When families are wondering if adoption may be right for them, a question that comes up over and over is cost. Adoption can be quite expensive, whether you're adopting a newborn right here in the U.S., or a child from another country. Depending on the country and the agency you choose, it can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $30,000 by the time you've paid for paperwork and agency fees and airfare. And the average family does not have that amount of money tucked under the mattress.
Whenever anyone asks me about the cost of adoption, I tell them that an adoption costs about what a c-section costs. It's true, and it is a good reminder that it is not only adoptive parenting that can be expensive. Families adopting out of foster care in the USA will experience much lower costs than families wishing for a baby born in the America or a child born elsewhere. But any adoption will cost you some money.
One thing to realize about adoption expenses, however, is that they do not all come at once. The first thing most people begin with is the homestudy, which in most places costs between $1,000 and $2,000. In most cases, the homestudy takes two to four months to complete, giving you time to save or raise money for the agency fees and the expenses of other portions of paperwork. The agency fees are divided into chunks as well, and of course the adoption process itself takes time. It is possible in many cases to spread the expenses of an adoption out over a year's time.
There are also various assistance programs. First of all, there is a sizeable adoption tax credit that refunds up to $11,000 of the money you spent for the adoption. Essentially it forgives your tax liability each year for up to five years or until you have hit the maximum allowable amount. Not quite as good as being handed the money up front, but it is a very nice thing to have your taxes taken care of for a year or more after your child comes home. One thing to keep in mind, though: if you don't OWE taxes, you won't see this money. Because of our large family and moderate income, we owe very little on taxes each year, so have not been able to use our adoption benefits. But if you have a pretty good income, this could be of great help in recouping the cost of adoption.
Some large employers also offer adoption benefits. My husband's employer has given us a benefit of $2,000 per child, payable as soon as the child was placed in our home. It always seems to arrive about the time we get the credit card bill for the plane tickets we've charged -- a very nice perk indeed.