Adoption is a beautiful and important option for queer and trans people hoping to raise children — and we are much more likely to form our families this way than straight and cisgender people! In fact, LGBTQ+ couples are seven times more likely to adopt than straight and cisgender couples. That said, queer people are often shocked at the range in costs when adopting — it can cost practically nothing, if adopting through the country’s foster care system, up to $50,000 or more if adopting a newborn, or internationally.
The Four Main Ways to Adopt
Before we get into some of the ways you can afford for adoption, let’s first review the four main different ways you can adopt a baby or child in the United States:
- Agency Adoption: If you hope to adopt a newborn baby, you can work with an accredited adoption agency, which will help find and match you with a birth parent, and coordinate the process, start to finish. Adopting a newborn through an agency can cost between $20,000 to $45,000.
- Independent Adoption: The other way you can adopt a newborn in the United States is on your own, without an agency — but with the help of a lawyer. If you pursue this route, you will be responsible for finding a birth parent to match with on your own, through advertising. This option isn’t legal in every state. Adopting a newborn independently can cost between $20,000 to $47,000.
- International Adoption: It’s important to know at the outset that many countries don’t let LGBTQ+ people adopt. But there are some exceptions — Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, and some states in Mexico have been known to work with LGBTQ parents in the United States hoping to adopt. Regardless, you’ll need to work with a Hague-accredited adoption agency to complete your international adoption. Adopting internationally can cost from $20,000 to $54,000.
- Foster to Adopt: There are more than 400,000 children in the country’s foster care system, up to and one in three of those youth identify as LGBTQ+, according to Family Equality, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit. Of those 400,000 youth in foster care, 120,000 are waiting for permanent adoptive homes. While the other paths to adoption will likely cost thousands of dollars, adopting through foster care is essentially free, and comes with a monthly stipend from the government. Also, with 20,000 youth aging out of foster care every year without finding a safe, permanent home. There is an urgent need for more available, qualified families.
"Of the 3.8 million LGBTQ+ millennials planning to expand their families in the coming years, 40% plan to do so through adoption. This means that millions of queer folks will be interacting with foster and adoption agencies, who may or may not be ready to respect, care for, and celebrate LGBTQ+ folks growing their families.” -Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation at Family Equality
Why is Adoption so Expensive?
There are several components of your adoption journey that will contribute to your overall costs. The main fees will be associated with these items:
- Adoption Professionals: Regardless of whether you work with an adoption agency or a private lawyer, you will need to pay for their services. These professionals will help guide you along every step of the adoption process.
- Birth Parent’s Expenses: If adopting a newborn, you will also potentially be responsible for paying for some aspects of the pregnant person’s medical and living expenses.
- Advertising: If adopting independently, you will probably need to spend some money advertising to potential birth parents. You can advertise in many ways, such as through online ads or in print newspapers. How much or little you decide to advertise is up to you, and will impact your overall costs.
- Home Study: Regardless of which adoption path you choose, every adoptive parent in the United States needs to complete a home study — the legal process that paves the way for you to adopt. The costs of your home study will cover background checks, interviews with social workers, health exams, and any needed education and training.
- Post Placement Support: After a child is placed in your home, you will likely need to pay for some “post placement” support from a social worker or caseworker to ensure the transition is going smoothly.
- International Considerations: If adopting abroad, you will also need to travel to your child’s home country at least twice — and stay in the country for several weeks to complete the adoption. Your travel to and from your child’s home country, and accommodations while staying there, will impact your costs. You will also need to cover the costs of getting proper documentation and citizenship for your child, and potentially some translation services.
- Foster Care: Once again, if adopting through foster care, the fees associated with the above costs are all largely waived or reimbursed — and you will be provided with a monthly stipend to help offset the costs.
"What our history shows us is that LGBTQ+ people are experts in caring for ourselves and each other when society's systems fail to do so. The journeys to growing our families is no different — community care is essential, and that is what we hope to foster at Family Equality.” -Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation at Family Equality
How Can I Afford Adoption?
- Employer benefits: Some employers offer assistance to their employees who create their families through adoption. This includes many large tech companies, like Facebook and Google, but smaller organizations may be open to providing these benefits, too — so speak with your H.R. department!
- Loans: There are a couple of options to help you finance part of your adoption through loans — you can take out a home equity line of credit, for example, or a personal loan with lenders like SoFi, Prosper Healthcare Lending, or LightStream. These financial institutions provide high-dollar installment loans (ranging from $5,000 to $100,000) to people with good credit.
- Grants: There are some inclusive organizations that provide grants to LGBTQ people hoping to adopt. Helpusadopt.org is one great option — they offer up to $15,000 grants for adoptive families. Unlike other grant programs, they encourage single and LGBTQ people to apply.
- Crowdfunding: Many LGBTQ people have used sites like GoFundMe to reach out to their networks of friends, family and colleagues to request additional support for their adoption journeys. It may be uncomfortable to ask, but you might be surprised how many people want to make your dream of parenthood come true.
Currently, 11 states allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies to turn away qualified LGBTQ+ parents. Family Equality is working hard to end discrimination in adoption and foster care so that the 400,000 youth in child welfare have the best possible chance of finding homes. Click here to learn how you can help. And, click here to view the adoption and foster care laws in your state.
Where Can I Go For Support?
For guides on building resiliency on your adoption journey and virtual peer support groups, check out Family Equality — a national nonprofit dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ families, found, formed, and chosen. To find a listing of LGBTQ-inclusive adoption agencies, check out the “All Children, All Families'' database run by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — these child welfare agencies have been thoroughly vetted by the organization, and are listed at three different levels of inclusion, depending on the extent to which they have implemented LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and affirming practices. For a thorough overview of the entire adoption process, start to finish, check out Gays With Kids, which maintains an adoption resource page for gay, bi and trans men.