When we finalized our first adoption, it was an exciting day. Our agency representative, our lawyer, and our friends and family gathered inside a courtroom. We waited patiently for the judge to enter. Most of us were unfamiliar with courtroom protocol, so we spoke quietly and tried to keep the kids entertained.
The judge entered and we all stood. My heart skipped a few beats. My husband, daughter, baby son, and myself stood in front of the judge’s desk as he made a little small talk and looked through our hefty stack of papers.
The judge stopped at one sheet of paper. He studied it for a minute with a concerned look on his face.
Oh no, did we forget to sign something? Did we do something wrong? Is he going to deny our adoption request?
He turned to our agency representative and said “these fees are ridiculous, but I’ll approve it.”
Oh. He was visibly disgusted at how much we had to pay to become this child’s parents.
To be clear, we would pay it again and again for the chance to be this boy’s parents. But yes, the fees are high.
Why are private adoption fees so high?
If a birthmother wants to relinquish her rights, and the adoptive parents want to adopt….then WHY oh Lord is there SO much money exchanged!?
Here’s a breakdown of some of the fees we paid. Keep in mind that every agency is different. And our adoption was an in-state domestic adoption. If you’re adopting internationally, go ahead and add several thousand.
Application Fee – $250 An application fee of some sort is standard for each agency. The applications are long and it takes an educated person at the agency to comb through each application and make sure the couple is eligible to adopt.
Seminar Fee- $450 A seminar or training classes are, in my mind, absolutely essential to ensure the long term success of an adoptive couple. Our seminar was two VERY long, VERY informative days taught by adoption professionals. There were also panels of adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and birth parents to give us a 3d view of the process.
Home Study Fee- $1000 Every adoption requires a homestudy. Only qualified professionals (typically social workers) are legally allowed to conduct a homestudy. This is the package of papers that shows a judge that you are fit and able to be adoptive parents according to the laws in your state. The package includes background checks, fingerprints, doctor physicals, copies of every ID, license, and certificate you own. It also includes interviews, home visits, and coordination with the attorneys and court. It’s a 3-6 month process and it’s a lot of work that you can’t do on your own. The law requires a homestudy, no getting around it.
Outreach Fee $1750 In order for the agency to stay in business and help women in crisis pregnancy situations, a certain degree of outreach (or marketing, if you will) is required. Our agency did a lot of work to speak about adoption in schools and businesses, put up billboards, put flyers in hospitals, and network in the community. This is a hefty price for marketing, in my opinion but a good agency will be well-known in your area and that takes a lot of effort. What does this mean for you? A well-known agency will have more traffic, meaning a potentially shorter adoption time frame for you.
Program Fee (Or Placement Fee) $12,000 Wow. This is the big one. Of course they wait to ask you for this check until you’re cradling a newborn in your arms and you have no concept of time, space, or money. Sometimes it’s split into payments- half when you are matched with a birthmother- and half when the child is placed with you. What does this fee include? It includes the entire coordination of birthparents/adoptive parent relationships. That could be (potentially) 7 or 8 months of visits, tracking down birthfather, clearing any tribal hoops, counseling for birth family, temporary foster care if needed, our agency had someone at the hospital with us most of the time, and this also includes 6 months of post-placement supervision and visits.
Attorney Fees to Terminate Rights $2,000-$2,500 An attorney will have to meet with the birthmother, travel with her to court, and represent her in front of the judge (in Oklahoma this is a requirement, but not in every state). Birthfather rights also have to be terminated, but this can be done outside of court.
Finalization Fee $1500-$2500 An attorney will have to review all of the paperwork, prepare it for the judge, and set a court date. After the judge signs, they will file all necessary paperwork, get you copies of your adoption decree and help you get a new social security number.
Pregnancy-related Living Expenses $Varies$ Some agencies ask the potential adoptive family to foot the bill for living expenses while the birthmother is pregnant. This can include groceries, rent, cell phone, clothes, bills, etc…. Most states have laws regulating exactly how much money is given to help the birthmother. Anything over $500 will usually be flagged. A judge will have to look at the list of things that the adoptive family paid for and decide whether or not it was excessive (as in…bribing/coercion/trafficking etc…)
Other Fees: Process servers, court costs, filing costs, and costs involved in crossing state lines for out-of-state adoptions. There are also profile book fees, time, and travel involved for adoptive families.
I’ve had many people ask why private adoptions are so expensive and I wanted to break it down and let people see exactly how many people it takes to complete an adoption. It’s the unfortunate side of private adoption but as you can see, there are reasons it is so high.
It shouldn’t be considered “buying a baby.” You’re really paying for the attorneys and professionals required to 1. prove you are a safe home for a child and 2. jump through all the legal hoops required to add someone to your family forever.
I saw a shirt online that said “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never paid adoption finalization fees.” Best check I ever wrote.
Stay tuned for my next post which will outline HOW IN THE WORLD AN AVERAGE FAMILY AFFORDS ADOPTION!