There are always costs involved in adopting a child, but because of SUBSIDIES (see ADOPTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM) and taxpayer underwriting for some adoptions, the term usually applies to the fees for adoptions that are paid by adoptive families.
The fee to the adopting parent varies greatly depending on the type of child adopted and on whether it is an agency or nonagency adoption, a public agency or private agency adoption, an international or U.S. adoption and on many other factors. There are usually no fees charged to birthparents: all fees are charged to adopting parents only, whether the adoption is through an agency or through an intermediary, such as an attorney.
Adoptive parents who adopt children through the state public social services adoption system usually incur little or no expenses.
In addition, many children with SPECIAL NEEDS are also eligible for continuing MEDICAID coverage after finalization of the adoption, and adoption subsidies may also be available to adoptive parents. The primary reason subsidies are offered is to help cover the cost of continuing medical care and counseling the child may need.
When adopting through private agencies, the fee to adopt may vary according to the age and race of the child, and fees for healthy CAUCASIAN infants are usually the highest. Because of the very strong demand for healthy white infants, agencies are able to charge their full cost in placing a child. Some agencies amortize the expenses of children with special needs by charging fees for healthy children in excess of costs incurred for those particular children.
The average collected fee for a private agency placement was about $15,000-$20,000 in 1999.
When a private agency receives charitable donations or subsidies from a church, the United Way or some other source, the average fee for a healthy white infant may be less. A few agencies rely only on donations for their support and charge no fees. However, it is critically important to remember that fees vary dramatically depending on agency auspices (sectarian agencies usually charge less), the area of the country, agency funding and a variety of factors. Prospective adoptive parents should fully understand an agency's fees prior to deciding to work with a particular agency.
Some agencies charge a SLIDING SCALE FEE. The fee is dependent on the income of the adopting parents, with a floor and a ceiling fee.
If the child is adopted from another state, there will usually be additional fees and costs associated with complying with the INTERSTATE COMPACT ON THE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN. This is an agreement between the states that governs interstate adoption and is administered by the public agency in each state.
If the adopting parents are adopting a child from another state, they will pay an agency in their own state to study them, and they will pay the agency or attorney in the other state to administer the paperwork involved with that state.
Some states allow payments for medical fees and reasonable living expenses while others do not. As a result an independent adoption may cost $3,000 to $4,000 or as much as $20,000 or more.
If the birthmother was on MEDICAID prior to her delivery, the adoption fee should be a great deal less, because Medicaid will cover her prenatal care and the delivery and hospital bill of the infant. The medical expenses related to an independent adoption are usually at least half of all the expenses, especially when the birthmother has a caesarean section (about 15% of all births are caesarean sections.)
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION expenses also vary, depending on the child's native country. The adoption fee may be about the same as for a domestic adoption, but frequently the adoptive parents are required to travel to that country and stay for a week or longer.
As a result, total costs of an international adoption usually are as much or more than for a U.S. adoption. An estimated average fee for international adoption is $15,000 to $20,000 including travel expenses; however, there are tremendous variations, and it is wise to look at each country as a special case.
In the adoption process, the first cost incurred by prospective adoptive parents is usually the agency application fee, which may start at $50 or more. Application fees in excess of $500 should be questioned.
When the agency accepts the adoptive parents for a home study, the home study fee is then due. Other fees may be payable to the agency during the course of the family study, with the remainder of the payment usually due when a child is placed in the home.
Some agencies will allow a family to make payments for the adoption on a regular basis or even finance the fee, rather than requiring that the entire fee be paid initially or by the time of placement. The willingness to make such an arrangement varies according to the agency and is probably more likely when the family is adopting a child with special needs.
Attorneys usually also require some initial payment and would probably expect at least $150 for a one-hour consultation fee. When an attorney matches prospective adoptive parents to a pregnant woman, the adopting parents generally give the attorney money for expenses, and that money is usually placed in a special restricted bank account.
If an adopting parent is unsure where his money is going, he should ask the attorney for an accounting: Most ethical attorneys will be willing to provide such information within a reasonable time.
Some agencies oversee adoptions that are independently arranged, wherein the adopting couple finds the pregnant woman or birthmother on their own and asks the agency to do the home study (also known as DESIGNATED ADOPTION.)
Other additional expenses incurred by adopting parents include physicals for themselves and sometimes for children already in the home, phone calls to out-of-state agencies, photographs (sometimes required by the agency) and postage.
Many prospective adoptive parents save the money needed for an adoption, and some parents work two jobs to earn the required amount. Others take a second mortgage on their homes or borrow money from relatives. The image of adoptive parents as all affluent people is inaccurate. It is true, however, that few parents adopting healthy infants are poor or on welfare. (See also ADOPTION EXPENSES, PAYING FOR; AGENCIES; ATTORNEYS; EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS; INFANT ADOPTION.)
Find more information on costs to adopt
©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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