Our Adoption Finances: An In-Depth Breakdown of How Much Our Domestic Adoption Cost - Studio DIY
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Our Adoption Finances: An In-Depth Breakdown of How Much Our Domestic Adoption Cost


Arlo Adoption Story

Photo by One Eleven Photography

Ready for the next installment of our adoption series? You can see the first post here, which details our entire adoption timeline.

This post is a BIG one. I’m talking finances today! Without a doubt the biggest question I get and the most confusing one. Today, I’m sharing a comprehensive breakdown of our adoption costs. I hesitated to share this because our adoption was actually more expensive than the average the adoption world tells you, which is $25,000 – $50,000. I was (and am) afraid it would scare some of you out of the process.

Please remember, we chose to do a private domestic adoption. Foster to adopt is also an option, which costs little to no money, but I do not know anything about that and cannot speak to it here. Please also note, I know people who have done a private adoption for way cheaper than $25k too through self-matching. I’ll try to talk about that in the first Q&A, along with ways to help fund your adoption. For now, I’ll continue with our cost breakdown!

Generally with every possible adoption situation you are presented with, you’ll get an estimated breakdown of the total expense so we were aware that it was going to be towards the high end and decided to move forward because it felt right, deep in our gut. But, it’s also important to understand that there are some expenses you can’t fully predict up front and to be aware of that. In fact, Arlo’s adoption ended up being a few thousand dollars more than we initially expected.

I have approximated some numbers, grouped a few things together and left a few categories slightly vague to protect all the parties involved in our adoption. I still think this should give you a good idea of what the costs look like. I also tried to explain when each fee was paid. It’s not like we had to write a single check for $50k+, it was over the course of almost two years. Here we go!

Legal Fees + Consultant Fee: ~ $23,500

Legal fees include our attorney’s fees throughout the entire process (for both legal and facilitation services) as well as a smaller fee paid to a lawyer who represented Arlo’s birth mother. Our consultant fee was paid to the adoption consultant who helped walk us through the initial home study and “marketing” process, as well as guided us from a personal standpoint after being matched.

These fees are paid in installments throughout the process. Our legal fees were paid in three larger chunks: upon signing with our lawyer, at the time of our match and at finalization. The ones paid after placement are the ones that are estimated because each situation is different and some involve more legal involvement than others. The consultant fee was paid in full to our consultant up front, as the bulk of the work we did with her was on the front end. For reference, the majority of the number above was paid to our attorney.

Agency Fees: ~ $20,000

Agency fees includes our home study, which was conducted by an agency (Approx $2,000), as well as the fee for the agency that connected our lawyer (and therefore us) with Arlo’s birth mother (Approx $18,000).

The home study fee was paid up front when we signed on with them. The other agency fee was paid at time of match.

Adoption Service Provider: ~ $2,200

The adoption service provider is the person who spoke with Arlo’s birth mother to ensure she understood her options and the adoption process. They also worked with her to develop a hospital plan and get an initial idea of the open-ness she wanted for the adoption. Lastly, they act as a notary and handled the signing of paperwork for the termination of rights and adoption placement agreement after Arlo was born. 

This fee was paid in two installments, when the provider first met with Arlo’s birth mom and when we signed the termination of rights form and adoption placement agreement. 

Birth Mother Expenses: $ Amount Excluded for Privacy

I am not going to share a number here out of respect for Arlo’s birth mother and her privacy. But in general, birth mother expenses are one of the biggest variables and can be very minimal or several thousand dollars depending on when you are matched and what financial or living situation the birth family is in. Expenses can include (not always, but also not limited to) all necessary living expenses from match through the time of birth (and sometimes beyond) such as rent, utilities, groceries, medical expenses and/or cell phone.

These expenses were paid monthly from match until placement. 

Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS): ~ $1500

DCFS conducted the post-placement visits once Arlo was in our home as well as an additional background check and fingerprinting. Since we moved in the middle of our adoption, we had to have additional visits so they could inspect our new home and ensure it was safe for a baby.

This expense was a one time fee paid when we started the post-placement home visit process about one month after we brought Arlo home.

Marketing Expenses: ~ $750

Our marketing expenses includes all of our outreach materials used to connect with birth mothers. That encompass the profile books we made for our attorney to show to prospective birth mothers, the expenses of listing ourselves on Adoptimist and Adopt.com for direct outreach to birth mothers and our phone number we used exclusively for adoption.

The one-time expenses here (profile books, phone number, etc.) were incurred early on, while we were completing our home study. The listing fees for the adoption websites were paid monthly.

Travel Costs: ~ $350

We are lucky that our adoption was done entirely in the state of California and within driving distance from our home. Plus, Arlo was born at an adoption-friendly hospital so we were able to stay there with him. This expense solely includes the cost of gas to drive to and from medical appointments and the hospital.

These costs were incurred over time between match and placement. 

Other: ~ $4,650

This section involves a few things I’m not comfortable sharing publicly since, again, it is not my story to tell. But generally there can be other expenses that are specific to your situation. This could involve additional fingerprinting costs, private investigators, newspaper listings if searching for birth parents, gifts, translators, travel and/or childcare for court appearances, etc.

These costs, for us, were incurred primarily during the finalization process.

Total Cost: $52,950+

I hope that breakdown is helpful, if nothing else than to show you where the money goes. I can not reiterate enough that there are SO MANY variables, which is why this isn’t often talked about. But there are just TOO many question marks out there surrounding adoption which are preventing people from pursuing it as a result, so I’m hoping this will help shed some light into what the financials look like (even if yours would be completely different).

Like I mentioned, I’m going to talk about ways to help pay for your adoption in the next post, but today was just for informational purposes! If this post sparks any other questions for you, leave them below and I will try my best to include them next time!

It goes without saying but every single penny was worth it and then some for bringing our family together. I’m purposely trying to leave emotions out of these initial posts so they don’t get too long, just trying to stick to the facts. But couldn’t end this without saying that we’d do it again, tenfold… and of course, we plan to! =)










  • Pat Newman

    Kelly, I for 1 commend you for this post. You are being very informative and helping others navigate a very gray area. Kudos to you.

  • Erin Reynolds

    Thank you for sharing, I imagine it is difficult and uncomfortable to list such personal details but this is really helpful since (as you know) there is a major lack of information on the subject. Congratulations on your happy family, I have only recently started following you but I was looking back on all of your posts on your way to motherhood and I know it has been a difficult road. Arlo is so cute and I appreciate that you share your life with us!

    • Kelly

      Thank you, Erin! So grateful that this little guy was at the end of our journey. Worth every year, loss and question mark!

  • Wens

    I would also like to commend you on this post, you’re really wonderful to share such personal details so transparently, even though your family is often in the public eye, I feel you have absolutely no obligation to do this, but it is SUPER helpful to know actual numbers THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

  • Michelle Gage

    I never really comment on blog posts – until now. I have been searching and asking for this information for a while. I know it varies, but you hear numbers and wonder how true they are. It’s a huge help to hear about where the money goes too – because as I research this topic, I wonder how it could possibly cost so much…then I see this breakdown and it’s instantly clear. So happy to see you be so honest about this, as I know many comments will speak too how “not everyone can afford this option” – which is true but it’s really about what’s right for you and what you’re willing to make work. It’s clear too you were patient in doing this the right way. I can’t say how helpful this post was – it’s a option I want to consider and this post helps me to know IF and WHEN it could be a possibility.

    Very happy for you and your little family. Congrats!!

    • Kelly

      Thank you so much Michelle! It makes me incredibly happy to hear this was helpful for you, I’m so lucky to have this platform to shed light on this topic!

  • Mariana

    Wow this is awkward, coming from a country where private adoption is not legal I couldn’t help but feel like adopting parents are “purchasing” a baby or that biological parents are “selling” a baby to the highest bidder, especially with the expense payments to the birth mother during a certain time.
    I know it sounds harsh but of course, this is a cultural thing and you guys perceive all this under a different light, I imagine that if private adoption wasn’t a thing many kids would end up in foster care until a match is done, which is probably no better, and I’m sure (or I hope) there are some legalities that protect vulnerable birth mothers from being abused and forced to use this as a way of living.

  • Annie

    I’m finding this really interesting so thanks for sharing! I’m so curious what expenses you could recover/get back if the adoption falls through at some stage of the process, or if it really is a huge leap of faith. Also fascinated that the mother’s cost are such a small part of the overall package.

    • Kelly

      It varies a lot as well but I’ll try to share a bit about that in one of the Q&As! That was also one of our biggest questions.

  • Amanda J.

    What a great post with great information! So insightful. Thank you for sharing!

  • Dani P

    Wow… this post not only opened up my eyes at how much effort, time and obviously money goes into adoption, but has left me feeling a bit ungrateful. As a biological mother of two, one tends to forget how parents who adopt not only really really want a child, but how much they’re willing to sacrifice in order to complete their family and their desire to share their love. Thank you for sharing and shining light on a topic not many feel comfortable talking about. Arlo is lucky to have you both just as you him. Abrazos y muchisima salud para su familia <3

  • Marie

    Do you think living in CA was a factor for the higher than average cost? (Since most things are more expensive there compared to the rest of the US) Also, have you considered a different route for your next adoption? (Foster to adopt, finding birth mother outside of agency, etc)

    • Kelly

      You know, that’s a great question. I’m sure it played a part in some ways but one of our biggest expenses (the agency that connected us and Arlo’s birth Mom) was from out of state!

  • Emily

    This was so inferesting to learn the breakdown. I thought I would chime in and add that we did 2 private infant adoptions in the last 2 years through 2 different agencies in Houston. Both our agencies offered sliding scale fees which seem to be rare but definitely an option if you live in a big city. Each of our adoptions was *only* 15k….because we were at the bottom of the income scale. It was still an enormous expense relatively speaking, and obviously every situation is so different (medical risk, information you get to know about birth parents, low openness) but I do like to let people know that foster/adopt isn’t the only lower cost option (so long as you fall in a lower income category). Congratulations on beautiful Arlo making you a family!

    • Kayla

      I was going to say the same thing! I think the cost of living in Atlanta is less than LA, but there are agencies out there that provide adoption services on a sliding scale. The agency we worked with ranged from $6k-30k, so that does help make it a little more affordable for more people.

      Kelly and Jeff – thanks so much for using your platform to share about things that matter to you guys!

    • Kelly

      I am definitely going to include this option when I talk about ways to finance your adoption! It’s such a great one.

  • Wilson

    I so appreciate your sharing this information! I missed your first adoption post in the series, and when I went back and read it I realized that maybe we used the same adoption team…starting with Jenna! She was our photographer for our profile book, then newborn pictures and soon to be court day. She also led us to our adoption team, much the same way it worked out for you 🙂 Our son just turned six months old and I am grateful to report that the process went very smoothly from Day 1. We are currently waiting to hear about our court date to finalize the process…it can’t come soon enough!!! Really love reading about how things are going with you, Arlo and Jeff!

  • vex 3

    Baby is lovely and very good, I like it very much

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