Think You Can’t Afford Adoption? Here are 10 Surprising Ways to Pay for It

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adopting a child
Michele Fried and her Husband Chuck Fried, far left, pose with their 10 children. Photo courtesy Michele Fried

My husband and I always knew we wanted to grow our family through adoption. We originally thought this meant we would need to save thousands of dollars, but we had little money to our names. Still, we made it work.

Fast-forward 29 years: I have 10 children, six of whom are adoptees. I’m also the founder and CEO of an adoption agency; in all, I’ve been a part of over 1,200 adoptions.

In my many years as both an adoptive mom and an adoption professional, I’ve found that the high cost of adopting a child is one of the biggest fears many prospective adoptive parents have.

Yes, it’s true: Adopting a child can be expensive. Depending on the specifics of your adoption, fees can range anywhere from $0 to over $40,000.

But pricy as adoption can be, it’s not impossible. These are just a few of the many ways to creatively finance your adoption.

1. Take Advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit and Income Exclusion

There are two major adoption tax benefits: tax credits for adoption-related expenses and income exclusion for employer-provided adoption assistance.

In 2016, the maximum tax credit for eligible expenses was $13,460 per adoption. It rose slightly to $13,570 in 2017. You can use the credit toward expenses like agency and attorney fees, travel and accommodations.

You can subtract the adoption credit from your tax liability for that year and carry it for up to five years if the credit is greater than your liability.

Always consult an accountant or the IRS for complete and accurate information.

2. Check With Your Employee Benefits Programs

Few employers advertise adoption benefits. Still, don’t hesitate to dig a little deeper to see what might be available.

Some companies offer financial reimbursements for adoption fees and even paid leave on top of your vacation package to help cover travel time and/or parental leave.

3.  Choose an Agency With Sliding Fee Scales

Some agencies require a flat fee for all applicants, while others structure their fees based on your personal finances.

You might save money by working with an agency that offers a sliding fee scale based on your gross worth. This fee structure helps many save money and also enables more people to become adoptive parents, regardless of their income.

Photo courtesy Michele Fried

4. Look Into State Subsidies for Adopting a Child

Many states grant subsidies to families who adopt children born in the United States with special needs or who resided in foster care for a specified period of time.

If you’re seeking a subsidy, the application needs to show that the child’s case is medically compelling. It should document the child’s disability and outline the hardships he or she will have growing up.

Within each state, counties may vary in their subsidy requirements and contributions. The North American Council on Adoptable Children summarizes each state’s adoption subsidy requirements for your reference on its website.

5. Weigh the pros and cons of fundraising

Fundraising draws much-needed awareness to the topic of adoption and obviously assists with your budget. In some cases, religious and community organizations, like churches and synagogues, may jump at the opportunity to assist you with this effort. They may be willing to host bake sales, bingo nights, carnivals and pass-the-hat events to help you raise money.

Keep in mind, though, that fundraisers often are not the most ideal option for adopting a child. They may generate uncomfortable questions and comments from your friends, family and community.

Some might make judgments about your financial situation. Others might question whether all funds raised will go toward adoption expenses, or if you will pocket a portion. If you choose to fundraise, understand the downsides: They certainly may not be within your comfort zone.

6. Explore Grant Programs for Adopting a Child

A number of national nonprofits and charitable organizations offer grant programs to prospective adoptive parents. Consider exploring the following:

  • Help Us Adopt – Qualified prospective adoptive parents can receive up to $15,000 toward adoption expenses
  • Boatner Family Foundation – The foundation provides grants of $1,000 to $10,000 with a formal application, agency approval and a financial statement. For more information, contact The Boatner Foundation at P.O. Box 132272, The Woodlands, TX 77393-2272.

7. Take Out Loans

There are a number of adoption-related loans available, including the following:

You can also explore a mortgage and home-equity loan. You can write off the interest on your annual tax return.

8. Accept Gifts From Relatives

You might be surprised to learn how many adoptive parents receive financial gifts or interest-free loans from their loved ones, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and even siblings.

My uncle gave us a $5,000 loan, and my grandmother co-signed for another loan for our first adoption.

Relatives are often a great resource for support throughout the adoption journey.

Photo courtesy Michele Fried

9. Explore Your Assets

You may have inheritances or trusts in your name, or you may be able to borrow against your life insurance policy.

Also, don’t forget your 401(k). While it may sound outrageous to pull from your 401(k) to subsidize your adoption, keep in mind that doing so requires no application fee. You can pay back the loan with paycheck deductions for up to five years, and there is no credit score stress at all.  

That said, some warn against borrowing from your 401(k) because it defeats the purpose of a secure retirement fund entirely. Also, there’s a default risk when you borrow from your 401(k); you could end up owing taxes and paying more in the long run.

10.  Choose an Agency Without a Placement Fee Deposit

Some agencies require you to make a deposit on your placement fee, even when a child hasn’t been placed with you yet. This can be financially burdensome if your finances are tight, and you don’t have the money to pay upfront for services you haven’t yet received.

Consider looking into adoption agencies that only require these fees upon placement of your child.

Don’t Let Cost of Adopting a Child Deter You

Adoption isn’t for everyone. But if you’re curious about adopting a child, don’t immediately rule it out once you hear murmurings about how expensive it could be.

No two adoptions are the same. It’s better to explore the option fully than to completely dismiss it because you’re afraid of the costs.

Talk to an adoption professional about your options. Do your own research. Reach out to adoptive parents to discuss their experiences.

Despite the challenges, fees should never be a barrier to adopting your child and creating your forever family.  

Michele Fried is the founder and CEO of Adoption STAR, a COA HAGUE accredited nonprofit adoption agency licensed in New York, Florida and Ohio that is dedicated to creating forever families. An adoption advocate and supporter, Michele is also a proud mom to 10 children, six of whom are adopted.