State Adoption Costs

When deciding between state and private adoption, many couples first investigate private and state adoption costs. At first glance, the cost of state adoptions can seem more appealing.

But while state adoption fees are minimal, there are two major expenses required by foster care parents and adoptive parents hoping to adopt through the state or foster care adoption: time and emotional investment. Those for whom time or emotional investments aren’t an issue may find adopting through the State to be very attractive.

The time it takes to adopt through state adoptions varies based on the state in which the adoptive family lives and the type of child the adoptive family wants to adopt, among others.

A child, often at toddler age or older, is placed in the state foster care system usually because of issues of abuse and neglect at home. The intent is that he or she will be reintegrated into the home of biological family once those family members correct the issues that caused the child’s removal. Biological parents may be given one or two years before the court moves from a reintegration plan to an adoption plan. Therefore, many foster children live with foster parents for months or years before they are reintegrated with their biological families.

Each state has different laws and timetables for reintegration, which can dramatically affect the amount of time a particular child spends in the state foster care system. Because each foster child’s family situation is different, it is difficult to predict how long a foster family will have to wait for their opportunity to adopt a child in foster care.

Adoptive families should also consider the age of the child they wish to adopt. Would they be happy with a child of any age? Do they prefer an adolescent? Are they only interested in adopting an infant? The answer to this question could single-handedly determine whether they choose a private or state adoption.

Because the foster care adoption process takes longer, families adopting through the state usually adopt children who are two years of age or older. Only 14 percent of the children adopted through the foster care system in 2008 were one year old or younger. Adoptive families hoping to adopt an infant or one-year-old may have a lengthy wait.1

Emotional Investment
It can be easy to overlook the emotional cost of state adoptions.

The foster care system was not developed for the sole purpose of finding new parents for children. Thus, it’s very common for foster parents to take in children for months or years before a child goes back to his or her biological family. Most foster parents understand their role for these children and enter the foster care system emotionally prepared for these scenarios.

It is important for a family pursuing foster care for adoption to understand the system and the inherent emotional investment they may make.

Eventually, foster parents receive an opportunity to adopt a child. However, the journey can be difficult for those who aren’t emotionally prepared to lose the children they bond with.

Looking Within
Couples who are willing to raise a child of any age, who are emotionally prepared to see their foster children reunited with their biological parents and who are in no hurry to become parents may find state adoption attractive. In fact, 89 percent of these adoptive families received an adoption subsidy from the state in 2008.1

On the other hand, couples who want a newborn baby and hope to become parents within a year should strongly consider private adoption.

For couples considering both state and private adoption, it’s essential to first determine adoption goals and research the pros and cons of each type of adoption. This will help determine the characteristics of an adoption plan that are most important, and the best route to take to realize their dreams. Either road will offer an adoptive family the opportunity to provide love and care for a child in need.


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1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families:

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