Perhaps one of the most surprising things to someone just starting to look into adopting is how expensive the process can be: private adoptions sometimes end up costing upwards of $40,000. The usual ways of saving and raising money (reduce unnecessary expenses, get a second job, move to more affordable housing, etc.) can of course be used to help cover the expense of adopting, but here are a few tips unique to adopting that you should consider:
- Do your Homework – There are a lot of agencies and services out there and some are more affordable than others. Ask for a detailed breakdown of anticipated expenditures for the whole process before handing over any money. The whole process includes not only the agency/service fees, but also attorney fees and often any assistance given to the birth mother. Lots of places will throw in added expenses for things like producing professional photo books, which you can do yourself for much less.
- Be Honest – Be upfront with yourself and the professionals with whom you are working. Write out an adoption budget and do your best to stick to it. Make sure that your adoption coordinator understands how much in variable expenses (such as assistance to birth mothers) you can afford to cover. They will take that into consideration when suggesting services and matching you with birth mothers.
- Employee Benefits – Many employers will provide some form of assistance to employees who adopt, either by covering a portion of the fees or by offering paid leave. For example, active duty military personnel may be eligible for a $2,000 reimbursement. Even if your employer has no set policy, it may be willing to do something in your specific case. Talk with your company’s Human Resources department to see what options are available to you.
- Federal Adoption Tax Credit – Qualifying parents can receive up to $13,400 per child (tax year 2015) in credits for adoption-related expenses on their federal return. This is a non-refundable credit, so it only reduces your taxable income if you have any. Like all things tax-related, the rules for applying for this are a little complicated, so it’s worth consulting with a tax professional to see if you qualify.
- State Adoption Tax Incentives – Several states also offer tax credits or allow deductions for adoption-related expenses on your state income tax. The exact rules and potential benefits vary from state to state. For example, Utah allows many adoption costs to be included in an itemized deduction while Missouri offers a tax credit of up to $10,000 for those adopting a special needs child from that state. As with the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, it’s best to work with a tax professional in your state to see what you qualify for.
- Adoption Grants – There are dozens of organizations which award grants to families in the adoption process. While filling out several grant applications can be daunting, this extra money makes the difference for a lot of families. The amount given changes depending on the circumstances of the applicant and the foundation awarding them, but usually ranges between $1,000 to $15,000.
- Adoption Loans – There are also several groups which offer loans which charge little to no interest to couples hoping to adopt. It’s also worthwhile going to your personal bank and explaining your situation; many bankers will bend over backwards to arrange affordable loans to help out a good cause.
- Churches & Community Groups – Lots of local churches and civic groups have special funds for people in their community who need help adopting. Even if they don’t have a set budget for it, they may offer to hold a collection or fundraiser to assist with your cause.
- Foster Care – Adopting a child out of foster care can be much less expensive than the private adoption of a newborn. These adoptions usually cost less than $2,500 and in some cases are entirely free. There are also some states which offer extra tax incentives specifically for foster care adoptions.
- Federal Adoption Assistance – Children adopted out of foster care may qualify for government subsidy payments, also known as “adoption assistance.” These may take the form of one-time or ongoing payments. The criteria for eligibility for this assistance is a little complicated and changes from year to year. You can find more information about these qualifications in this factsheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/specialneeds.pdf
- State Adoption Assistance – Most states also provide special assistance to families of children adopted from foster care. This assistance often comes in the form of direct monetary payments and the coverage of medical expenses. As with state tax incentives, these programs vary widely depending on where you live. A helpful chart of these what is offered and what the qualifications are for each state is produced by the North American Council on Adoptable Children: http://www.nacac.org/adoptionsubsidy/summary.html
One thing to note is that some upfront costs are worth it. For example, while it is possible for you to navigate the adoption process without an agency or service, it’s best to think twice before doing so. There are sadly some people who will take advantage of couples looking to adopt. Going through an experienced, reputable service gives you an added level of security from scammers, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.