Adoption Expenses - Planning for Your Child's Immediate Needs

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Richard, Tina, and their daughter, Denise, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Denise's new brother or sister. To keep Denise's anticipation and excitement under control, Tina is involving her in the plans for the child's room. The Riveras, too, are beginning to believe that a child is part of their future, and have begun to furnish the empty room they always intended for their child.

Regardless of whether your adoption fees are minimal or large, once you bring your child home, you must begin to pay for the normal expenses of raising a child. These costs can be something of a shock if you've never raised children before. According to 1995 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs the average, middle-income family $145,320 to raise a child from birth through the age of 17. This doesn't include the cost of sending the child to college or vocational school, and some financial experts feel the Agriculture Department's figure is too low.

Typical child-raising expenses generally include:
# food
# clothing
# furniture
# medical expenses
# health coverage, braces, and/or glasses
# child care
# transportation
# "child proofing" your home
# books, games, and toys
# computer and computer games
# activities, clubs, sports, or camps
# bicycles or other sporting equipment
# music lessons
# movies and other entertainment
# vacations
# communion or bar and bat mitzvah parties
# allowances
# car/car insurance
# college or vocational school


Regardless of the age of the child you adopt, you may need some new furniture, bedding, towels, and special welcoming toys. Also, the child will likely need additional clothing, particularly if he or she is coming from a climate or season that is different from your own.

If adopting an infant, you'll probably be excited about decorating the nursery. If an older child is joining your family, you may want to wait to involve that child in decorating his or her room, though you'll probably want to do some preliminary window shopping to narrow down the choices to fit your budget. A child with physical disabilities may need a wheelchair ramp or other modifications to the home. If you're considering adopting siblings, adding a bedroom or bathroom to the house, moving to a larger home or apartment, or buying a larger vehicle may be necessary.


The child you're adopting will need a Social Security number so you can claim a dependency exemption on your federal income tax return. You may encounter some difficulties because of privacy concerns in cases where the birth parents already have obtained a number for the child.

You also will need to obtain a new birth certificate for your child when the adoption is finalized. Minimal costs of less than $50 may be required for both of these new documents.


In an agency adoption, medical history and immunization information will be provided. In an independent adoption, this information may or may not be available, but it should be requested.


You should add your new son or daughter to your health plan as soon as the child moves into your home. You don't have to wait until the adoption is legally finalized. Depending on your health care coverage, your monthly premiums may increase, but since you'll be responsible for the child's health care as soon as the child joins the family, it is critical that he or she be included in your health coverage. The coverage must be provided before the adoption is finalized; in fact, it must be provided from placement, which is defined as the time you assume full or partial financial responsibility for the child.

Under new federal law, nearly all employer-provided health plans must treat an adopted child equally to a birth child. The adopted child may not be excluded from coverage because of pre-existing conditions, as long as the child is added to the plan within 30 days of becoming eligible. Most states have similar legislation that would include both individual and employer-provided health coverage. For laws in your state, call your state's Department of Insurance.

If the child was eligible for Medicaid before placement, the Medicaid coverage may continue after placement, and possibly after finalization. However, the specifics of any Medicaid coverage need to be determined before the adoption is finalized.


Children who have been living in a foster care setting often are as much as two grades behind their peers in school because of frequent moves before or while in foster care. Additionally, there may have been a general lack of attention to their education, which may require tutoring so they can catch up with their peers. Other children may have learning disabilities or challenges that call for special education classes, as well as physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. In most cases, the schools are required to provide any additional services the child may need. However, you may find that your child needs more than the school can offer. If your health plan or adoption subsidy does not cover some of the cost, the responsibility for payment for these extra services may be yours alone.


Waiting children who have been moved often among foster homes or institutional settings, or who have suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse, commonly have a difficult time adjusting to a new home and new parents. They may need counseling at different times throughout their childhood to help them and the family deal with the effects of traumatic experiences before their adoption. International adoptees also may face tremendous cultural, language, and emotional challenges. Those who have spent their early years in orphanages may have special emotional problems. Even healthy infants often have adjustment difficulties or other adoption-related issues that may, at some time, require counseling.

Adoptive parents and any children they already have also may face significant adjustment challenges. Thus, counseling could be an appropriate solution for all concerned. In some instances, there may be a need for crisis intervention or, infrequently, a child may need to be placed in a residential treatment center for intensive therapy.

While health insurance, medical subsidies, or government agencies may underwrite some of these costs, counseling can be an expensive out-of-pocket cost for adoptive parents.
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