Expanding your family through adoption

Adoption can bring so much joy to a family. But like any path to parenthood, adoption can be complex too. From adoption options to costs to legal considerations, there’s a lot to think about. Let’s start with the basics. Get an overview of the adoption process, learn what to expect and find out where to begin.

What to think about as you consider adoption

While the adoption journey may be exciting, it can also be complicated. Understanding both the positive and challenging aspects of adoption can help you decide if it may be right for you.

Advantages of adopting

  • You’ll experience the joys of building or expanding your family
  • You can change a child’s life by providing a loving, caring home, along with stability and opportunities they may not have had otherwise
  • Your role in adopting a child may also give a birth parent comfort, knowing their child will be safe, loved and cared for1

Challenges of adopting

  • The adoption process can be long and complex, and may vary depending on adoption laws in each state or country
  • Some families may find the financial considerations a disadvantage of adoption, although some employers offer financial support
  • Depending on the age and family history of the child you adopt, there may be behavioral challenges to consider. Also, children who don’t have information about their birth family can sometimes feel like a piece of their background is missing. They may need extra emotional support or may want to seek out birth parents in the future.1

What are my options for adoption?

You have multiple options for adopting a child. Which one is right for you may depend on your family, your finances and other factors unique to you.

Closed vs. open adoption

As you begin learning about the different types of adoption, you’ll also want to think about whether you want a closed adoption or open adoption.

  • Closed adoption: This is when no identifying information is shared between the birth family and adoptive family. However, you will receive non-identifying information about your child and their birth family. Once the adoption is finalized, records are sealed. Depending on the terms of the adoption and local laws, records may or may not be available to your child when they turn 18.4
  • Open adoption: An open adoption means you’ll have some form of contact with your child’s birth parents. You may exchange pictures and letters, have video or phone calls, or establish other arrangements. Adoptions of older children and teenagers may be open, as the adopted child may have relationships with birth family members they want to maintain.4

What do I need to know about the adoption process?

Adoption can be a lengthy, complex process. That’s because the agencies, states and other professionals involved want to make sure the child being adopted is going to a safe, loving home.6 Here’s what to know about the adoption process, so you can get an idea of what to expect.

What are the costs for adoption?

Adoption costs can vary widely depending on the path you choose. State laws and requirements can also impact costs. Here’s a general estimate of what you may expect to pay.

Adoption type

Domestic adoption
  • Total cost: $20,000 to $45,00011
  • Expenses may include legal representation, agency fees, medical costs, travel and home study costs12

International adoption

  • Total cost: $35,000 to $70,00011
  • Expenses may include legal representation, citizenship and immigration fees, agency fees, medical costs, travel, translation services and more12


  • Total cost: $2,600 or less11
  • Expenses are significantly lower because the adoption is handled through the public child welfare system. Often, the process can be entirely cost free.11

Stepchild or second-parent adoption

  • Entire process: $250 to $3,00011
  • Expenses vary by state. Some states don’t require a home study. You may be able to fill out forms without an attorney, which can help lower costs.11

Are there options to help make adoption affordable?

Financial help may be available. Here are some options to consider:

  • Federal adoption tax credit: You may be eligible for a tax credit for qualifying adoption expenses up to a certain amount, depending in your income.11
  • Employer assistance: Check to see if your employer provides benefits that may help cover the cost of adoption expenses.
  • Grants and loans: Organizations like the National Adoption Foundation help support adoptive families through financial grants and loans.
  • Military aid: If you’re an active-duty military member, you may be eligible for a one-time reimbursement of a portion of your adoption expenses.11

If adoption still feels out of reach, you may want to consider the foster system. Adopting a foster child involves little to no costs for your family. You’ll also likely receive financial and medical assistance from the state to help you care for your child.13

What steps can I take if I’m ready to start the adoption process?

The adoption process may feel a bit overwhelming. Taking things one step at a time may help it feel more manageable. If you’re ready to start your journey, here are some tips on where begin:

  • Consider an attorney. Working with an attorney experienced in adoption can help you navigate all the legal requirements. Search the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys directory to find an attorney near you.
  • Review your health insurance. You’ll need to add your child to your health insurance plan when they join your family. Adoption is considered a qualifying life event, which means you can make changes to your health plan outside of the annual enrollment period.

Is there support available for adoptive parents?

The adoption process can be long and challenging, but it’s not something you have to experience on your own. Whether you’ve already adopted a child or you’re still in the process, connecting with other families may help provide insight, guidance and emotional support. Consider joining a support group for adoptive parents or adoptive foster families.

Remember to make time for your own well-being too. Caring for your physical health and mental health may help you feel better equipped to manage the highs and lows of the adoption process, parenthood and beyond.