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Interested in Adoption? Be Prepared for the Costs Ahead of Time.

Without a doubt, adoption has brought a great deal of joy to millions of families around the world. While the majority of children adopted in the U.S. are American citizens, thousands of children from other countries are adopted by American parents every year. Of course, there are costs involved with domestic and international adoptions, and while they vary depending on the child’s birth country, they add up quickly.

Fortunately, with a little preparation, you can avoid financial surprises and roadblocks if you’re intrigued by the idea of bringing home a bundle of joy or adding an older child to your family through adoption.

Jennifer Highfield with her sons

In honor of National Adoption Month, celebrated every November, we spoke with a Commerce Bank associate who has personal experience with international adoptions in order to learn more about the costs involved and how to prepare for them.

Jennifer Highfield, a marketing analyst from Kansas City, adopted her daughter from China in 2014, when she was nine years old. She says that while her adoption experience was very positive, it was something she had to take some time to prepare for financially.

“I found all my documents recently, and I had forgotten all that was involved,” she says. “There are costs for what they call home studies, where a social worker comes to your home to interview you and ask about you and your extended family. There are certain fees that you pay upfront, then again when you’re matched with a child, then again when you travel to pick up your child.”

Highfield adds that she and her husband also paid for visa applications, document preparation, medical examinations, and for a U.S. doctor to review her daughter’s medical records. Travel expenses were also a big portion of the overall costs.

“The travel is expensive because you do everything last-minute,” she says. “We didn’t know exactly when we would be traveling to China until about two weeks beforehand. That makes the airfare really high. Then you’re paying for hotels, meals and guides to get you around and translate for you. We had to be in China for 17 days, so it really can add up.”

Travel was one area where the costs ended up being higher than Highfield expected. “Some of the extra travel cost was by choice, because we took our son with us,” she says. “It was absolutely worth it, though. My son is only 12 days older than our daughter, so they were both 9 years old when we got to meet her. Even though she didn’t speak any English, the kids found ways to play together. Kids are amazing that way. I think that made it a better experience for her and for him. It was really special.”

Even once the adoption has happened and the child is in the U.S., there can still be additional expenses to consider. “In our case, there were reports we had to send back to China,” Highfield says. “We had to send them every six months at first, then at two years after the adoption, and again at five years. There are fees associated with each one.”

In all, Highfield says, the adoption cost approximately $40,000. Today, the costs for adopting a child from China remain about the same, with estimates ranging from $32,000 to $43,000, according to Holt International, an agency that specializes in international adoptions. It may be even higher if adopting from other countries; adopting a child from South Korea or Colombia, for example, may cost as much as $57,000. Adopting a child from Haiti may be as high as $66,000.

If you’re thinking about adopting a child from within the United States, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a federal service, says adopting a child domestically can range from $15,000 to $45,000. For anyone considering adoption, it’s wise to start thinking about the financial aspects of it sooner rather than later — by working out the financial details ahead of time, you can stay focused on the experience of meeting your new child and welcoming them into your family.

Fortunately, there are options available that can help make adoption easier to manage. Becky Soetaert, a home equity product manager at Commerce, says a home equity loan can be a good idea in this scenario.

A home equity loan allows you to turn the equity in your home into available dollars for just about any need,” she says. “It’s a very cost-effective way to borrow, because there are no closing costs. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is also a good option. With a HELOC, you can borrow money as needed, as opposed to a home equity loan, which provides a lump-sum amount. A HELOC provides more flexibility to cover unexpected costs, so you’ll always be prepared.”

Regardless of which type of product you might prefer, Soetaert recommends planning ahead. “Take the time to do your homework and apply for loans before you need the money. And make sure you really look at the terms of any loan to make sure you understand the full costs upfront. You want to make an informed decision.”

Highfield agrees that careful planning is a must for any adoption. “You really want to think seriously about how much work it can be,” she says. “The process of an adoption is stressful and bringing a child into your home can be stressful. It’s a complex, long process. Do a ton of research. Talk to people who have done it.”

She’s quick to add that the experience has been great for her family. “There are so many benefits to adoption,” she says. “It’s been wonderful for us.”

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