Why does adoption cost so much?

One of the first questions that people ask when considering adopting is: How much does adoption cost? Followed by: Why does adoption cost so much? The average adoption in the United States is about $40,000. It’s undeniable that the cost of adopting is significant. Every agency has their own fee structure and breakdown of costs for their programs . At Adoption Center of Illinois (ACI) we believe in transparency. In that spirit, in this post we will give insight into how ACI’s fees and donations are used to keep our agency, services, staff, and building running. 

Adoption Center of Illinois is a licensed 503-C not-for-profit agency. It is an Illinois legal requirement that all adoption agencies must be not-for-profit. We believe it’s also the most ethical way to practice adoption. Adoption involves real people, real children, real families. To benefit from people’s experiences and a parent’s decision to place a child for adoption is wrong, unethical, and harmful to everyone involved.

Being a not-for-profit agency means that any dollars that come into the agency are dedicated to the running of the agency, services provided and costs associated with those providing those services. No one person or group of people are benefiting from fees or donations that the agency received. 

Legal and Administrative Processes

Adoption involves extensive legal procedures to ensure the safety and legality of the process and licensure. This includes court filings, ICPC processing, court reports and additional documentation processing. These legal and administrative processes often require specialized expertise and incur associated fees.

Expectant Parent Services

Our counselors are available to any parent considering adoption at zero cost or commitment. Our counselors provide: unbiased options counseling, education of adoption rights, and knowledgeable guidance in creating an adoption plan. Fees and donations cover the cost for the counselor’s time, travel to clients, and 24/7 support. 

Expectant Parent Financial Support 

One of the unique aspects of ACI’s Traditional Adoption Placement program is that any pregnancy related financial assistance that an expectant parent receives is provided by the agency, not the adoptive family.  If an expectant parent receives financial assistance during their pregnancy from an agency, they are under no obligation to place their child for adoption or to repay any financial support received.

Expectant parents are able to receive the support they need with no financial risk for the prospective adoptive family. A portion of the placement fee goes directly into our expectant parent support funds. 

Post Placement Supportive Services

Adoption doesn’t end at placement. It is a lifelong commitment. ACI provides lifelong support to every member of the adoption constellation.  We pride ourselves in always being available to listen, guide, and support any challenges post placement. The phase 1 fee for all adoptive families allows us to provide the following services with no fees or costs: 

  • Birth parents are offered free therapy both pre and post placement
  • Membership in On Your Feet Foundation’s Birth Parent Support Alliance
  • Search and reunion services and support
  • Adoptive Parent Support Group
  • Free Adoptive Parent Training and Classes
  • Community Referrals 
  • Individual consultations for adoptive families on adoption related topics, challenges, and adoptee support. 
  • Adoptee and birth parent relationship support
  • Adoptee consults to provide support and community

Cost should never be a reason someone is denied the help or support they need.

Home Studies and Assessments

Home studies are a mandatory part of the adoption process to evaluate the suitability of prospective adoptive families. Trained professionals conduct home visits, interviews, and assessments to ensure that the adoptive family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child. These studies require time, expertise, and resources, contributing to the overall cost of adoption. Read more about what goes into conducting a home study and how to choose an agency.

Regulatory Compliance and Accreditation

Adoption agencies must comply with state, national, and international regulations governing adoption practices. This often involves obtaining licenses, accreditation, and certification, which may require investment in staff training, compliance audits, and ongoing regulatory updates.  ACI Licensing and Credentials

Donor Support

Like many not-for-profits, another factor of financial stability and longevity is donations and fundraising.  

Nonprofits that depend heavily on external funders such as government grants or private donations, can be subject to unpredictability. That unpredictability presents a serious challenge. Our program fees help us maintain a sustainable business model that allows us to best serve our community and our staff.

Operational Costs

Like any organization, not-for-profit adoption agencies have operational expenses to cover, such as staff salaries, office rent, utilities, insurance, and technology infrastructure. Covering these costs is fundamental to our ability to serve the Illinois community. 

The cost of adoption through not-for-profit organizations reflects the complex nature of the adoption process, including legal, administrative, counseling, medical, travel, and operational expenses. While these costs may seem high, they are necessary to ensure the ethical, legal, and emotional integrity of the adoption process and to support the well-being of all parties involved.  For information on adopting a child with the help of Adoption Center of Illinois read more about our services.

03.01.24 by Molly Berger, ACI Adoption Social Worker

Molly has been with Adoption Center of Illinois since October 2013 as a expectant parent counselor after graduating from the University of Iowa in 2013 with a BA in Social Work. After four years at ACI, Molly returned to her studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned her MSW. After graduating in 2018, she returned to ACI as an expectant parent counselor as well as assisting in the domestic home study services program.