Tips for Individuals Planning on Adopting – Consider Your Options & Make a Plan

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Upfront Costs

Adopting a child offers the promise of a lifetime of possible returns that are immeasurable in financial terms. But the upfront costs could be substantial. According to, an adoption agency could charge between a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars for application and program fees. If you are interested in international adoption, the costs could be higher. Adopting parents will pay for a home study, counseling, various document services and travel. Adopting parents may pay for advertising as well, to attract a pregnant mother. The adopting parents may pay for the mother’s health expenses, travel and any other expenses. In the end, adopting a newborn could cost $20,000 or more.

To pay for the upfront costs, look at your pre-baby budget. Consider the cost of staying home, the impact on earnings for you and/or your partner, as well as incidental or full-time child-care costs.  Consider increases in health insurance and costs for medical care.  Consider large one-time expenditures like a crib, changing table, car seat, stroller, etc. Expect to spend money on clothes that your newborn will outgrow quickly. Some parents are surprised how quickly kids grow. “But she only wore that once!” Baby formula, baby food, and sundry dishes, bottles, bibs and more add up. Plan to set aside money today so that you can purchase the surprise items that you need without burdening your family later.

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Complex Laws and Time-consuming Process

Adoptions take time. The approval process can take months. Meetings often happen in-person, and during business hours. Laws vary by state, and they can be complex. Your adoption agency will help you navigate this complex situation. But plan on spending time before the baby arrives that otherwise you may have spent on work or leisure. 

Some adoptive parents hire an attorney to help with particularly thorny issues. If the child crosses state lines, you have two jurisdictions to worry about. In an international adoption, the complexities can sometimes seem overwhelming. Many adoptive parents navigate the system without legal help, but a skilled family lawyer can simplify the complexity and bring a new parent’s confidence.

Once the baby arrives, a family’s financial plans change. Choosing a new pediatrician, updating and navigating health insurance plans, and giving yourself more time to get from place to place with a little person all take time. Insurance premiums may increase to cover the new arrival.

New parents want to update their estate plans. In the unlikely event of a catastrophe, parents will want to have a plan to keep the child safe. Name the child’s custodian and clearly delineate what should happen with the financial assets to reduce stress and increase the chances of success. Don’t forget life insurance! Make sure that you have a death benefit that covers the big costs; a mortgage, child-care and future education costs are common worries to insure against. 

Emotional, Physical and Relationship Costs

With the first child, parents often feel strong emotions. Elation, exasperation, exhaustion, love, laughter and tears all are part of the first years of parenting. Sometimes new parents are surprised by the depth of negative feelings as well. warns that when adopting a newborn, emotions of the birth mother and adoptive parent can create surprising and tense situations. Most adoptions are open and require ongoing relationships with the birth mother. This can mean navigating a tricky situation repeatedly. In most cases, the adoptive parents have greater financial resources than the birth mother. Thus, it is best to come up with a plan for setting your boundaries.

Make sure to budget time for yourself. Many books, podcasts, videos and audio books provide great resources and advice for a new parent, whether adoptive or not. Consider hiring a therapist to provide counsel. Your mental health is critical to the success of your child’s health. 

Additionally, parenting usually involves a change in physical routine. For example, it can be difficult or impossible to lift weights or go running with a baby in tow. It is important for parents to de-stress. Planning a budget in alignment with a parent’s mental, physical and relationship goals can be crucial to a child’s happiness and personal well-being.

Ongoing Costs

Babies have more than just the large one-time expenditures, like a crib, changing table, car seat, stroller, etc. Two years after birth, parents should expect to spend at least that amount all over again on the toddler size version of the same stuff. Once a toddler is in the house instead of a baby, additional expenses include making the house safe. Often it is a joy to shop for a child who has outgrown everything you have bought, but it is easy to over-spend. Spending money on crafts, diapers, wet wipes and more means spending less on your personal interests.

A few years later, as the child starts school, the expenses will increase even more. A child’s interests, whether they are in the arts, sports, sciences, can quickly consume the family’s fun budget. It is a good idea to plan for the post-secondary education as early as possible. Parents can save money in a 529 plan, custodial account, or more.

A Special Note about Fostering

Adopting a newborn can be expensive, but newborn babies are a small number of the children available for adoption. The foster parent and adoption path is a rewarding way to make a huge impact on the life of a child who otherwise might not have the chance. The foster program will likely bring down the upfront costs from tens of thousands of dollars to all but a few hundred dollars. Additional costs of raising a child remain the same. But while the child is being fostered, the foster program pays parents a monthly income. After fostering, the parent applies for adoption and the child has a forever home.

Scholarships and financial aid for foster children can be substantial help after high school graduation. And, depending on the state of residence, adult foster children may receive financial assistance. 

In conclusion

Adoption is an amazing experience that will transform the lives of everyone in countless ways. A proper financial plan enables the parents to spend more time on the experiences that matter most, with the new family member in tow!

For more information on planning for a new family member, search for a CFP® practitioner in your area.