Adoption is expensive. While it’s true that families can quickly be put under financial strain in an international or private domestic adoption, you’re probably wondering if the same is true when it comes to the cost of an adoption through foster care.
The answer: No. The average cost to adopt a child from foster care is much cheaper than other adoption options and can be an incredibly affordable way for people to add to their family.
Before we talk about the costs to adopt a foster child, though, you need to understand a few things first. Foster care adoption refers to the adoption of children who are considered wards of the state. These children have often been orphaned or removed from their homes for their own safety.
There are two different ways for prospective adoptive families to adopt a child through foster care:
- Adoption: Children whose parents have had their parental rights fully terminated can be immediately adopted by an adoptive family.
- Foster to Adopt: Children whose parents have not had their parental rights terminated are in need of temporary – possibly permanent – families. Temporary homes with foster parents are needed while parents’ court cases are decided. If the court then decides to fully terminate the parents’ rights, the children will need permanent homes.
The path you decide to take will not only play a role in your foster care adoption costs but also in how long your adoption journey will take. That’s why we encourage every hopeful adoptive parent to speak with a professional for the most accurate average cost of foster care adoption in their state.
In the meantime, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the cost of adoption through foster care.
1. How much does it cost to adopt a foster child?
For families stressed out by private and international adoption estimates and now wondering, “How much does foster care adoption cost?” there’s good news.
Foster care is one of the most— if not the most —affordable types of adoption. This type of adoption is usually funded by the state, meaning that there are few, if any, fees. Most states even offer reimbursements and subsidies for foster parents depending on the needs of their foster child.
So, is adopting from foster care free? Generally, yes.
Expenses required for foster care adoptions are very minimal. Even though you may be required to pay for certain costs up-front during your foster care adoption journey, those costs will be offset by assistance and subsidies you will receive.
However, just because foster care is the “cheapest” option doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. No matter how you choose to become a parent, you’re in for a tough journey. You need to make sure that you’ve done plenty of research to evaluate whether this is really the right path for your family.
2. What costs are required for a foster care adoption?
Even knowing that adopting from foster care is free, you probably still have questions about the costs that you might incur.
There are a few costs that prospective parents should budget for. In general, the average cost to adopt a child from foster care includes:
- Matching and Advertising Fees (often free through listing services)
- Home Study Fees
- Agency Fees (if applicable)
The biggest cost of adoption through foster care with a public agency is the home study, which can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. If an adoption is completed through an agency, there may also be required agency fees that an adoptive family must pay (more on that below). Foster parents will also need to consider if they plan on hiring an attorney, in which case there may be some additional costs required upfront.
However, depending on state policies, adoptive families may be reimbursed for these and any other expenses they may incur. Again, please speak with a professional to learn more about the services required for your adoption journey.
3. Why is adopting from foster care free?
Many children waiting to be adopted through foster care are referred to as “special needs”. This label often hurts waiting children, because many adoptive families assume the child will require special medical, educational or other remedial services, making it harder for them to find caring, forever homes.
To help alleviate this concern and to help offset any additional costs of care, anyone who adopts these children qualifies for adoption subsidies. This way, adoptive parents can better provide the quality of care these children need, despite the additional cost to adopt a foster child with those needs.
Each state has different factors or conditions that qualify a child as “special needs.” These can include:
- Being an older child
- Having a particular racial or ethnic background
- Being part of a sibling group needing to be placed together
- Having medical conditions
- Having physical, mental or emotional disabilities
The biggest thing these children need is a loving, supportive family to be a part of. Many need nothing more than the time and effort to help them adjust and make them comfortable in their new surroundings.
Families who adopt children with special needs may be eligible for ongoing monthly subsidies to help with necessary adoption from foster care expenses. Be sure to ask the child’s caseworker if these subsidies are available.
4. How do I figure out my cost of adopting a child in foster care?
Every adoptive parent’s journey through foster care will be different, as will their costs of adopting a foster child. The best way to find out your estimated foster care adoption is by speaking with a foster care professional.
Adoptive families wishing to adopt through the U.S. foster care system have two options:
- Public agencies: Typically state or county agencies, these organizations are responsible for placing children in adoptive homes after foster care. For more information, please reach out to your local Department of Child Services to learn more about the cost of foster-to-adopt through a public agency.
- Private agencies: A private agency is licensed by the state and works closely with state agencies to facilitate foster care adoptions. These agencies may be secular or religious, for profit or nonprofit. They may charge additional agency fees for adoptive families, increasing the average cost of a foster care adoption.
How much it costs to adopt from foster care varies depending on which agency you choose. Those who work directly with a public agency typically incur no expenses, while those who work with a private agency may incur some out-of-pocket foster care adoption costs.
It will be your responsibility to determine which professional is right for you. Questions to ask your adoption professional about “adopting-a-foster-child” costs can include:
- Which services are included in your fee structure?
- What services will we have to seek elsewhere?
- What happens if there is a disruption or delay in the adoption?
- Does our state offer reimbursement for adoption fees?
5. Does this mean that foster parents “get paid” for adoption?
Not necessarily. As we mentioned earlier, it’s possible for a foster parent to receive an adoption subsidy or reimbursement to supplement the average cost of adopting through foster care. However, this doesn’t mean that foster parents “get paid” for adopting a child.
In fact, one of the requirements to become a foster parent is proof that you are already financially stable. In some cases, the subsidies you receive might not be enough to cover all of a child’s needs. Becoming a parent, however you do it, is a financial commitment. You should be ready to provide the financial support your new child will need.
If you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons — not just because of the low cost to adopt a foster child.
Working with the foster care system, even when it comes to costs, can be confusing. If you have any other questions about the cost of domestic adoption through foster care, please reach out to a local foster care agency near you.