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Overview of Adoption


There is not a one-size-fits-all model of adoption. Adoptions can vary widely in relation to cost, birthparent involvement, and the length of time it takes to complete the process. This information is designed to give a basic overview of the options available to prospective adoptive parents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What types of adoptions are available?

A: There are four major types of adoption: Public, Private/Independent, Private/Agency, and Intercountry. Stepparent and relative adoptions are addressed in separate FAQ documents.

Q: What is a Public Adoption?

A: A public adoption involves a child who has been removed from the birth parent’s home because of abuse, neglect, or dependency issues. The child is in the custody of the state child protective services department.
Age of child: ranges from infants to teenagers; often sibling groups; children with special needs
Time: several months – a few years
Cost: $0 - $2,500

Q: What is a Private/Independent Adoption?

A: An independent adoption is coordinated by an attorney and involves a child who is not in the custody of the state or of an agency. In an independent adoption, the birthparents give consent directly to the adoptive parents.
Age of child: typically infants
Time: 1-2 years
Cost: $4,000-$30,000
Additional Resources:

Q: What is a Private/Agency Adoption?

A: An agency adoption is coordinated by an adoption agency that is licensed by the state. There are both for profit, and not-for profit adoption agencies. Typically the birth parents transfer custody to the agency, and then the agency facilitates the adoption.
Age of child: typically infants
Time: 1-2 years
Cost: $8,000-$30,000
Additional Resources:

Q: What is Intercountry Adoption?

A: Intercountry adoption involves the adoption of a child from another country and can be facilitated by either an adoption agency or private attorney.
Age of child: typically toddlers and young children (infants are less common)
Time: 15 months – 24+ months (Timeframes are typically more well-defined for intercountry adoptions than for domestic.)
Cost: $7,000-$35,000

Q: What are the medical risks associated with adoption?

A: The occurrence of significant medical and/or emotional issues varies by the type of adoption. For example, the medical records of children adopted from another country may be difficult to obtain, may contain limited information, or may be difficult to translate. Any adoption may pose challenges in obtaining full and accurate medical histories and information. You should try to ensure that the child’s medical history has been fully disclosed to you, and that you have as much medical/psycho-social information as is available on the birth parents. .

Q: What birth parent expenses can the adoptive parents pay?

A: Most states regulate the type and amount of expenses adoptive parents may pay. Many courts require the adoptive parents to file an accounting of all expenses paid. Common expenses that are permitted are the birth mother’s medical and legal/agency expenses, GAL fees, and temporary foster care (if needed). Some states also permit adoptive parents to pay for the birth mother’s living expenses during the pregnancy and counseling fees.

Q: Are there any available sources of financial assistance for adoption?

A: There are many sources of financial assistance for parents planning to adopt. Adoption subsidies are available for a qualifying child though a public adoption. There are also federal and state tax exemptions/credits available to parents. In addition, some employers offer adoption benefits to employees.


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