When considering adoption, a top concern for many prospective parents is: How much is adoption going to cost? The average cost of adoption varies considerably based on the type of adoption you choose to pursue. Adopting a child you have fostered through the child welfare system is generally the least inexpensive, while international adoptions and adoptions handled through adoption agencies tend to cost much more.
In this blog we’ll discuss costs associated with the four primary forms of adoption in the U.S. and what fees and expenses go into those costs. We’ll also answer some questions our Texas clients frequently ask about adoption, including:
- How long does it take to adopt a child?
- Is there an age range for adoption?
- What are the requirements to adopt in Texas?
What are the different forms of adoption and how much is adoption going to cost for each?
There are generally four roads to adoption that hopeful parents can consider in the U.S., which we describe below. To pin down a rough range of costs for each, we turned to the 2022 Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) publication, Planning for adoption: Knowing the costs and resources(prepared through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau).
1). Child welfare system adoption
How much is adoption going to cost? “Virtually” free*
In passing The Federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the federal government established a program to help promote adoptions from foster care, which included financial and medical assistance to help adoptive parents meet their adoptive children’s “emotional, physical and mental health needs.”
According to CWIG, parents may qualify for a one-time reimbursement (a maximum amount of $2,000 in 2022) to cover “reasonable and necessary adoption fees.” Children adopted from foster care may also qualify for Federal adoption benefits, most typically monthly government subsidy payments and Medicaid. (CWIG provides more insight on requirements to adopt and additional resources at the link above.)
* So, do you have to pay to adopt a child from foster care? While this form of adoption may be the least expensive option, parents should never assume they won’t be responsible for some fees and expenses when adopting a child. When coordinating the adoption with the Department of Family and Protective Services, be sure to inquire about what you may be required to pay out of pocket to complete a foster care adoption.
2). Adoption through an adoption agency
How much is adoption going to cost? Costs typically range between $30,000 and $60,000.
Many adoptions are handled with the assistance of a private adoption agency. The type and level of services provided varies depending on the agency, as do the fees. With these types of adoption arrangements, the agency acts as the liaison between the birth mother and the prospective birth parents.
Reputable agencies will also help coordinate necessary steps in the adoption process including home studies, background checks and counseling. They work in conjunction with the adoption attorneys representing the birth mother and prospective parents.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to have an adoption attorney review any paperwork and adoption agency contracts before you sign.
In Texas, prospective parents pay the agency fee and as explained in Texas Family Code Chapter 162 on adoption, are only allowed to pay medical, legal and counseling expenses directly to the birth mother. Any additional expenses would need to be paid through the adoption agency, which the prospective parents ultimately pay via the agency fee.
Adoption costs when using an agency may include:
- Agency fees
- Prospective parent’s legal fees
- Birth mother’s legal fees
- Birth mother’s medical and counseling expenses
- Fees for background checks, home study and post-placement social worker visits, among others.
- Travel costs if birth mother doesn’t live nearby
- Court fees and more
3). Independent adoption
How much is adoption going to cost? Costs typically range between $25,000 and $45,000.
We often see scenarios where a family member, like a grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling, step up to adopt a child when the birth parents are unable or unwilling to care for a child. Other individuals may take it upon themselves to search for a birth mother who is a stranger without an adoption agency’s help, or they may hope to adopt the child of a friend.
In these independent adoption scenarios, legal fees tend to be the biggest expense for the prospective parents. As with agency adoptions, the prospective parents may also need to cover the birth mother’s medical and counseling expenses if the child is an infant, as well as other expenses the parties agree to, like the birth mother’s living expenses (food, rent, clothing, etc.).
When it comes to legal fees, you can generally expect preliminary costs (the adoption lawyer’s retainer) for a consented adoption to start at $5,000-7,500. That amount typically covers preparation and review of preliminary documents and temporary orders for the adoption. Additional legal support will be billed by the hour, and a reputable adoption attorney should be able to give you’re a rough estimate of what to expect based on your case.
If the adoption is contested, meaning one or both parents refuse to willingly relinquish parental rights, then initial and total costs will likely run much higher. Terminating parental rights usually isn’t easy because it requires a finding through clear and convincing evidence that at least one ground for termination exists and that termination of the parent-child relationship is in the child’s best interest. It also tends to take more time (and legal fees, billed hourly) to accomplish a contested adoption.
Independent adoption costs may include:
- Prospective parent legal fees
- Birth parent legal fees
- Birth mother’s medical, counseling and living expenses
- Court fees and more
4). International adoption
How much is adoption going to cost? Costs typically range between $20,000 and $50,000.
International adoptions (also referred to as intercountry adoptions) are often handled with the assistance of an adoption agency that facilitates the adoption of children outside of the U.S., but not always. According to CWIG, international adoption costs vary depending on “the type of organization managing the adoption: government or private agency, orphanage, nonprofit, attorney, facilitator, or a combination of these.”
In addition, international adoptions can be more expensive than domestic adoptions because prospective parents must also take into account foreign travel costs and immigration processing fees. How the adoption will be handled and what fees and expenses prospective parents will need to cover also vary depending on the child’s birth country.
International adoption costs may include:
- Prospective parents’ legal fees (both U.S. and foreign attorneys)
- Foreign adoption agency fees
- Required medical care and examinations for the child
- Travel expenses
- Escort fees if parents can’t travel to pick up the child
- Translation fees
- Passport and visa processing fees
- Post-placement counseling
- Fees to local government or orphanage in child’s home country
- Court fees and more
Other questions our Texas clients frequently ask about adoption
While “How much does adoption cost?” is one of the most common questions our Dallas / Fort Worth adoption lawyers hear, a few other questions frequently come up at our Fort Worth family law firm. These include:
How long does it take to adopt a child?
People often wonder who long does the adoption or adoptation process take in Texas. We find even with most uncontested adoptions, the process still lasts several months. Generally, it can take six to eight months depending on the home study and how responsive the birth parents or other guardians are in signing a voluntary relinquishment.
It also depends on which court you end up in and what the court requirements are for adoption. For example, the court may want an amicus attorney to represent the child and a home study—which are generally always done. Home studies include checking into criminal backgrounds of family members, home environment, finances and other pertinent information to determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of a child.
Is there an age range for adoption in Texas?
Other parties want to pursue an adult adoption to affirm the party who raised them acted as their dad or mom because the bio parent wasn’t involved. We also see adoptions of disabled adults, where an adult adoption is sought to ensure the individual receives financial, medical and emotional support.
There is no official age range for adoption in Texas, but adoptions usually occur anywhere from birth up to age 18. Adult adoption is also an option in Texas. For example, we do see situations where an adult child who was raised by a stepparent or other third-party wants to pursue adult adoption for inheritance rights.
What are the requirements to adopt in Texas?
We cover this question in more detail on our adoption attorney page but in general, the requirements for prospective parent/s to adopt in Texas include they be:
- At least 21 years of age.
- Married to their partner if they plan to adopt a child as a couple. (Eligible single people, including LGBT adults, are allowed to adopt in Texas.)
- Physically and financially able to support a child.
- Able to pass a thorough criminal background check.
- Willing to undergo a home study by a social worker, where they are able to show the ability to provide an emotionally and financially stable home environment for the child.
- And more.
Our Dallas / Fort Worth adoption attorneys are here to help
If you have questions about adoption in Texas, like how much does it cost to adopt a baby or how much is it to adopt a child in Fort Worth / Dallas, schedule a confidential consultation with the Sisemore Law Firm. Our adoption attorneys can review your case and explain options and potential adoption costs.