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Comparing the Costs of Domestic, International and Foster Care Adoption

Which Type of Adoption is Best for Your Family?

The amount of money you have budgeted for adoption could determine which method of adopting you choose to pursue: private/domestic adoption, international adoption or foster care adoption. Each has their own unique adoption costs and benefits for adoptive families.

Understanding the costs of each type of adoption and the services your money goes toward is essential to choosing the best method of adoption for your family.

Private/Domestic Adoption

Private adoption refers to the adoption of infants who are voluntarily placed for adoption by their birth parents. There are two main types of private adoption for families to pursue: an agency adoption and independent adoption.

Agency Adoption – An adoption agency completes the entire adoption process from beginning to end, including helping the family find the right adoption opportunity with a pregnant mother through advertising and networking.

Independent Adoption – The adoptive family independently finds a pregnant mother through advertising or networking and uses the services of an adoption agency and/or attorney to legally complete the adoption. 

Adoptive Families Magazine surveyed 1,100 families who adopted a child in 2012-2013 and reported:

  • Average Total Cost: Adoption Agency - $39,966; Independent Adoption - $34,093

  • Agency Fees/Program Application: Adoption Agency - $16,962; Independent Adoption - $3,357

  • Legal Fees: Adoption Agency - $4,141; Independent Adoption - $12,693

  • Birth Mother Expenses: Adoption Agency - $3,233; Independent Adoption - $5,590

  • Advertising/Networking: Adoption Agency - $2,340; Independent Adoption - $3,978

Agency adoptions’ costs may be higher because of the amount of support and counseling offered to both adoptive families and birth parents.

International Adoption

International adoption, or intercountry adoption, refers to the adoption of a child from another country. While international adoption has similarities to private adoption, it also has its own unique steps and costs, including travel expenses, dossier authentication, and more.

In 2013, the number of international adoptions to the United States reached its lowest number, 7,092, since 1992. This follows a consistent decline of 8,668 in 2012, 9,319 in 2011, and 11,058 in 2010.

One reason for the decline is foreign government policy, such as Russia’s ban on U.S. adoptions, which went from thousands in previous years to just 250 in 2013. Another reason is perhaps the increased costs of adopting from certain countries.

According to Adoptive Families Magazine:

Average Total Cost of International Adoption by Country 2010-2011/2012-2013

  • China: $31,801/$36,338

  • Ethiopia: $34,125/$45,960

  • South Korea: $46,688/$43,795

  • Ukraine: $42,035/$40,067

Average Individual Costs of International Adoption

  • Agency Fees/Program Application: $14,181

  • Dossier Preparation and Clearance: $1,818

  • In-Country Adoption Expenses: $6,412

  • Major Travel Expenses: $8,210

  • In-Country Travel Expenses: $2,234

  • Child’s Passport, Visa, Medical Exam: $816

*Each cost an average of China, Ethiopia, South Korea and Ukraine from 2012-2013

Foster Care Adoption

The least expensive method of growing your family through adoption is always going to be through your state’s foster care system.

Of course, foster care adoption isn’t for everyone and presents it’s share of challenges to adoptive families. However, every year thousands of families reach out to these special children in need of permanent homes. Adoptive Families Magazine found the following about foster care adoption:

Average Costs of Foster Care Adoption

  • Total Cost of Foster Care Adoption: $2,744

  • Home Study Fee: $231

  • Attorney Fees: $1,573

  • Travel Expenses: $342

  • All Other Expenses: $598


These figures are just a snapshot of the average costs of each type of adoption. It is important to continue your own research into each type of adoption, as well as into several adoption professionals within each type of adoption.

Please read the following to learn more about American Adoptions costs and benefits, or contact us today at 1-800-ADOPTION or click the following to receive free adoption information.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

Adoption Home Study

Adoption Home Study Process

Learn what a home study is and why you need one to adopt a child.

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Home Study Questions and Answers

While adoption home studies vary slightly from agency to agency and state to state, there are several key elements that are almost always included in every home study.

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Home Studies: State by State

Find a qualified professional in your state to complete your home study.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need to retain our own attorney?

No, American Adoptions has established relationships with some of the best adoption attorneys in the nation. Because adoption laws vary from state to state and between counties, it is important to utilize the services of an adoption attorney who specializes in the state where the adoption will finalize, which is unknown until you match with an expectant mother. You have the right to retain your own attorney, but doing so may be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Can we choose the gender of our baby?

American Adoptions does not allow gender specificity in adoption. Any family who wishes to be gender-specific in their adoption should contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION and ask about the possibility of an exception waiver before taking any other steps toward adoption with our agency. Any families who do receive an exception to be gender-specific may also incur an additional fee, which helps cover the additional advertising costs of such a request.

Please note that gender specificity will likely increase your wait time significantly.

Additional Resources

Adoption Newsletter

Did you know that American Adoptions offers a free bi-weekly e-newsletter? Sign up today to keep up-to-date on the latest in adoption news and information.

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Famous Adoptions

Learn which famous Hollywood actors, sports stars, politicians and other icons have been touched by adoption.

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Adoption Glossary

Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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