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What It Costs to Adopt a Child

Before your dreams of adopting a child turn into reality, you'll have to pay these basic expenses.

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It's stressful enough to wait and hope for a new child, so keep the practical problems to a minimum. Learn how the system works, and plan for the expenses -- which might be more, or less, than you think.

Charges add up quickly in the adoption process, so stay on top of them. Compare fees charged by different agencies or attorneys, clarify in writing what the fee will and won't cover, and pay as each step is completed -- don't pay all of the costs up front. Here are the main expenses you'll face:

Adoption fees usually include the cost of a home study, pre-adoptive counseling, identification of a child for your family, placement fees, and post-placement visits. For an independent adoption, the birth mother's living and delivery expenses may be included or separate. For an international adoption, the adoption fee may or may not include costs such as dossier preparation, visas, document translation, and so forth. Adoptions of "waiting children" through state or county agencies may incur only minimal costs and often are free of charge. However, the fees charged by private adoption agencies and intermediaries can run from $5,000 to $25,000, or even more.

A home-study fee can be separate from the adoption fee and might range from $300 to $3,000. However, some public agencies may reimburse or otherwise offset this expense for their clients.

Miscellaneous expenses are relatively minor but include: traveling to and from the agency or lawyer's office; completing and photocopying records and other paperwork; taking time off from work for interviews; obtaining shots, passports, etc., if international travel is necessary; and arranging for child care for any children you already have.

A registration fee might be charged for parenting or adoption information classes.

A home-study update might be required, at additional cost, after one or two years of waiting.

And, of course, don't forget: Raising a child costs the average middle-income family over $145,000 from birth through age 17, not including college.

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