is a process that involves a social worker going through your financial records, your background checks, your personal relationships and even visiting your home to ensure that you’re fully prepared to add a new member to the family. This step is frequently the lengthiest in the adoption process, so you’ll not only want an agency that includes this price in their estimated total cost to adopt, but one that can complete it relatively quickly.
Adoption is free for birth parents. The adoptive parents are responsible for paying for any pregnancy-related expenses the birth mother encounters, possibly including living expenses and absolutely including medical expenses. Before committing to work with any agency, you’ll want to know what’s going to happen in the event of an adoption disruption. If for some reason the birth mother decides to parent or the situation doesn’t work out, what’s going to happen to your money? Some agencies offer rollover protection, which transfers your money into another adoption situation, and others will give your money back for you to decide how to proceed. Either way, make sure you aren’t going to pay all of the adoption costs and then end up with no child.
- Post-adoption Support
Adoption is a lifelong process; it doesn’t end after placement. Make sure your agency isn’t going to stop communicating with you or the birth mother as soon as you stop paying adoption fees. Some agencies offer post-placement support for birth moms, which can be extremely valuable. While you may be on cloud nine with the newest member of your family, she’s grieving. Counseling after placement can help make sure you have a healthy adoptive relationship going forward.
The agency you choose to work with should be screening everyone they work with, birth parent and adoptive parent alike, to make sure that everyone is fully committed to adoption as well as capable of providing a safe environment for a child.
- Pregnancy-related Expenses
As stated earlier, adoptive parents are responsible for paying for the birth mom’s pregnancy-related expenses. Depending on the state she lives in, this could include things like rent, transportation, a cell phone, maternity clothing and more, in addition to any medical expenses not covered by her insurance. Make sure the adoption professional you work with factors this into the estimated cost of adoption.
- Legal Costs
No matter what type of adoption professional you choose to use, an attorney will have to be involved at some point. Adoption agencies generally provide clients with trusted adoption lawyers, and the legal adoption fees should be included in the total estimate.
- Contact Mediation
Adoptions today aren’t generally closed and secretive like they once were. We now know that some degree of openness is better for everyone in the adoption triad — birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees. You’ll want to have a conversation with any adoption agency you consider about how they provide this service, and for how long after placement they’ll help you. Talking with birth parents can be difficult; it’s emotional, and it’s hard to know what to say. Having an agency that will help you in this area without charging additional adoption fees later can be a big help.
When researching adoption professionals, ask for a detailed rundown of what exactly their estimated adoption cost includes. If any of the above services aren’t included, first ask why — and then ask how much they’ll charge you to add that in. Beware of anyone who is constantly undercutting competitors on prices. Adoption isn’t the time to cut corners; domestic adoption costs are high by necessity.