International Adoption Costs

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Before you figure out how you are going to pay for the adoption, you need some idea of the total cost of the adoption. (You need to know where you’re going before you can get there!) The cost of adoption can vary widely depending on several choices including whether or not to use an agency, what country you choose to adopt from, and how thrifty you can be on you travel. Some costs are more or less fixed (such as the filing fees with the government).

Agency Fees

Adoption agency fees vary widely different agencies have different fees for the same countries. The following is an example of one agency’s recent fees to use as a guide for estimating adoption expenses:

Dossier Fee$2,700
Adoption Program Fee$4,750-$12,250 (varies by country)
Travel for an escorted child$1,500-$4,000
Post Placement$700-$1400
Total:$11,325 - $23,275
Below are some examples of adoption program country fees:


Remember, these are only sample numbers – you should check with different agencies and clarify exactly what is included in each fee structure to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

You should probably plan on the agency fee costing anywhere from $7,500 to $30,000. Some adoption agencies may lower their fees for families adopting older or special needs children and for lower income families. They will also typically lower their fees for adopting multiple children at a time or for repeat clients. Even if the agency doesn’t offer to lower its fee, you should always ask. It can’t hurt and you never know – you might end up saving some money!

About now, you’re probably wondering why the adoption agency fees are so high. Other than the overhead of running a business, agency fees go towards the costs of arranging the adoption – from passports for the child to translation costs and legal fees in that country. To ensure that you’re working with an adoption agency dedicated to helping children, be sure to ask each agency how much money is routed into building new orphanages or funding new foster families in that country.

One very important question to ask the agency is whether there is an additional orphanage fee. Some orphanage adoptions will require a donation to that orphanage (this is in addition to the country fee). In China, for example, this generally runs between $3,000 and $4,000.

Homestudy Fees

Your homestudy does not have to be done through the adoption agency. It can be done independently or with a homestudy agency instead of with the adoption agency. An advantage of using a homestudy agency is that they will have experience with multiple adoption agencies and thus can give you some advice about which adoption agencies are more reputable. To find a homestudy agency in your area, try calling 1-800-Homestudy or ask adoptive parents on the adoption Web groups. International homestudy preparers are licensed differently than social workers who perform domestic adoption homestudies.

The homestudy will typically cost anywhere from $300 to $3,000 (not including post placement visits, which can cost around $200 per visit. As with all the numbers presented in this chapter, these are national averages. Your mileage may vary.) Some homestudies may also require parenting or adoption information classes, which may entail yet another fee if your agency does not offer these classes as part of their services.

Government Fees

One item not included by the adoption agency costs are the various fees charged by the U.S. government for processing all the Federal forms – the total cost for processing all these forms is around $1000. This does not include small charges for local requirements like state or county fingerprints, and mailing costs. (Forms and fees)

Dossier Fees

One very important optional expense is the cost of having your adoption dossier authentication expedited. This may be included in some agency fee structures. While this expense is certainly optional, a good expediter will save you months of time and several dozen gray hairs by pushing your dossier through the government authentication process in weeks (or days) rather than the months it could take to do it yourself. Since there are different rules for each country, make sure that the person you choose to help expedite your dossier has processed other dossiers for your country of choice. For example, some countries require that any notarized documents have a notary whose commission does not expire for 12 months, while other countries only require six months of life for the notary’s commission. There’s no telling how many technical mistakes you might make on your dossier if you try to do this alone. Any mistake in your dossier can derail your international adoption quest. This expense should cost you less than $1,000 and is well worth it.


Travel expenses can add up quickly. It’s always best to assume that you aren’t going to get a super bargain on your airfare. To get a decent estimate once you’ve chosen a country, see what ticket prices are for two weeks advance notice for travel to get there. Also check for special adoption fares from the airlines. (And remember that some countries require you to travel twice!) And if you’re adopting a toddler or older child, you also need to remember to add in the cost of a one way ticket for your new child for the way back. Aside from airfare, the hotel bills and meals can really add up quickly so make sure you don’t forget to add this into your cost estimate.


Legal fees can vary from $500 to $4,000 depending on the circumstances. The best way to get a good estimate for this is to consult with an agency that you are considering or to interview a local attorney who specializes in international adoption.

Additional Resources

Credits: "International Adoption Guidebook,"

Visitor Comments (1)
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kathy yao - 3 years ago
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May I adopt a 16 years Chinese boy who is a international student? #1

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