How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

One local family offers details for those curious about the cost of adopting a child or wondering where to look for adoption assistance.

Welcoming a baby into a family is expensive. Diapers, clothes, food and other baby essentials are costly and are just a small part of having a child. For some people, the cost of bringing home a little one is even greater. Those hoping to adopt a child face costs that can seem insurmountable. From home studies and background checks to travel and legal fees, parents will pay thousands of dollars before even being matched with a child.

For Harrison Township resident Diana Ashley and her husband Jeremy, the international adoption of their two children ran more than $10,000 each. Those are considered inexpensive in the world of adoption as the Ashleys chose to adopt children with special medical needs.

For a young couple living on teachers’ salaries, Ashley says it seemed like an impossible task, but there are ways to make it feasible for anyone who desires to adopt a child.

Avoiding adoption sticker shock

As they began navigating the adoption process, Ashley says she quickly learned that each step involved money. There was a cost of a home study, a fee for physicals, required payments for background checks and a deposit once they were matched with a child. For the Ashleys, there was also the additional expense of passports, travel visas and the overall cost of traveling to Thailand and India, where they were united with their children.

“There are grants out there. While they don’t cover the entire amount, they can range up to several hundred dollars, which helps offset the cost of at least one of the steps in the process,” Ashley says.

In addition, Ashley says most of the adoption process is subject to a tax credit and most families are able to take advantage of the refunds available to them for the adoption.

Where to look for assistance

Kathleen Nelson, executive director of Hands Across the Water adoption and social services agency in Ann Arbor, says her organization has options for anyone who wants to adopt a child. The coordinators at her organization can offer personalized information. For those looking to get a taste of what’s out there, she says her organization’s website provides links to many resources than can help ease the financial burden.

Nelson says international adoptions can run the parents more than just the legal fees and adoption costs, but also travel to stay in the country for the time required to bring the child home. Even domestic adoptions cost significant amounts, but when working with an agency like Hands Across the Water, there are options.

“Through our organization, fees are paid in increments,” Nelson says. “Parents don’t have to walk in with $20,000 to adopt a baby. They pay over time and throughout the process. Also, we see a lot of families who do personal fundraisers to help cover the cost.”

Cost and competition

Adopting an infant is not only costly, but also competitive. Many couples have more money to put toward adoption profiles, getting their profile circulated and attracting a potential birth mother.

To help level the playing field, Hands Across the Water charges one price for everyone, which includes similar profiles and the same resources for matching birth mothers with profiles of waiting parents.

“We will help anyone, regardless of how much money they have,” says Nelson. “We want all parents to have an equal opportunity to adopt a baby.”

Even if a family is selected to adopt a baby or a child, there are still fees. Children cannot be privately adopted. All adoptions must be handled through an agency or lawyer to ensure all of the steps are completed and the legal documents are filed correctly.

Fostering to adopt

“Not all adoptions cost money,” Nelson says. “Families can adopt through the foster care system at very minimal or no cost.”

Nelson recommends that families get licensed for foster care for the type of child they are looking to adopt. Once they are approved, they can look for children in the Waiting Child program. These are kids whose parents have already had their rights terminated and they are ready to be adopted.”

Ashley says that having a baby isn’t cheap, and adoption is no different.

“Families come together in different ways. Ours just required extra steps and international travel. It’s a price well worth paying,” Ashley says.


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