Ask AFTH: Monthly Q & A

Baby ClockJennifer Asks: How long does adoption REALLY take, how much does it REALLY cost, and when are fees paid?

Thanks for your question Jessica! It might sound like we’re comparing apples to apples—wait time and fees vary both by agency and situation—but here’s what we can tell you.

To answer your first question about how long it takes, will depend, of course on whether you’re working with an attorney, foster care, or a private agency; whether you’re adopting internationally or domestically; and more specifically how open your family is to various types of  child placement situations.  When using a private agency, birth parents will typically choose the family with whom they will place their baby unless they elect otherwise. Based on a series of previously submitted information, certain families who are open to a particular situation will be shown to the woman placing her baby.  The criteria each woman uses to use choose a family can be as vague as regional location, religion, or type of lifestyle. Her criteria can be as specific as a family who loves a particular as a family-favorite sports team, vacation spot, or profession. For example, one woman who worked with us grew up with police officers in the family (her dad, brother, and grandfather were all officers),  her only request was that her child be placed with police officers in the immediate family. There’s no way of knowing what each woman’s heart will tell her as she faces such a life-changing decision. That being said, with paperwork completed, wait-time can vary from a few weeks, months, and on occasion a few years (this is more typically of international adoptions.)

Fees can range from $0- $30,000 plus. Yes, that’s a HUGE gap. Here’s why. The process through which an adoptive family uses to adopt determines what the adoption will cost—but what they pay is contingent upon the services, guidance, counseling, legalities, and assistance both you AND birth parents receive.  Due to legal requirements and restrictions, fees may also vary state to state.  Fees will vary drastically yet again on whether you’re working with an attorney, foster care, or a private agency; whether you’re adopting internationally or domestically; and how open your family is to various types of  child placement situations such as special needs adoptions. Below are recent statistics for the average costs of adoptions in the U.S. last year. A reputable agency will guide you through the fees and legalities. Steer clear of any agency, facilitator, or attorney who is not forth coming about fees and expenses.  You should feel comfortable with an entire program before beginning the adoption process. Keep in mind the reasoning for differences in these numbers and not that these are before tax credits, employer benefits, or grants. At first glance they might overwhelm you, but thousands of regular people adopt every year. There are resources to help with costs.

Adoption Expenses Foster Private International
No Cost 56 % 22 % 2 %
$1 – $5,000 29 % 33 % 1 %
$5,000 – $10,000 6% 13 % 5 %
$10,000 + 9 % 33 % 93 %
Source: Adoption USA : National Survey of Adoptive Parents, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Research Date: 8.23.2012

The last part of this question as far as when fees will be paid, is one of the most important things to pay attention to when choosing the path for your adoption process. Some agencies, like AFTH, are “pay as you go”—others require a lump sum. “Pay as you go” means that an agency will only charge you when  a service is provided—for example, placement fees are earned only at placement and not prior to child placement. Again, be sure that you discuss all possible fees prior to beginning the adoption process. Although with AFTH you do not, some other agencies require you to advertise for your own prospective birth parent, and many attorneys ask you to cover on-going medical and housing costs before you are placed.

Basically, it’s crucial that you do A LOT of research before beginning your adoption process. Get your facts, get opinions and recommendations, and get everything in writing. Although there is no universal answer to this, each individual adoption facilitator should individually be able to give you an honest answer to those questions.

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