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The notion of adopting a child truly tugs at our heartstrings, but let’s keep it real: the twist and turns that precede a successful adoption can be a nightmare! And to top it all off, your bank account will look damn-near empty after the process.

“I would like to adopt, but can’t afford the agency fees. It’s soooooo expensive.” a MadameNoire reader recently commented. She’s right. Between the legal fees, medical costs, travel expenses and possible failed adoption matches, this method of bringing a child into your family costs Americans between $10,000 to $40,000! But compare that to the average cost of a natural birth — $30,000 — and it isn’t too harrowing.

Now since there are several different methods to acquiring an adopted bundle of joy, let’s break down the numbers for each, shall we?

International Adoption

Maybe you’ll want to extend your motherly love to a precious child overseas?  The latest figures show international adoption has plummeted to only 20,000 children from 45,000 in 2004. Despite the drop, international adoption costs have climbed —  adoptive parents have put down as much as $50,000!

The price tag varies depending on which country you choose. One adoption agency — Bethany Christian Services — give us a pretty good picture of how much you’ll spend for international adoption. Taking in a Haitian child, for instance, will set you back between $35,149 and $42,129. What does this include?

Agency fees (paid to the social workers, the home study fees, and more) — $ 12,950

Country fees (funds the nation’s orphanage system) — between $13,810 and $ 14,650

“Third-party fees” (whatever that is) $ 2,864 — $ 3,404

Travel fees (don’t forget important documents like medical exams, proof of marriage, financial statements etc.) —  $ 4,825 — $ 10,125

Post-adoption fees  (agency needs to keep an eye on you as a caregiver) — $ 700 — $ 1,000.

The great thing about adopting internationally is that you don’t have to cover an expectant mother’s expenses or worry about her changing her mind. The downside? All that travelling can be a pain in the rear; be willing to visit the host country twice. Also, tough luck if you want a newborn! In most countries, children are orphaned and older before they’re permitted to be sent overseas, GlobalPost reports.

For a newborn, perhaps you’ll consider domestic adoption?

Domestic Adoption

Newborn American baby? That’ll be $33,793, please! This average figure can climb or drop even depending on the child’s race. According to NPR, a Caucasian baby costs $35,000, a bi-racial baby costs between $24,000 and $26,000 and a Black baby can cost about $18,000. But where, according to Adoptive Families, does all the money go?

Home study Fee (agency determines if you’re fit for parenthood through interviews, background checks and references) — $1,912

Agency application & program fee (y’know, adoption centers got bills to pay & profits to make) —  $14,161

Attorney fees (with all the legal mumbo jumbo, you might need one) — $3,548

Document preparation/Authorization — $1,114

Advertising (agencies need to retain their relationships with hospitals/clinics to find mothers willing to give up their child) — $2,017

Birth family counseling (sometimes offered to birth mothers for free, at your expense) — $1,085

Birth mother expenses (OB-Gyn, hospital stay, etc. One article calls this expense a “fraud” because taxpayers pay this fee, not you) — $3,076

Travel expenses (varies depending how far or near the birth mother is) — $2,198

All other expenses — $4,682

Whew! That’s a lot, but the good thing is that there’s a shorter wait time compared to international adoption and certainly less traveling. However, adoptive parents run the risk of the dreaded “false start” — expectant mothers fall in love with their baby and refuse to give it up. Thirty-five percent of adoptive parents have experienced this and lose out on an average of $5,000.

Foster Home

If you’re willing to forgo the fantasy of raising a child from birth, adopting from a foster home is the cheapest option — a relatively low price tag of only $2,744. As reported by Adoptive Families, let me give you a full picture of the expenses:

Home study fee – $231

Attorney fees – $1,573

Travel expenses – $342

Other expenses – $598

You pay absolutely nothing for agency fees, document preparation, advertising, and birth mother expenses. In fact, foster homes will give you a monthly stipend for food, medical insurance, school supplies, and clothes. On average, adoptive parents receive $607 a month. The downside is that many of the toddlers have developmental delays. “There’s usually a long line of potential parents waiting for an infant in good health,” ABC News says.

Surrogacy

For women who cannot or choose not to give birth to children, another woman can carry and delivery the baby for them, which is what Melissa Harris-Perry did to add a baby girl to her family. If you thought domestic and international adoption was expensive, you’ll be shocked to hear that gestational surrogacy costs a whopping $80,000 to $100,000! Where did we come up with that number? Here’s the breakdown:

In vitro fertilization transfer fee – $1,000 

Cycling process – $400

Pregnancy allowance (8 months at $200 per month) – $1,600 

Maternity clothing allowance – $500

Life insurance – $500-$600

Health insurance – $1,000 – $25,000

Meeting allowance (5 meetings at $100 per meeting) – $500

Childcare – $1,200 

Housekeeping – $400

Surrogate’s lost wages –$2,500

Travel to IVF doctor –$1,000

Program fee – $22,500

Attorney/court fees – $10,250 – $16,760

If you can supply your own egg, a baby of your own genetic line will be born. The downsides are obviously the costs and the surrogate can, again, change her mind and keep the baby.

Parents who choose any of these methods must be prepared mentally for the unforeseen circumstances can take you on an emotional roller coaster as well as the fiscal challenges that come up.

But you know what? It’s all worth it in the end when you have your new angel-faced tyke to call your “son” or “daughter.”

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