Paying for an Adoption: You Got This

Paying for Adoption - picture of baby feet with flower and parent's hands

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Let me preface this by saying that there is no quick and easy way to pay for an adoption. Believe me, I looked and researched and begged and cried, but to no avail. Unfortunately, adoption is expensive and because so many families are trying to adopt at the same time you are, any grants or charitable funds available to families are difficult to secure. Still, I hope this article will assist you on your journey to achieving your goal of becoming an adoptive parent. My sweet son, Finnigan, is proof that it can be done.

We spent $21,000 to become parents. Yup, 21 BIG ONES. That is about 1/3 of what we net each year. It was a kick in the nuts/ovaries, that’s for sure. It seems implausible that, in order to build a family through adoption, one often has to come up with this kind of cash. It’s no wonder that so many potential adoptive parents feel like they are quite literally buying a child. Children aren’t objects, but spending $20,000-40,000 in order to become a parent certainly can make a person feel otherwise. It also has an unfortunate ability of making people give up on their dream of adoption because it feel so insurmountable.

All that being said, people from all walks of life adopt every day. My husband and I aren’t rich – far from it. Yet, we managed to fund our son’s adoption with no long-term debt. Hopefully the following tips and tricks can assist you in accomplishing the same thing.

Start Saving NOW

Considering adoption in order to build your family? Pay off your debt and start saving NOW. Seriously, it is never too early to start. Not wanting a child for another 5 years? Start saving now. Not even sure if you want to be a parent? Start saving now. Wanting to try and go the au naturel way before considering adoption? You’ve got it – start saving now. This is where my spouse and I fell short. We should have started saving years before.

Start by cutting your expenses, like your cable and cell phone bills, and then put those savings in your adoption account. Have a high-interest student loan? Try refinancing and pocketing the difference for your adoption. Same goes for your mortgage.

Did you buy your home when the interest rate was ridiculously high? Refinance and – you guessed it – save the difference. It’s not rocket science. Hell, it’s not even 5th grade science. (Thank God, ‘cuz I suuuuuuck at science.)


Consider Fostering or Adopting a Waiting Child

Don’t have your heart set on an infant or an international child or want to take on the important task of being a parent to a foster child? “Foster-to-adopt” or adopting a “waiting child” may be a good option for you. Both of these options are free in the United States, save for the court costs (which were less than $500 for us here in MN).

Foster-to-adopt” means that you take in children who have been removed from their homes. These kiddos are not wards of the state, although depending on their birth family’s situation, this could change. Sometimes this is just a temporary thing, but other times it can become permanent. This is where you could have the opportunity to adopt the child.

Waiting children” are kiddos who are wards of the state. This means that they are available to adopt right away. Most waiting children are older or are a part of a larger sibling group. If you have room in your heart and your home for such a thing, you will be offering a child an amazing chance at a normal family life.

You will want to contact your county’s social services department to start the ball rolling on these types of adoption. Keep in mind that while every type of adoption requires a home study, foster to adopt/waiting child adoption studies can be quite a bit more intense and involved than a private adoption. But, remember, it’s free.

Outreach Adoption

Some people save a ton of money by finding their own child. This is called adoption outreach. In a nutshell, it means that you network, advertise, and seek out a pregnant woman or couple looking to place their baby in an adoptive home. This is actually super difficult, despite what you see on TV. Believe it or not, most women or teens aren’t getting pregnant, and if they are, they often don’t want to place their child. Still, many people do it.

If you can find your own child, you could potentially only have to pay for the home study and the use of a lawyer. Not small change, but still significantly less than going through an agency. Do keep in mind that each state has different laws for advertising for outreach. Check with yours before going that route so you don’t get yourself in trouble.

Adoption Grants

As mentioned above, adoption grants are hard to get due to the intense competition between families. Still, they are out there and who knows – maybe you have a special circumstance that will allow you to qualify? Do keep in mind that all these grants require a completed home study in order to apply. Some options are:

  • National Adoption Foundation – No exclusions as to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, family characteristics, or income. The program is open to all legal adoptions of non-related children, and does not exclude private adoption, agency adoption, international adoption, or special needs adoption. The primary requirement for eligibility is a home study (either completed or in process).
  • Show Hope – Funding priority will be given, but not limited, to families with the greatest financial need who complete the application process with integrity, establishing that they are equipped to provide a child with a loving home consistent with the founding principles of Show Hope. Appears to be an organization for Christians.
  • Help Us Adopt – Applicants must be a US citizen living in the United States. Applicants must exhibit financial need and significant obstacles and hardship. Applicants may be couples or individuals and accepts applications regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, marital status or sexual orientation.
  • A Child Waits Foundation – Offers grants (and low-interest loans) to adoptive parents adopting internationally.
  • Gift of Adoption – Does not consider an applicant’s marital status, gender, race, creed, national origin, religion, age, or sexual orientation when reviewing applications. Grants worth $3500-$7500.
  • God’s Grace Adoption Ministry – Offers adoption grants (and no-interest loans) to eligible Christian adoptive families.
  • The CMomA Gifting Program – Gives up to ten $5,000 grants per year to eligible new parents adopting older children in need (age 2-17) or special needs children of all ages, both domestically and internationally.


I fricken hate fundraising. I’ve despised it since I was forced to sell magazines door-to-door in elementary school. That being said, I hate being in debt and freaked out about money even more, so that was motivation enough for me to pursue fundraising for our adoption. Plus, the one good thing about fundraising for adoption is almost everyone is super sympathetic and truly wants to donate, unlike with those stupid magazines where they only bought from me so I’d get off their front porch. Here are some tried and true options that we used to raise cash, and some that we know were used by others:

  • Giant Garage Sale – I posted on our local swap and shop on Facebook asking for garage sale donation items. We then used my nanny client’s giant home to host the sale. It was a lot of work, but it brought in a nice chunk of change. If I were to do it again, I’d ask to use a church or community center and have the folks donating bring their items to me versus the other way around. Don’t forget to post your sale on Craigslist.
  • Benefit – I know of a couple who had a golf benefit. The course donated the tee times, a restaurant donated the food, and players paid money to attend. One could also have a potluck or spaghetti dinner, paired with a silent auction.
  • Ask Local Businesses to Put Out a Donation Jar – Make some bright, colorful, and fun jars and ask your favorite local businesses to place at their front desk. Keep in mind that some people are assholes and these could easily be ripped off.
  • Online Fundraising – Consider starting an online fundraiser, like a GoFundMe, and post on social media. You can also send the link to your email contacts or even to your local news station. They love adoption stories, so they could possibly feature you. Do realize that GoFundMe’s are a dime a dozen these days and so they tend not to bring as much of a profound response as they would a few years ago. Blame it on folks like Kanye who think it should be up to everyone else to help them get out of debt. Gag me.
  • Sell Pizza/Car Wash Punch Cards – Many pizza places and gas stations will sell punch cards to a fundraiser for a reduced price, then you sell them yourself at a higher price, therefore pocketing the difference. Keep in mind this requires an initial cash investment and may not prove successful, so start small.
  • Car/Pet Wash – We’ve all seen high school students waving signs for a car or pet wash so they can raise money for their school. This is something you could easily do for your adoption; just ask a local business if you can use their water supply and parking lot.

Employer Adoption Credit

My husband’s company offers a $3,000 adoption credit to all of its full-time employees. I am not sure how common it is, but it is absolutely worth looking into.

We did have to fight for this, though, because they wanted us to submit the application within 90 days of the adoption. My son’s social security number hadn’t arrived by that time, which was a necessary part of the application process. Luckily, I don’t give up and have no problem raising a stink. We were ultimately given the credit.

Adoption Tax Credit

The adoption tax credit was the game changer for us. Almost everyone who adopts in the US will receive up to a $13,400 adoption tax credit. describes this credit perfectly:

The Adoption Credit is a nonrefundable tax credit. That means it can’t give you a refund by itself, but it does take a good chunk off the top of your tax liability. So much, in fact, that you probably won’t even be able to use up all the credit in one year. Good news: you can roll over what you don’t use for five years.

In a nutshell, this means that if you spent over $13,400 on the adoption, you will get that amount back, although it may take a couple years (it rolls over for up to 5 years) as you only get back how much your tax liability was that year. We didn’t pay $13,400 in taxes this year, so a good chunk will roll over to next year.

If you paid less than $13,400 on your adoption, you will get a credit for the exact amount paid. This will roll over, like mentioned above, if your tax liability isn’t for as high of an amount as your adoption. Keep in mind that if you make over $201,010 you do not qualify for this credit.

Credit Card

Our official fee statement from our agency. This does not include the extra $400-$500 in court costs!

I know what you’re saying right now. “A credit card, you say? Are you bananas?” Just hear me out……

We started paying for adoption services back in 2013. Luckily, many of these charges fell around tax/bonus time, so we were generally able to pay cash. Yet, when our son was placed with us in early 2015 at 3 weeks old with NO notice, $10,000 was due. That’s a lot of cash, which we did not have.

Luckily, we knew that in a year we would have the adoption credit and a large bonus. Because of this, we felt comfortable opening up a “0% Interest for 1 Year” credit card, which we paid the minimum amount on until we had that cash. We ended up paying only about 1 month of interest and then we paid it off in full. We are super responsible with our money and with credit, so this was an acceptable solution to us. Do not go this route if you prefer to avoid your credit card balances versus paying them.

You can find our list of the best 0% APR credit cards here.

Daddy Warbucks

The last option for raising the money you need for your adoption is mom and dad. Or grandma and grandpa. Or a rich uncle or loaded sister or…… you get my point. Family or loved ones.

There's no quick and easy way to pay for an adoption. It takes planning and patience. Here are 9 ways to pay without acquiring long-term debt.I know it sucks to ask for help when you’re supposed to be an adult acting all adultish. But, the fact of the matter is that most people don’t need to have up to $40,000 in cash in order to push a baby out of their vajayjay. Sure, there are hospital bills and such, but if you have insurance, a good chunk of that is paid. My point is that it is not an expense that most people have to worry about, so in my mind, it is unfair. Because of the fact that it is an unfair expense, I personally think it is ok to ask for help. You aren’t asking for plastic surgery, for cripes sake, you just want to be a mom or dad!

Help could be in the form of an outright gift, a low or interest-free loan, or even some kind of barter. It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you don’t make them feel obligated. Respect their word if they can’t help and don’t let it affect your relationship with them. Most people really do want to help and generally will if they can.

You Got This

So, there you have it. No quick solutions, I know, and I am sorry about that. Adoption shouldn’t have to cost so much. Still, if you are diligent, you have the potential of getting through the process without being overloaded with debt. You got this.

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  1. We adopted our daughter almost two years ago, and I can attest to the fact that it is a huge expense. We started saving years in advance, although at the time we didn’t know that’s what we were saving for :-). Congratulations to you on your adoption!!

  2. I once worked for a company that offered the adoption credit to employees. Very interesting perk.

    I’m 22 and don’t plan to have kids. If I did, I would probably be a foster parent or adopt.

  3. Great ideas. It’s startling how expensive adoption can be, so thanks for sharing some good options. My sister-in-law adopted a child and their church helped them fund the adoption.

  4. This is a great post.

    My wife and I want to adopt kids in the future. Well, I guess that’s what I want and she’s still thinking about it. We have our own biological daughter. I came from a very big family and I like it. I like the chaos and noise. This is the reason that I am wanting to adopt and trying to convince my wife to do so.

    I heard that adoption can get expensive. I just didn’t how much. Thank you for sharing this information. Now, off to saving some more dollars.

  5. For the moment I am single but I’ve always thought about a family but in 2012 I discovered that I had a severe Endometriosis, so I’m not sure if I’ll have natural kids, but I am always been open to adoption, less about I will must to pay, but knowing family that adopted I’m sure that it will be a really great experience!!!

  6. Love this post! We plan on adopting and fostering in the future. Cannot wait 🙂

  7. Congratulations! I had always planned on fostering and perhaps adopting waiting children, so I was excited that my husband’s company offered an adoption grant. I had no idea how expensive it could get, though, until some friends shared the details of their adoptions. And since my health issues were here to stay, plans to foster have had to change, for now. Best of luck to those commenters who plan to do so in the future.

  8. Thanks for including CMomA in your list of adoption grants! We have a growing list of grantees, and are honored to be a small part of their family story.

  9. This is such good information! Adopting may be a reality for us in the future is we want more kids but I can’t imagine spending so much money on it. I’m pretty open to fostering or adopting a waiting child though.

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