Adoption Costs in Virginia: What to Expect

Foster child eating lunch in a green jacket

The United States foster care system serves over 600,000 children annually. Between 2012 and 2021, public child welfare agencies managed the adoption of only 50,000-66,000 of these children each year.

The number of kids in care ebbs and flows. However, one thing stays the same: there are more children in need than foster or adoptive parents to care for them. What factors prevent more families from choosing to adopt children in foster care? Fears about the high costs of private adoption hold back many would-be adoptive parents.

Virginia offers an affordable path to adopting a child. Foster and adoption professionals can help you adopt a child through the foster care system. They can also connect you with adoption assistance programs to reduce ongoing childcare costs.

If you're thinking about adopting a foster child in Virginia, learn the facts. You have choices about how to make adoption an option for your family.

Options and Costs for Adopting a Child in Virginia

The fastest and most cost-effective path to adoption is through a child-placing agency. You can also adopt a child directly through a private adoption agency. Private direct adoption can be domestic or international. The latter is the most expensive process for prospective adoptive parents.

Private direct adoption involves significant financial costs. In some cases, aspiring adoptive parents hire a lawyer to help manage their adoption process. Other parents adopt internationally and must travel abroad to bring their new family member home.

How you plan and budget adoption expenses may determine how you adopt in Virginia. Fortunately for you and the many foster children in need, no matter your budget, adopting a child is within your reach.

What are the Least and Most Expensive Ways to Adopt a Child?

How you seek to adopt a child will change the cost and process dynamics. Costs range from nominal to many tens of thousands of dollars.

Fostering a child is the most affordable path to adopting a child in Virginia. It also has the benefit of taking the least time to welcome a child into your home and your family.

Direct independent adoption carries the greatest financial costs, especially if you adopt a child from another country. International adoption may require you to hire legal assistance, pay agency fees, and cover your child's medical expenses. Travel costs add to the increasing expenses of adopting a child outside the U.S.

Plan and Budget to Fit Your Needs

When your goal is to expand your family through adoption, plan and budget according to your needs. Understanding adoption process options will ensure you work within your means and stay comfortably out of debt.

While some people have always dreamed about adopting a child from another country, there are thousands of children of all ages here at home. Children in Virginia who cannot return to their biological parents urgently await adoption with loving families. Remember, you can adopt a Virginia foster child without adoption fees and expenses. You cannot use private and international adoption without significant costs.

Adoption Expenses in Virginia

Aspiring families have several options to adopt a child in the Commonwealth. Your adoption pathway may drastically change the timing, process, and cost.

Private Adoption Expenses

For a fee, adoption agencies will match adoptable children with your family. These agencies facilitate the adoption process and provide a variety of services for adoptive parents. In exchange for these services, direct-adoption agency fees in Virginia can run high. In addition to agency fees, adoptive parents must often pay legal fees and expenses for the birth mother.

Private direct adoption in Virginia involves a one-on-one relationship between the birth parent and the adoptive parent. The birth mother sets adoption terms.

Domestic vs. International Adoption Expenses

International or intercountry adoption requires navigating legal situations depending on the child's country of origin. While there are always higher costs associated with international adoption, legal snags extend the processing time and budget requirements.

Domestic adoptions do not carry citizenship issues. They tend to be easier than international adoptions and have fewer legal complications. The largest population of children available for domestic adoption is through the foster care system.

While caring for a foster child has financial impacts, there is no cost to becoming a foster parent in Virginia. Prospective parents must meet requirements and clear a criminal background check. The approval and licensing process includes free foster parent training and the foster and adoption Home Study.

Foster-to-Adoption Expenses

Fostering is the easiest and fee-free path to adopting a child. Foster-to-adoption does not require a lawyer or negotiation with the birth mother. In addition, Virginia provides financial support to foster parents through a monthly stipend. This monetary assistance helps offset the basic costs of childcare, such as food, clothing, and housing.

Foster families can adopt children who cannot safely return to their birth families. When reunification is not possible or in the child's best interests, Virginia enacts a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).

A TPR means birth parents no longer have legal rights or an obligation to care for their biological child in the foster care system. Foster families adopt about 70% of eligible Virginia foster children.

A Closer Look at Adoption Costs in Virginia

Foster Care to Adoption

The least expensive path to adopting a child into your family is through the foster care system. No cost exists in Virginia to complete foster parent orientation, training, or the Home Study. A bonus for parents is that your foster child can live with you during the foster-to-adoption process. They can become part of your family life before their adoption is finalized.

The state of Virginia provides foster parents with monthly stipends to help cover the child's care expenses. Foster children also receive health insurance through state and federal sources.

The costs for post-adoption childcare are the same whether you adopt through foster care or direct adoption. Childcare can be costly, depending on where you live. Consider this budget factor no matter which path to adoption you choose.

Private Agency Direct Adoption Expenses

For private adoption, you will incur expenses before and after you finalize your child's adoption. These may include legal fees, adoption agency fees, and a private agency's Home Study process. You may also have travel expenses or personal payments to the birth mother, depending on the circumstances.

  1. Ongoing Childcare Costs - Varies depending on your access to a childcare provider. While some parents have themselves or a family member to help care for their child, others depend on licensed daycare providers.
  2. Legal fees - Costs depend on the lawyer you hire and specific legal issues you encounter. There will also be final legal closing costs.
  3. Administrative fees - This agency cost varies by child-placing agency. Fees may include expenses to prepare and train adoptive parents, as well as for agency operations expenses. These fees can cost adoptive parents tens of thousands of dollars.
  4. Travel expenses - Private adoption requires adoptive parents to pay their own and their adopted child's travel expenses. International adoption may require multiple international trips. You will need to research travel costs and applicable government fees from the country of origin.
  5. Home Study costs - Private and direct adoption agencies typically do not cover costs for the Home Study process. This contrasts with the free foster and adoption Home Study provided by public state agencies.

The Home Study evaluates each prospective adoptive family's home and lifestyle. It ensures you are fit and ready to adopt a child. Depending on your agency, location, and the complexity of your Home Study outcome, minimum costs are usually around $3,000.

Financial Assistance for Foster-to-Adoption

If you adopt a child through Virginia's foster care system, financial assistance resources may be available. Different grants, loans, subsidies, and tax credits may apply, depending on your child's needs. When you adopt a foster child, the Commonwealth assesses your child's and your family's needs. Virginia can provide financial benefits based on necessary support over time.

Adoption Grants, Loans, and Subsidies

Virginia foster parents receive a maintenance subsidy for specific childcare costs. These include essential care costs. Additional stipends are also available for specific child health and behavioral needs. The Child Welfare Information Gateway tracks specific care that may qualify for financial assistance in Virginia.

Foster parents who adopt a foster child are also eligible to apply for financial assistance through other resources. Grants, loans, and subsidies help pay certain childcare expenses for foster families who adopt children.

Tax Credits, Benefits, and Employer Assistance

Parents who adopt children through foster care have access to tax credits that lower their yearly payments. If you adopt through foster care, you may receive financial assistance for various childcare expenses. Social workers and the county help coordinate assistance based on your child's level of need. Children with higher care and support needs are eligible for increased assistance.

Many employers offer assistance for adoptive parents. These include paid leave and flexible work schedules. Working foster and adoptive parents are eligible for support through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Adopt a Foster Child Today

High agency fees and expenses put private and international adoption out of reach for many aspiring adoptive parents. Becoming a foster parent in Virginia provides the shortest and most affordable path to adopting a child. Many children eagerly await adoption into a loving, nurturing family in Virginia.

FosterVA will assist you in achieving your adoption goals. They will guide you through the process and connect you with a child hoping to become part of a family like yours. Few more rewarding journeys exist than being a foster or adoptive parent.

For more information or to get the process started, contact us today.

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