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Latest Adoption Cost and Wait Time Data

Results from Adoptive Families' 2009-2010 Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey



Each year, Adoptive Families polls readers to get the real story on the average cost and length of time it takes to complete an adoption. Here's what you shared about the wait time and cost to adopt a newborn or foster child in the U.S., or to adopt from one of the four largest, active sending countries, in the past two years. See results from previous years' surveys.

Find tips for financing adoption, learn ways to lower travel costs, read about how other parents did it, and much more in our guide to Affording Adoption.


U.S. Newborn

U.S. Newborn Adoption - Average Wait Time

Average time from preparation of portfolio to match with
birthmother (includes time spent in false starts): 

   Less than 3 months....................34%
   4 to 6 months............................19%
   7 to 12 months...........................20%
   13 to 24 months.........................17%

   Longer than 24 months...............10% 

Time between birth and legal finalization:
   Less than 6 months....................54%

   7 to 12 months...........................38%
   Longer than 12 months..................8%

  • 35% of respondents experienced at least one false start.
  • 15% were matched after the child had already been born.

Reader comments on wait times:
"Our adoption was very quick. Our paperwork wasn't even finished when we were matched with a birthmother who had already given birth. We had less than 24 hours to get our house ready, finish our paperwork, and get to the hospital to meet our son."

"We had been told the wait might be two years, but we waited exactly nine months between signing up with our agency and the baby's birth!"

"We were open to any race and some drug and alcohol exposure."

"Our wait was on the longer side because the birthfather was unknown, so we had to publish for him in a newspaper. Then you have to wait for a response."

"I think our non-profit agency took more time than needed because they are slow and understaffed."

"We experienced three false starts. But our daughter was meant to be with us."

U.S. Newborn Adoption  - Average Cost

  Agency Attorney
Homestudy fee $1,912 $1,640
Agency application & program fee $14,161 $6,413
Attorney fees $3,548 $10,261
Document preparation & authentication $1,114 $640
Advertising/networking $2,017 $3,259
Birth family counseling $1,085 $483
Birthmother expenses $3,076 $5,246
Travel expenses $2,198 $1,895
All other expenses $4,682 $1,628
TOTAL $33,793 $31,465
  • 35% of respondents experienced at least one false start. The majority (71%) of false starts cost less than $5,000.

U.S. Foster

U.S. Foster Adoption Wait Times

Average time from foster certification to placement of child ultimately adopted: 
   Less than 6 months....................48%
   7 to 12 months...........................18%
   13 to 18 months...........................9% 
   Longer than 18 months................25%

Time between placement and finalization:
   Less than 6 months.....................15%
   7 to 12 months............................33%
   13 to 18 months..........................19%
   19 to 24 months..........................15%
   Longer than 2 years.....................18%

  • 48% finalized the child's adoption within one year.
  • Another 33% finalized within two years.
  • 34% had placements that did not end in adoption.

Reader comments on wait times:
"In our county children who are younger than six have what is called an 'Expedited Permanency Plan.' This means that they try to have the child adopted within one year."

"Our placement was very quick because we specified we only wanted to take a pre-adoptive placement. This made a huge difference and resulted in our son coming to us with parental rights already terminated."

"It takes time for the child's case to go through the legal process and get to the point where parental rights can be terminated."

"Our process was slow because the birth family received the full amount of reunification services before termination of parental rights, and they contested most of the recommendations."

"There were unnecessary delays in paperwork. We had nine different social workers, because the case was complicated. Each new worker had to be gotten up to speed on what the previous worker did or did not do."

U.S. Foster Adoption - Average Cost

Homestudy fee $231
Agency application & program fee $0
Attorney fees $1,573
Document preparation & authentication $0
Advertising/networking $0
Birth family counseling $0
Birthmother expenses $0
Travel expenses $342
All other expenses $598
TOTAL $2,744
  • 78% of respondents receive an ongoing monthly subsidy. On average, the families receive $607/month.

China
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2009: 3,001
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2010: 3,401

China Adoption Wait Times

Average time from completion of dossier to referral*
   Less than 12 months....................53%
   13 to 24 months............................4%
   25 to 36 months...........................15%
   37 to 48 months...........................20%

   Longer than 4 years........................8% 
*
Shorter wait times generally reflect special-needs program.

Time from referral until child came home:
   Less than 3 months.....................42%

   4 to 6 months..............................25%
   7 to 9 months..............................20%
   Longer than 9 months..................13%

  • 94% spent three weeks or less in China .

Reader comments on wait times:
"We chose special needs adoption. We were also open to either gender child. Both of these resulted in a referral just nine months after we submitted our medical checklist, and before we had finished our dossier."

"After waiting for three-and-a-half years in the regular program, we switched to special needs and received a referral four days later."

"We waited longer than four years. International adoptions slowed down tremendously when the Hague convention was enacted. There has also been an increased interest and demand in international adoptions, so the process became backlogged. We were waiting to adopt a healthy, young child and there is a long waiting list to do so from China."

China Adoption - Average Cost

Homestudy fee $2,171
Agency application & program fee $6,062
Document preparation & authentication $1,584
Major travel expenses $6,644
In-country travel expenses $2,055
In-country adoption expenses $6,334
Post-adoption expenses $933
All other expenses $2,840
TOTAL $28,623


Ethiopia
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2009: 2,277
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2010: 2,513

Ethiopia Adoption Wait Times

Average time from completion of dossier to referral
   Less than 3 months.....................53%
   4 to 6 months...............................4%
   7 to 9 months.............................15%
   10 to 12 months..........................20%

   13 to 18 months..........................20%
   Longer than 18 months..................8% 

Time from referral until child came home:
   Less than 3 months.....................42%

   4 to 6 months..............................25%
   Longer than 6 months..................13%

  •  Of the 98% who traveled to adopt, 85% spent two weeks or less in Ethiopia .

Reader comments on wait times:
"We adopted a special-needs child, so our wait to referral was shorter than it would have been for a healthy infant. We waited four months, but other families from our agency who requested healthy infants were waiting 12 months or longer."

"Ethiopia has really slowed down. When we began the process, it was presented as affordable, fast, and the least stressful. It ended up being expensive, long, and difficult for us."

"Unfortunately, we got stuck in the switch over from 1 to 2 trips in Ethiopia, as well as the annual summer court closure. So we were delayed more than we should have been in bringing our son home."

Ethiopia Adoption - Average Cost

Homestudy fee $2,019
Agency application & program fee $11,380
Document preparation & authentication $1,679
Major travel expenses $6,434
In-country travel expenses $943
In-country adoption expenses $2,327
Post-adoption expenses $1,326
All other expenses $2,146
TOTAL $28,254

Russia
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2009: 1,586
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2010: 1,082

Russia Adoption Wait Times

Average time from completion of dossier to referral
   Less than 3 months......................40%
   4 to 6 months..............................11%
   7 to 12 months.............................22%
   13 to 18 months............................9%

   Longer than 18 months.................18% 

Time from referral until child came home:
   Less than 3 months......................18%

   4 to 6 months...............................40%
   7 to 9 months...............................24%
   Longer than 9 months...................18%

  • 44% took three or more trips to Russia to complete their adoptions.
  • 36% spent three or more months in Russia, total.

Reader comments on wait times:
"I think it went quickly because it was at the end of the calendar year. People wanted to close cases before the winter holidays."

"We moved to a new home during the process, so we had to redo our homestudy and many other papers."

"We would have waited only three months between trips, but the [Torry] Hansen case caused our agency to lose their license and we had to switch to a different agency. Then, it took a while to transfer everything over."

"I think my wait was short because I requested an older child. It turned out perfectly -- she is my daughter in every single way!"

"Our dossier was placed in a region of Russia that was known for taking extra time to schedule the court date. This added a good six months to our process. The region you adopt from in Russia does make a difference!"

Russia Adoption - Average Cost

Homestudy fee $1,831
Agency application & program fee $18,441
Document preparation & authentication $2,432
Major travel expenses $11,921
In-country travel expenses $1,560
In-country adoption expenses $7,653
Post-adoption expenses $1,143
All other expenses $4,768
TOTAL $49,749

South Korea
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2009: 1,080
Adoptions to the U.S. in 2010: 863

South Korea Adoption Wait Times

Average time from completion of dossier to referral
   Less than 3 months....................24%
   4 to 6 months............................25%
   7 to 9 months............................24%
   10 to 12 months.........................14%

   Longer than 12 months...............13% 

Time from referral until child came home:
   Less than 3 months.....................49%

   4 to 6 months..............................35%
   Longer than 6 months..................16%

  • Of the 71% who traveled to adopt, 50% spent one week or less in South Korea.

Reader comments on wait times:
"Since we found our son on a list of waiting children with special needs, there was no wait for referral."

"Referrals slow down at certain times of the year, and the South Korean government puts quotas on the number of children who can be adopted internationally."

"We wanted to spend time in Korea and learn as much as we could while we were there. I wish we had stayed even longer."

South Korea Adoption - Average Cost

Homestudy fee $2,413
Agency application & program fee $14,639
Document preparation & authentication $1,352
Major travel expenses $4,186
In-country travel expenses $662
In-country adoption expenses $9,534
Post-adoption expenses $1,111
All other expenses $3,689
TOTAL $37,586

Cost Comparison

Cost Distribution

  Less than $5,000 $5,000 to $10,000 $10,000 to $20,000 $20,000 to $30,000 $30,000 to $40,000 $40,000 to $50,000 More than $50,000
U.S. Agency 2% 5% 29% 34% 22% 5% 3%
U.S. Independent 8% 8% 24% 31% 20% 5% 5%
U.S. Foster 90% 7% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0%
China 0% 0% 6% 69% 24% 1% 0%
Ethiopia 0% 0% 8% 76% 15% 0% 0%
Russia 0% 0% 0% 4% 24% 42% 29%
South Korea 0% 0% 2% 60% 37% 2% 0%

 


Giving Back
To gather as much data as possible this year, we posed a challenge: If more than 1,600 people completed our Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey, we'd select one at random and donate $500 to the adoption charity of his or her choice.

We're thrilled to report that more than 1,800 adoptive parents completed this year's survey! The winner of our giveaway was Janeé Pedersen, and we were honored to donate to From HIV to Home.

 


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