Whether you’re becoming a parent for the first time or growing your family, adopting a child requires some major financial planning.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that every type of adoption will require prospective parents to prove their financial health. The process might sound intimidating, but it’s part of how to get approved for adoption.
To find out more, we spoke with Chuck Johnson, a former adoption social worker who is the president and CEO of the National Council For Adoption, an adoption advocacy group. Here’s what we learned about how to get approved for adoption.
How to get approved for adoption: Financial requirements
If you’re considering adoption, you might wonder how your financial situation will affect the process.
“You don’t have to be wealthy, but being able to demonstrate that you can afford to assume financial responsibility for a child is important,” Johnson said.
There are financial standards set by government offices and adoption agencies that families need to meet. Some of them are clear, while others are subjective and handled on a case-by-case basis. The criteria also will differ depending on whether you plan to adopt a child from abroad or from within the U.S.
The U.S. government has firm financial requirements for families seeking to adopt children from foreign nations. It requires “that families demonstrate that they are 25% above the poverty guidelines that have been set by Health and Human Services,” Johnson said.
The income requirement is based on your family size after the planned adoption. For example, two parents would need to earn at least $25,975 per year, based on the chart below from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal organization that oversees international adoptions.
Families looking to adopt from outside the U.S. will need to research how to get approved for adoption. That’s because there are multiple governing organizations involved in overseeing international adoptions. They include the U.S. government (through USCIS), the child’s nation of birth, and the laws in your place of residency.
“Countries set age, income, and health guidelines that sometimes can vary,” Johnson said.
There might be other considerations as well; unfortunately, not all countries will work with single or LGBT adoptive parents.
On top of figuring out how to get approved for adoption, parents also will face paying for the process. The average fees and costs for international adoptions total $44,000, according to the 2016-2017 Adoption Cost & Timing Survey by Adoptive Families magazine.
Domestic adoption covers newborns or infants born in and adopted from within the U.S. “You don’t necessarily see a uniform standard across the United States for domestic adoption,” Johnson said.
Each state has its own requirements and guidelines for adoptions, and there can be differences between counties, too. However, all states require adoptive parents to undergo a home study process, according to the Children’s Bureau.
Under this process, a licensed social worker or caseworker will evaluate your suitability to adopt and provide support as you prepare to take this big step. The social worker will review your circumstances, including your family home, health condition, health insurance coverage, income and finances, and public and criminal records.
Each adoption agency will have its own process for vetting adoptive parents’ finances, so be sure to ask about it when choosing or working with an agency. According to Johnson, you should be prepared to provide the following:
A report of overall family income, assets, and debt
A breakdown of monthly living expenses, debt payments, and other costs
Verification of your income, typically through a 1040 form, W-2, or similar tax document
Proof of health insurance and possibly life insurance coverage
A credit check to pull and review one or more of your credit reports
Overall, your caseworker will want to see that you’re living within your means and have enough of a surplus to cover the additional costs of raising a child.
Again, you should also be prepared for the significant expense of adoption fees and costs, which average $40,000 for U.S. newborn adoptions, according to Adoptive Families.
Adopting from foster care
Another option is to go via foster care, which is by far the most affordable way to adopt in the U.S.
The average cost for families adopting from foster care is a little under $3,000. Also, 88% of families adopting from foster care qualified for a monthly subsidy, according to Adoptive Families. These subsidies, also called “adoption assistance,” help families overcome financial obstacles to adoption and average $827 per month.
The financial requirements to adopt from foster care are similar to those for other domestic adoptions. Families must undergo a home study process to foster, which will include a look at the money management requirements listed above.
If you choose to adopt the child, you likely will be required to pass a home study update to ensure you still meet the requirements for adoption.
Can you meet the financial criteria to adopt?
With a variety of rules to monitor, adoptive parents will need to do thorough research of adoption requirements. Look into the criteria for each type of adoption and the requirements of different states and foreign countries. “That’s part of the adoption homework that every family has to do,” Johnson said.
He also pointed out that parents can use the adoption approval period to prepare financially. From application to finalization, the adoption process can take more than a year — and sometimes longer — to complete.
Start now with setting a budget, living within your means, saving for an adoption, and even looking at ways to make more money. You can use this time wisely to get your finances ready for approval to adopt and, afterward, to care for your new child.
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