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Unexpected Costs to Plan for When You’re Adopting 

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Adoption Costs: Things You Should Consider

While approximately 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. every year, adopting a child is a route that would-be parents may overlook.1 It is increasingly becoming an option for same-sex and single parents. The percentage of same-sex parents with adopted children rose from 8 percent in 2000 to about 19 percent in 2009, and single-parent families accounted for 29 percent of all adoptions from foster care in 2014.2 3

No matter what the family structure, adoption has its own rewards, stresses and surprises. It also comes with some unique adoption costs. By being thoroughly informed of what’s to come, you can make the most of what is certain to be a life-changing experience.

Your adoption options

There are four main types of adoption. You can use a private agency, which takes care of the entire adoption process, including finding an expecting mom interested in giving her child to a new family. Another common option is international adoption, which has its own unique adoption costs, from travel expenses to dossier authentication required by specific countries. You can also choose to adopt via your state’s foster system through a public or private agency. Finally, there’s the option of adopting a stepchild if the other biological parent relinquishes parental rights.

Some employers offer adoption assistance, such as referrals to licensed adoption agencies, partial reimbursement for financing adoption, and parental leave.

Costs and considerations 

No matter which option you choose, the adoption process is expensive, with agency and legal fees at the top of the list. On average in the U.S., it costs nearly $42,000 to adopt through an agency.4 In contrast, it is just under $3,000 to adopt through the foster care system.5 There are other costs associated with raising a child that are unique to adoptive families. One concern you may face if adopting an older child is whether he or she is ready for an age-appropriate grade level or requires additional learning assistance, which could mean the extra cost of a tutor or special schooling. In addition, there’s the matter of higher education, whether for college or vocational training. While setting up a 529 college savings plan is one practical step all parents can take to pay for their child’s continuing education, if you’re adopting a child who’s older, you might have to increase your deposits.

Protecting your new family

As a new parent, you’ll also need to think about protecting your family in case anything happens to you. For example, if your family depends on your income, they could be in serious financial trouble if you’re unable to work. Consider disability income insurance. It can provide income replacement if you become too sick or injured to work. Even if your employer offers basic disability income insurance, you may want to consider supplementing that coverage with an additional plan that will protect you, and your family, both now and well into the future. In addition, a life insurance policy is a good way to guarantee the people you leave behind will receive financial protection after you’re gone. If you have coverage through your employer, but suspect it’s not enough, seek advice from an established financial representative.

In short, adoption is a viable option for any family, but there are unique costs involved — some related to the adoption process itself and some related to the needs of the child. With proper planning and protection, adopting a child can be what it’s meant to be — one of life’s most fulfilling experiences.

Off and Running Fact Sheet, Sept. 7, 2010

Sabrina Tavernise, "Adoptions by Gay Couples Rise, Despite Barriers," June 13, 2011

3 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2014 data2 

4, 5 Adoption Cost & Timing: How much does adoption really cost? How long does it take?, 2016

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.